Study: Five Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Per Day Reduces Risk of Death

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A new research study released by the American Heart Association (AHA)[1] shows that five servings of fruits and vegetables are the number of servings you need to eat everyday to live the longest. According to the study, two of those five servings should be fruits, and the other three should be vegetables. “This amount likely offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public,” said lead author Dr. Dong Wang, a nutritionist and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Most vegetables are a low GI (Glycemic Index) food.

What was the Goal of the Research Study?

However, there are variations in benefits depending on the fruits and vegetables you are consuming. Spinach, leafy green lettuce, kale, and carrots – vegetables rich in beta carotene and vitamin C – revealed notable benefits. Fruits full of beta carotene and vitamin C, like berries of all kinds and citrus fruits, helped lessen the risk of death and chronic disease.

“The totality of the evidence in the study “should convince health professionals to promote eating more fruits and vegetables as a key dietary strategy, and for citizens to embrace this,” wrote Dr. Naveed Sattar and Dr. Nita Forouhi in an accompanying editorial that will be released in April.

Vegetables are a source of water - most have a very high water content by weight, so eating a salad is also helping you stay hydrated

What were the Research Methods of the Study?

The researchers followed 66,719 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1984–2014) and 42,016 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986–2014) who were free from cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and diabetes at baseline. Their diet was determined by validating a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire at baseline and was updated every two to four years. They also managed a dose-response meta-analysis, including results from their two cohorts and 24 other prospective cohort studies.

Researchers documented 33,898 deaths during the follow-up. It was observed that intake of five servings per day of fruits and vegetables was linked with the lowest mortality, and higher intake was not linked with further risk reduction. Compared with the reference level, the daily intake of five servings of fruits and vegetables was associated with risk ratios of 0.87 for total mortality, 0.88 for CVD mortality, 0.90 for cancer mortality, and 0.65 for respiratory disease mortality.

Higher intakes of most subgroups of fruits and vegetables were associated with lower mortality, except for starchy vegetables such as peas and corn. Intakes of fruit juices and potatoes were not associated with total and cause-specific mortality.

What were the Results and Conclusions of the Findings?

According to the study, higher consumption of fruits and vegetables was linked with lower mortality. These findings support current dietary recommendations to enhance fruits and vegetable intake, but not fruit juices and potatoes. “This research provides strong evidence for the lifelong benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and suggests a goal amount to consume daily for ideal health,” said Thorndike, Dr. Anne Thorndike, Chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee.

Meat and vegetables - are a paleo friendly food combination

Recommendations for Fitness Trainees Based on the Research

“The American Heart Association recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal,” said Dr. Anne Thorndike, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Adult women should eat at least 1.5 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day, while men should get at least two cups of fruits and 3.5 cups of vegetables daily.


1. “Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies of US Men and Women and a Meta-Analysis of 26 Cohort Studies” 2. “5 is your lucky number of fruits and veggies to live longer, but not all of them count”