Five-a-day of fruits and veggies not enough

By Shayna Brouker • Published: April 14th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

A banana to top off your morning cereal, an apple for a mid-morning snack, a veggie-packed salad for lunch. Or how about strawberries in your yogurt, and raspberries to top off your frozen yogurt for dessert after dinner? It’s not so hard to fit in your daily allotment of five fruits and veggies? And the more fruits and veggies you eat, the better off your waistline.

But new research shows just five servings a day might not be enough to ward off heart disease.

A new study that examined the diets and lifestyle of 300,000 Europeans found that those who ate at least eight servings of greens and fruits a day saw a twenty-two percent reduced risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, each portion of greens or fruits lessened risk by four percent. The study counted a serving as a small banana or a small carrot, for example.

Fruit-and-veggie eaters may lead healthier lifestyles to begin with by exercising, avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, so the idea that each piece of fruit reduces cancer risk should be taken with a grain of salt. But munching on more greens is an ideal goal to eat toward, regardless.

Italian men and women fared best, eating 7.5 and 6.7 portions a day each, while Northern country natives like Swedish men and women noshed on just 3.5 and 2.9 servings, respectively.

A plant-based diet of whole foods like fruits and vegetables, which are chock-full of fiber and cancer-kicking antioxidants, fills you up with less calories and can help keep your arteries clean and plaque-free. Avoiding processed foods, sodium and saturated fats can also help keep your heart healthy and happy.

So try sneaking in some more veggies with your pasta or trading in a bag of chips for a banana. You’ll be well on your way to eating eight a day.