Study: This fruit and vegetable combination could extend your life

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We know that consuming more fruits and vegetables are good for us, but new research shows that a particular mix of fruits and vegetables could be the optimal amount if you want to live longer.

Results of studies representing almost 2 million adults around the globe show that consuming around five daily servings of fruits and vegetables — with two servings being fruits and three servings being vegetables — is likely the best for you to extend your life.

“While groups like the American Heart Association recommend four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers likely get inconsistent messages about what defines optimal daily intake of fruits and vegetables such as the recommended amount, and which foods to include and avoid,” lead study author Dr. Dong D. Wang, an epidemiologist and nutritionist said in a statement.

The study, which was published Monday in the AHA’s journal, Circulation, focused on data from the long-term studies Nurses’ Health and the Health Professionals Follow-Up. The two studies included over 100,000 adults who were observed for up to 30 years. In each case, detailed dietary information had repeatedly been gathered every two to four years.

For the current evaluation, researchers also collected data on fruit and vegetable intake and death from more than two dozen studies. The 26 studies included around 1.9 million participants from 29 countries and territories in continents including North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Among the results of the analysis were that consuming around five servings of fruits and vegetables daily was associated with a lower risk of death and the greatest longevity was tied to consuming two fruits and three vegetables daily. Additionally, participants who ate five daily servings of fruits and vegetables had a 13% lower risk of death from all causes. For specific causes, the greatest impact came with a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Still, not all fruits and vegetables are made equal.

Eating starchy veggies such as potatoes, peas and corn or consuming fruit juice was not linked to a reduced risk of death for specific or general causes. Meanwhile, benefits were shown when consuming green leafy vegetables — spinach, lettuce and kale among them. Benefits were also associated with fruits and vegetables rich in beta carotene, which some research shows may slow cognitive decline, and vitamin C. These foods include citrus fruits, berries and carrots.

According to Wang, who is also a member of the medical faculty at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables a day “likely offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public.”

While the American Heart Association recommends people fill at least half their plate with vegetables and fruit at each meal, most adults don’t get enough of these foods in their diet. A 2017 Centers for Disease Control study showed that only 1 in 10 U.S. adults consume enough fruits and vegetables. One of the ways the Atlanta-based agency suggests people can increase the intake of these foods is to boost access to them at universities, hospitals and workplaces.