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.