5 a day keeps the doctor away, right? That’s the conventional nutritional wisdom we’re all taught in elementary school, and it’s the rule of thumb most of us carry through to adulthood. That’s 5 cups of fresh produce at meals and as snacks.
I’ve been reading for awhile about how we ought to probably aim closer to 7 a day, or even more. Well, a new study has come out in the UK about how more fruits and vegetables in a diet can reduce the risk of major health problems like cancer, heart disease and strokes. Turns out, we should be aiming for double the amount of servings we’ve been taught!
Imperial College, in London, conducted the study, and showed that up to 8 million deaths just in the UK would be prevented every year by people eating a 10-a-day diet! That’s a huge reduction in mortality rates, which shows you how much longer you’ll live a healthy life by eating a good diet!
With specific diseases, the results showed that you’re 1/3 less likely to have cardiovascular (heart) issues by eating 10 servings every day, and 13% less likely to have cancer develop in your body. Premature death is the biggest one–more than 1/3 less likely! Overall, fresh produce reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and fills your body up with important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which prevent all sorts of diseases.
Sadly, only about 1/3 of us meet even the low 5-a-day standard. So, there’s a lot of work to be done, but I found this study encouraging because it shows us how much we have to gain simply from improving our diets!
Again, the people conducting the study have stressed that they’re not trying to scare people who are barely getting their 5 servings to begin with. They’re just moving the goalposts, and showing that benefits increase substantially the more produce you eat, so you should constantly try to include more produce, instead of panicking that you’re not meeting the goals you’ve already set.
There are lots of ways to add servings if you’re struggling to fit more into meals. I aim to get 2 servings at each meal, and then fill in with snacks. So, for breakfast, I’ll have some fresh fruit in my granola, and some orange juice on the side — the orange juice I make myself through my reliable juicer. For lunch, a green salad and some sort of vegetable course. And for dinner, a bigger salad and a side item like sweet potatoes or steamed kale. During the breaks, like midmorning and midafternoon, I can easily get in at least one serving each, like a fruit salad, or carrots with hummus. Just doing that, I’m already up to 8 servings. Throw in some fruit with dessert, and I’m practically there!
If you’re not getting quite that many in, try juicing! That’s how I make up for lost ground on days when I’m just too busy to prepare really healthy meals, or when I don’t fit in super nutritious snacks. You can easily pack 3 or 4 servings of produce into one glass of juice, which is enough for most of us who already try for 5-7 servings to get close or up to the golden 10-a-day mark!
However you get there, there’s more evidence than ever to show that a nutritious diet is the key to a healthy life–and a longer life!