Have you ever read something on the amount of fruits and vegetables that you’re supposed to eat every day, gotten overwhelmed by the gigantic amount and then reached for the nearest processed, crunchy, salty snack? Well, good news. The World Health Organization now says that just three to four portions of fresh produce each day could be enough to get the lifesaving nutrients and fiber you need.
Of course, this does not mean that if you’re eating more than the three to four servings that you should cut back — keep up the good work. But, it does offer hope to those who might find the previously recommended quantities of fruits and vegetables — eight to 10 servings each day — slightly out of reach.
This large-scale study by WHO — which involved more than 135,000 participants from around the world — also took food costs into account, noting that previous higher produce intake recommendations put a financial strain on low- or middle-income people.
So what kind of health benefits are we talking about? The study found that people who ate between three and four portions of fruit and vegetables each day reduced their risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer by 22 percent compared to those who only ate one serving per day. Not only that, but researchers also found that while eating more produce than that is certainly healthy, it didn’t translate into a greater reduction in health risk.
In an editorial accompanying the article, which was published in The Lancet, Estefanía Toledo and Miguel Ángel Martínez-González from the University of Navarra were enthusiastic about the research, but stressed that it’s important to look at produce consumption in the context of your wider diet.
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“Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables should be at the expense of reducing other foods and drinks, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, red and processed meats, saturated and trans fat, refined cereals, and sugar-rich desserts,” they write, “not in isolation or as a mere addition to the rest of the dietary pattern.”
So it’s not enough just to add a few veggie sides to a high-fat meal — it has to be part of a bigger shift in eating habits.