New research has some nutrition experts calling for even greater consumption of fruits and vegetables in our diet — as much as eight or more servings a day.
People who consumed eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day were 22 percent less likely to die from ischemic heart disease than those who consumed three or fewer servings a day, according to a new study from the University of Oxford and published in the European Heart Journal.
Even among those who didn’t eat a full eight servings each day, the more fruits and vegetables consumed consistently indicated a lower heart disease risk, the Produce for Better Health Foundation said in a statement. For every additional serving above two per day, researchers found a 4 percent decrease in the rate of heart disease deaths.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation, the nonprofit entity behind the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters national public health initiative. “Here is a scientific study that gives everyone another good reason to add at least one more serving of fruits and veggies every day.”
The CDC previously recommended the consumption of five servings a day of fruits and vegetables and has more recently adopted the more flexible initiative Fruits and Veggies — More Matters.
Pivonka offers a way to fit those eight servings into your daily eating plan. She recommends:
• Breakfast: Have one small banana and a 4-ounce glass of 100 percent fruit or veggie juice for two servings.
• Lunch: Eat a salad with one cup of your favorite leafy greens. Toss in a cup of your favorite fruit or vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, garbanzo or kidney beans, sliced pears, or canned pineapple for a total of three more servings. Toss a quarter cup of raisins or dried cranberries on top and make it four.
• Dinner: Microwave a frozen mixed vegetable side dish and have your favorite fruit for dessert to make a total of eight servings.
While most people realize that eating fruits and vegetables is important to a healthy diet, they still don’t eat enough, the Produce for Better Health Foundation said. According to its 2010 State of the Plate report, the average person consumes about 1.8 cups of fruit and vegetables each day. Only 8 percent eat the recommended amount of fruit each day and just 6 percent eat the recommended amount of vegetables in an average day.
If eating eight servings per day seems daunting, the new study shows that adding even one serving per day can provide extra heart protection, Pivonka said.