Chuck, I’m skeptical that eating well can really prolong our lives significantly. My grandfather had fried eggs (cooked in bacon grease) just about every morning for breakfast until the day he passed at 91. I’m not espousing a diet of Twinkies, but is there any real proof out there that what we eat can help us live longer? – “Searching for the Holy Grail” in Horace, N.D.
You couldn’t have written at a better time, because there’s a brand-new study out that shows exactly what you’re looking for.
Men’s Fitness just ran an article titled “More Veggies Could Save Your Life,” discussing a study that pointed to how eating seven or more servings a day of vegetables could in fact prolong your life.
Now, before you say that amount is several servings of produce more than you can possibly eat daily, please read on, because the study showed how even minimal amounts of fruits and veggies yield maximum health benefits, including reductions in risks of heart disease, cancer and stroke.
The study, which appeared in the April edition of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, reported that eating seven or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables could decrease your chances of dying from any cause by a whopping 42 percent in comparison with people who consume less than one portion each day. Forty-two percent!
Men’s Fitness assistant editor Ben Radding said the impressive study documented “the eating habits of more than 65,000 people for 12 years and found that seven or more portions of vegetables and fruits per day dropped the risk of dying from cancer by 25 percent and from cardiovascular disease by 31 percent.”
Daily Digest News added that the benefits of fruit come from both fresh fruit and dried fruit. However, researchers found that canned and frozen fruit actually increase the risk of dying from any cause by 17 percent. They believe that number could be linked to the added sugars in processed fruit.
And those who feel like no-shows at the diet table of fruits and veggies will be glad to know the study revealed that a little goes a long way. Among the people involved in the study, one to three servings of fruits and vegetables per day reduced mortality risk by 14 percent; three to five servings per day reduced it by 29 percent; five to seven servings reduced it by 35 percent. And the big winner at the top of the produce heap was vegetables; every serving added to one’s daily diet yielded a 16 percent reduction in mortality, compared with 10 percent for fruits.
The Daily Mail noted how “boosting consumption cuts the chances of dying from cancer by a quarter and heart-related deaths by one third.”
And Brian Ratcliffe, professor of nutrition at Robert Gordon University, said, “The people eating the highest levels of fruit and vegetables in this study were also likely to display other healthy characteristics such as lower prevalence of overweight, higher activity levels and fewer smokers.”
The study’s lead author, Dr. Oyinlola Oyebode, from University College London’s epidemiology and public health department, said, “We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering.”
The study is so potentially revolutionary that it is causing health experts in many countries to reconsider their recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. In the U.K., for example, the present recommendation is five pieces of fruit or vegetables per day. Moreover, if the reports are true about the negative effects of canned and frozen fruit, some are saying they should be eliminated from counting toward daily consumption recommendations. But representatives from the frozen fruit industry say the study engaged in an “unfair grouping” of frozen fruit and canned fruit, because the latter often contains additives such as sugars.
Understanding that the average American consumes only three servings of fruits and vegetables per day – only 1 in 4 adult Britons and 1 in 10 British teenagers consume five per day – the Harvard School of Public Health recommends the following as “tips to fit more fruits and vegetables into your day”:
- “Keep fruit out where you can see it. That way you’ll be more likely to eat it. Keep it out on the counter or in the front of the fridge.
- “Get some every meal, every day. Try filling half your plate with vegetables or fruit at each meal. Serving up salads, stir fry, or other fruit and vegetable-rich fare makes it easier to reach this goal. Bonus points if you can get some fruits and vegetables at snack time, too.
- “Explore the produce aisle and choose something new. Variety is the key to a healthy diet. Get out of a rut and try some new fruits and vegetables – include dark green leafy vegetables; yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables; cooked tomatoes; and citrus fruits.
- “Bag the potatoes. Choose other vegetables that are packed with more nutrients and more slowly digested carbs.
- “Make it a meal. Try some new recipes where vegetables take center stage, such as Tunisian carrot salad and spicy broccolini with red pepper.”
Whatever increases your intake, Oyebode summarized the incentive well: “The clear message here is that the more (fresh) fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age. My advice would be however much you are eating now, eat more.”
This study is more evidence that the edibles God has given us on our green earth have been and always will be best for us. The Fountain of Youth may in fact be the fountain of fresh and organic fruits and veggies!
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.