With the overabundance of different health gurus and diets out there, often spewing conflicting advice, it can seem hard to decide how to go about establishing a healthy diet. Low fat. Low carb. High protein. Vegetarian. The truth is that many diets have something to offer. However, many are too extreme, and for no good reason.
That is why we emphasize the basics in our book and blog. Stick to a minimally processed, natural diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Cut down on sugar, fried foods, processed carbohydrates, and unnatural fats. Eat things close to how they’re found in nature.
Based on a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, we can add another simple, straight forward piece of nutritional advice: Aim for 7 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
The study followed survey data over an average of about 8 years in over 65,000 people over the age of 35. They found that those who consumed seven or more portions a day of fruits and vegetables decreased their risk of dying by 42%. This included a 25% reduced chance of dying from cancer and a 31% chance of dying from heart disease. Vegetables seemed to be slightly more protective than fruit. Of note, canned fruit actually increased the risk of dying by 17% (presumably because it has fewer vitamins and is often loaded with sugar).
There you have it. A simple goal most people can strive for. Although it may seem daunting, 7 servings is not as much as you think. Include some fruit for breakfast and snacks, add a salad and cooked vegetables to lunch and/or dinner, munch on some carrot sticks or other veggies as a snack, and before you know it you’ve reached your goal. Furthermore, don’t forget that it isn’t all or nothing. The above study showed that eating 5-7 servings reduced mortality by 36%, 3-5 servings by 29%, and as little as 1-3 servings a day by 14%. If you can’t get to 7 servings, aim for whatever is feasible. Often times, if you start with 2-3 servings, you can over time slowly increase the amount until you hit seven. Doing things gradually is often more effective than effecting drastic changes.