It's well-known that the perfect healthy diet contains five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. It's vital for getting all the vitamins and minerals we need, and fruit makes for a great healthy snack or side dish – low in calories, high in good stuff. A good way to get enough is to whizz up a smoothie or green juice in one of our best blenders, but you can't eat five apples and get the same benefits as a varied selection of fruit and vegetables.
A new study published by the American Heart Association has shined a light on the "perfect mix" of fruits and vegetables. After examining a series of studies representing approximately two million adults, the researchers concluded that "higher consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of death in men and women, according to data representing nearly two million adults.
"Five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, eaten as two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables, may be the optimal amount and combination for a longer life."
Varied sources of fruit and veg are important because not all foods considered to be fruits and vegetables will offer the same benefits. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, peas and corn pack plenty of benefits (peas are high in fibre and protein, while corn contains valuable vitamin B), but are not associated with reduced risk of death from specific chronic diseases.
On the other hand, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale, and fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, such as citrus fruits and berries, showed those benefits. A healthy diet pulls fruit and vegetables from lots of different sources to get as many benefits as possible.
For example, you might have the following meal plan, adhering to the American Heart Association's advice:
- Porridge with handful of blueberries
- Apple as mid-morning snack
- Salad for lunch
- Dinner with two different kind of vegetables on the plate
As well as ensuring we get a varied and healthy diet, making sure we get plenty of different kinds of vitamins and minerals can be done using supplements. Our best vitamins for women over 50, best supplements for joints and best fish oil supplements can all support a balanced diet, reduce inflammation and promote better overall health.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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