Eating fruit and vegetables every day keeps the undertaker at bay.
That’s the finding of a study that assessed the lifestyle of 65,000 UK adults and compared the eating habits of those who died.
Any amount of fruit and vegetable reduces the risk of death, but seven or more servings a day are particularly good, according to the study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Vegetables offer almost double the benefit of fruit, which shows the Australian guidelines of two fruits and five serves of vegetables a day are spot-on.
The UK at present advocates five servings and does not differentiate between fruit and vegetables, prompting the authors to suggest a possible change to Australia’s 5+2 example.
However, only around five per cent of Australian adults meet the target, according to the latest information from the Bureau of Statistics.
“We are halfway there in terms of fruit, but we are a long way away for vegetables,” says Kathy Chapman, chair of Cancer Council Australia’s nutrition committee.
“This study shows the importance of fruits and vegetables by themselves not just in terms of obesity.
“The emphasis needs to be on vegetables. People must look for ways to include more in their daily eating patterns.”
The authors analysed lifestyle data in England’s national health survey and tracked people’s cause of death over a seven-and-a-half-year period.
They say their results take smoking and other risk factors into account.
Eating at least seven daily portions was linked to a 42 per cent lower risk of death from all causes.
The risk of death from cancer was 25 per cent lower and heart disease and stroke were 31 per cent lower.
The authors were surprised that frozen and canned fruit appeared to add to the risk, but say this finding needs further research because it could be linked to other lifestyle factors.
It also did not differentiate between sweetened and unsweetened products.
“Getting five serves of vegetables a day can be challenging. People have to look for ways to include vegetables at lunch time as well as dinner,” says Ms Chapman.
A fruit the size of a medium apple is one serve. Half a cup of cooked vegetables or a cup of salad are the equivalent of one serve, she says.
“You can include some salad in a sandwich or have some chopped up carrot or celery,” she says.
“We try to encourage people to eat whole rather than juice because juicing removes a lot of the fibre.”