A major study on nearly 2 million adults worldwide confirms what nutrition experts have been suggesting for decades: Eat your fruits and vegetables. Best of all? It actually doesn’t take much to get health benefits that can extend your life.
Research published in the journal Circulation compared data on 26 studies that encompassed the eating habits of 1.9 million people from 29 countries. Researchers found that eating about five servings of fruits and vegetables—particularly if it’s three servings of veggies and two of fruit—was associated with the lowest risk of death. Eating more than that amount was not shown to provide additional benefits in terms of longevity. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now).
Those in the study who consumed at least five servings had a 13% lower risk of death from all causes, and that was particularly notable with respiratory disease—that many servings conferred 35% lower risk of death from a condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Not all fruits and vegetables offered the same benefits, however. Starchy vegetables like peas, corn and potatoes, as well as fruit juices, didn’t seem to offer as much risk reduction compared to more vitamin-packed options like green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and berries.
Keep in mind that five servings may be less than you think. Here are some examples of a single serving size:
- Half an avocado
- 5 broccoli florets
- 16 grapes
- 1 small banana
- 4 large strawberries
- 1 cup raw lettuce or other leafy greens
- Half of a large bell pepper
- 1 medium apple, about the size of your fist
- 1 kiwifruit
- 7 cherry tomatoes
Although the recent study found that five servings seemed to be the sweet spot for longer life, that doesn’t mean eating more won’t give you other health benefits, according to John Bagnulo, PhD, director of nutrition at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. He says gut health is particularly important for a range of advantages, from better digestion to improved immunity to a happier mood, and fruits and veggies are the best gut-health boosters.
“Not only are you getting more vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables, but you’re also getting the best possible source of fiber when you eat them,” he says. “I suggest getting two cups per meal, or about half your plate. There is honestly no downside to increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption.”
For more, be sure to check out 7 Habits That Are Hurting Your Immune System, According to Harvard.