Five is your lucky number for longer life
That's how many servings of fruits and vegetables you need to eat each day to live the longest, according to a new study released by the American Heart Association (AHA) that analyzed data representing nearly 2 million adults worldwide.
Two of those five servings should be fruit -- the other three should focus on veggies, the study found.
"This amount likely offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public, " said lead author Dr Dong Wang, an epidemiologist and nutritionist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, in a statement.
There were differences in benefits, however, depending on the fruit or veggie in question.
"We also found that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same degree of benefit, even though current dietary recommendations generally treat all types of fruits and vegetables, including starchy vegetables, fruit juices and potatoes, the same," Wang said.
Peas, corn, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, for example, were not associated with a reduced risk of death or specific chronic disease.
Green leafy vegetables rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, such as spinach, leafy green lettuce and kale, along with carrots, did show benefits.
In the fruit category, fruits packed with beta carotene and vitamin C, such as berries of all kinds and citrus fruits, also helped reduce the risk of death and chronic disease. However, fruit juice did not. Past research has found that it's the fiber in whole fruit that is key to any benefits.
"The totality of the evidence in the study "should convince health professionals to promote eating more fruits and vegetables as a key dietary strategy, and for citizens to embrace this," wrote Dr Naveed Sattar and Dr Nita Forouhi in an accompanying editorial that will publish in April.
Sattar is a professor at the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow; Forouhi leads the nutritional epidemiology program of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge. Neither was involved with the new study.
"The biggest gains may come from encouraging those who rarely eat fruit or vegetables since diets rich in even modestly higher fruit and vegetable consumption are beneficial," they wrote.