TIME diet

Eating More Vegetables Can Almost Halve Your Risk of Dying

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Fruit makes a difference too, but fresh veggies have a larger effect

We’ve all been told to eat our vegetables, and even if we don’t like it, we know they’re good for us. But a new study shows just how good for our longevity they may be.

Seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day can lower your risk of dying by an astonishing 42%, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The more fruits and vegetables the participants ate, the less likely they were to die at any age, and the protective benefit increased with consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends anywhere between one to two cups of fruit daily and one to three cups of vegetables daily, depending on age and gender. Their slogan follows, “Fruit and veggies — more matters.” Australia advises eating two portions of fruit and five of vegetables, and in the U.K., the slogan is: “5 a day.”

When compared with consuming less than one portion of fruit and vegetables a day, the risk of death by any cause was reduced by 14% by eating one to three portions; 29% for three to five portions; 36% for five to seven portions; and 42% for seven or more. Eating seven or more portions also specifically reduced the risk of dying from cancer by 25%, and heart disease by 31%.

“The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age,” lead study author Oyinlola Oyebode, of University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said in a statement. “Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice, but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”

The study is the first to associate eating fruits and vegetables with all-cause, cancer and heart-disease deaths in a nationally representative population, and to quantify the benefits by portions. Researchers looked at results from the Health Survey for England between 2001 and 2013, which detailed the eating habits of 65,226 people.

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