Probably the least controversial advice in all of nutrition is to eat more fruits and vegetables, which is to say, eat more plants, since the term vegetable basically means all parts of the plant that aren’t fruit. We’ve known that eating more fruits and vegetables helps us live longer, but a new study helped us see exactly how much longer (featured in my video Fruits, Veggies, and Longevity: How Many Minutes Per Mouthful?).
Researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed people and their diets over time to create a dose-response curve between fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality. Subjects who consumed five fruits and vegetables a day lived an extra three years compared to their non-plant-eating counterparts.
Compared to those eating five servings of fruits and veggies a day, those who ate four lost a month off their lifespan. Those who ate three servings lost three months. Then the curve started going off the cliff. At two servings a day, subjects lived seven months shorter, and at one serving a day, practically a year and a half, at half a serving a day, subjects lived nearly two years less, and at zero servings subjects lost three years.
This study mostly looked at people in their 50’s and 60’s. Is it too late by our 70’s? No. Women in their 70’s with the most carotenoid phytonutrients in their bloodstream were twice as likely to survive five years than those with the lowest. This means doubling one’s likelihood of survival merely by eating some more fruits and vegetables.
In a study out of Taiwan, researchers concluded that spending just 50 cents a day on fruits or vegetables could buy people about a 10% drop in mortality. That’s quite a bargain. Imagine if there was a drug that—without side-effects—could lower our risk of death 10%. How much do you think drug companies would charge? Probably more than 50 cents.
The more plants we eat, the more antioxidants we get. Why is this important? See The Power of NO and the Mitochondrial Theory of Aging. Or in terms of specific diseases, Food Antioxidants and Cancer and Food Antioxidants, Stroke, and Heart Disease.
Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score to see how one might maximize the intake of protective foods.
Nuts are technically just a dried fruit with (typically) a single seed; so, no wonder Nuts May Help Prevent Death.
Botanically speaking beans are fruit too. Check out Increased Lifespan From Beans.
Also, the more healthy foods we eat, the less room there is for less healthy foods:
- Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies
- Methionine Restriction as a Life Extension Strategy
- Caloric Restriction vs. Animal Protein Restriction
Michael Greger, M.D.
PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.
Image Credit: Richard Giles / Flickr