Eating Smaller Amounts of Vegetables Still Has Big Health Benefit
What to Know
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a minimum of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, including legumes such as beans and peas, to help maintain good heart health and tokeep blood glucose and blood pressure levels down. Such a diet also may protect against some cancers. But it can be hard to reach that goal every day. This study looked at whether smaller amounts of such foods could still help reduce the risk of heart disease and early death.
Researchers recruited 135,335 people worldwide, including 9,613 with diabetes. They ranged in age from 35 to 70 years. None had heart disease at the beginning of the study. For an average of about 7 years, the researchers tracked each participant’s diet and health factors, such as weight and physical activity level. They then calculated the amounts of fruits, vegetables, and legumes the participants ate each day and noted the number of deaths and cases of both fatal and nonfatal heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. Finally, they used that information to determine how the participants’ diets influenced their risk of death and heart health complications.
People who ate three to four daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and legumes reduced their risk of an early death by 22 percent compared with those who ate fewer than three servings per week. In fact, three to four servings may be an ideal amount. Eating more than four did not offer additional protection. Fruit and legumes appeared particularly beneficial compared with vegetables. Fruit also was associated with a lower risk of major heart disease. Three daily servings of fruit reduced that risk by 11 percent compared with eating fewer than three serving of fruit each week.
Follow the dietary guidelines as closely as you can, but, as this study suggests, your health will still benefit if you can’t quite meet the goal of five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables, including legumes. That fact, the study authors point out, is good news for anyone who struggles to meet the recommended amounts due to cost or other factors.
“Fruit, vegetable, and legume intake, and cardiovascular disease and deaths in 18 countries (PURE): a prospective cohort study.” Victoria Miller, Andrew Mente, Mahshid Dehghan, Sumathy Rangarajan, Xiaohe Zhang, Sumathi Swaminathan, Gilles Dagenais, Rajeev Gupta, Viswanathan Mohan, Scott Lear, Shrikant I Bangdiwala, Aletta E Schutte, Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen, Alvaro Avezum, Yuksel Altuntas, Khalid Yusoff, Noorhassim Ismail, Nasheeta Peer, Jephat Chifamba, Rafael Diaz, Omar Rahman, Noushin Mohammadifard, Fernando Lana, Katarzyna Zatonska, Andreas Wielgosz, Afzalhussein Yusufali, Romaina Iqbal, Patricio Lopez-Jaramillo, Rasha Khatib, Annika Rosengren, V Raman Kutty, Wei Li, Jiankang Liu, Xiaoyun Liu, Lu Yin, Koon Teo, Sonia Anand, Salim Yusuf. The Lancet, published online August 29, 2017.