In the UK currently, we are told we should be consuming at least 5 portions of fruit or veg per day (around 400g). Despite this, only one third of people actually meet this target, which is worrying as new research, led by scientists from Imperial College London, found that the most benefit came from eating 800g per day, equivalent to around 10 portions.
The study, a meta-analysis of all available research in populations worldwide, looked at around 2 million people, also assessing 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases and 94,000 deaths.
200g, which is equivalent to two and a half portions was linked with a 16 per cent reduced risk of heart disease, an 18 per cent reduced risk of stroke, and a 13 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, along with a 4 per cent reduced risk of cancer. The benefits improved when higher intakes were observed. Eating 10 portions a day was associated with a 24 per cent reduced risk of heart disease, a 33 per cent reduced risk of stroke, a 28 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a 13 per cent reduced risk of cancer. 800g also created a 31 per cent reduction in dying prematurely.
Researchers state that up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could potentially be prevented per year if people reached this amount of fruit and vegetables in their diets. Vegetables were also linked with better health than fruit.
The beneficial compounds found within fruit and veg cannot be replicated easily within pill form, therefore a researcher said: “Most likely it is the whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables that is crucial is health. This is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements (which have not been shown to reduce disease risk).”