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Get your 5-a-day? That might still not be enough fruit and veg

A new study suggests that fruit and vegetables can help protect you from premature death.

Image: Fruit and veg via Shutterstock

WANT TO HAVE a healthy diet? Then forget about the five-a-day rule – it’s all about seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day now.

New research says that eating at least seven daily portions of fruit and vegetables may give people the best chance of staving off death from any cause.

That’s according to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. It’s not enough to eat an extra apple or banana, though – it also says that vegetables may pack more of a protective punch than fruit.

Recommendations

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables has already been linked to good health, but many of the studies on which this is based have largely been carried out on people who are already likely to be health conscious, pointed out the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The authors analysed lifestyle data for more than 65,000 randomly selected adults aged at least 35, derived from annual national health surveys for England between 2001 and 2008.

As well as this, they tracked recorded deaths from among the sample for an average of 7.5 years.

What people eat

On average, the people surveyed said they had eaten just under four portions of fruit and vegetables the previous day.

During the monitoring period 4399 people died (6.7 per cent of the sample).

The researches analysed the information and found that eating fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of death, overall, and deaths from heart disease/stroke and cancer.

The higher the intake of fruit and vegetables, the greater the protective effects seemed to be.

Eating at least seven daily portions was linked to a 42 per cent lower risk of death from all causes and from cancer and heart disease/stroke of 25 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively, after excluding deaths within the first year of the monitoring period.

Veg is best

Vegetables may be more protective: two to three daily portions were linked to a 19 per cent lower risk of death, compared with a 10 per cent lower risk for the equivalent amount of fruit.

Plus, each portion of salad or vegetables seemed to give a 12-15 per cent lower risk of death.

Think that frozen or tinned fruit is enough? The researchers say that while fresh and dried fruit seemed to strongly curb the risk of death, a portion of frozen/tinned fruit seemed to increase it by 17 per cent.

It is thought that this may be due to the added sugars in ‘processed’ fruit products.

Doctors from the University of Liverpool said that that current dietary guidance, dried or tinned fruit, smoothies, and fruit juice as ways of reaching the ‘5-a-day’ goal, might need to be revised.

150 ml of freshly squeezed orange juice (sugar 13 g); 30 g of dried figs (sugar 14 g); 200 ml of a smoothie made with fruit and fruit juice (sugar 23 g) and 80 g of tinned fruit salad in fruit juice (sugar 10 g)…contain a total of some 60 g of refined sugar. This is more than the sugar in a 500 ml bottle of cola.

Read: One quarter of primary school children overweight (and 12 per cent saying ‘no’ to fruit)>

Read: Eating heart-shaped foods will keep your ticker in good shape>

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