#209 Why You Need 10 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables for a Longer Life

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Why You Need 10 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables for a Longer Life

Most people only get two or three servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  The U.S. government recommends five to nine servings daily.  Could the real number be higher?  In this article, I share the latest research as to why you need at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for a long and healthy life.

The 10 Servings Study

To find out exactly how many servings of fruits and vegetables you need each day, researchers from Imperial College London combed through the data from 95 studies involving 2,123,415 people.  Their findings were shared in a recently published study.

Doing studies like this one can be very challenging.  To make the results as accurate as possible, these researchers factored in everyone’s weight, quality of their diet, smoking status, and how much they exercised.

Of course, they couldn’t account for every variable.  No study can.  However, this study gives us good insight about what 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily might do for you.

Results of the 10 Servings Study

Here are the 6 main findings from the more than two million people studied:

1. The more servings of fruits and vegetables you eat daily, the lower your risk of disease and an early death.

2. Maximum benefit comes from 10 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

3. People eating at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables enjoyed 28% less cardiovascular disease, 33% less strokes, 13% less cancer, and lived 31% longer when compared to those eating the least amount of fruits and vegetables.

4. The fruits which offered the most benefit included apples, pears, and citrus fruits.  Surprisingly, berries didn’t quite make the cut off in this study.

5. The vegetables offering the most benefit included leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, green beans, and spinach.

6. Eight million people die needlessly each year due to a lack of fruit and vegetables.

What is a serving size?

When it comes to fruit, one whole fruit or one cup of fruit, counts as a serving size.  For vegetables, one cup of raw or cooked vegetables counts as one serving.  For leafy greens, two cups count as one serving size.

Why are fruits and vegetables so protective?

As blog readers know, fruits and vegetables provide so much disease protection on so many different levels.  For example, they lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.  They protect you against weight gain and diabetes.  They boost your immune system.  They protect your DNA so that cancers don’t form.  The list goes on and on.

How to Get 10 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

While 10 servings a day of fruits and vegetables might seem like an insurmountable task, it is actually very doable.  Personally, I now average somewhere around 15 servings a day, of which about 12 are vegetables.  However, it wasn’t always this way for me.

Prior to my health turn around a few years back, I was lucky to eat four servings daily of fruits and vegetables.  By replacing processed and sugary foods with fruits and vegetables, the weight melted away and one-by-one, my medical problems also went away.

The key is to make fruits and vegetables the main thing on your plate with every meal.  Every meal also includes breakfast.

You have to start getting your fruits and vegetables with breakfast, otherwise you’ll never make it to 10 for the day.  For most of my patients, a daily morning smoothie helps them to get started on the 10 servings.

You may need to build up to the “10” number.  Take it slowly.  If you’re not used to eating so much fiber, you may need to give your body time to adjust.

Also, don’t be afraid about adding in frozen fruits and vegetables.  Depending on the time of the year, frozen can actually be healthier as fruits and vegetables are frozen when they are at their peak nutritional value.

Personally, I love frozen berries either plain or in a smoothie.  If I am running short on time, I’ll often add some healthy curry sauce to frozen vegetables.  The possibilities are endless.

Take Home Message

The main take away from this study is that most people need to significantly increase their fruit and vegetable intake to stay healthy and live a longer life.  Based on the results of this study, it looks like the new daily target is 10 servings.

How close are you to the 10 daily serving target?

Please leave your thoughts and questions below.  Also, if you have not yet signed up for my free weekly newsletter or podcast, please follow the links and start today!

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11 Comments
  1. Here is my recipe for a morning shake. I think it’s delicious and It has at least 4 or 5 servings of fruits and veggies, maybe 6 depending on the amounts of each ingredient and what’s counted as a serving. It’s ultra high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. It is probably more than most people want to do, but it works for me and is just a suggestion that could be easily modified to taste, convenience and expense.

    Blend: I medium or large banana, 1 to 2 cups frozen blueberries, 1/2 to 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 cucumber with peel left on, 2 to 3 scoops (1/4 to 1/2 cup) of hemp seeds (the most complete and digestible source of vegetable protein + beneficial fatty acids), 2 cups greens (spinach, kale, arugula, red-leaf lettuce, etc). 1/2 cup of yogurt and/or 1/2 to 1 cup of coconut milk. Add any of the following: green tea powder or leaf, 2 to 4 coffee beans, unsweetened cacao powder, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, ground clove. Water to desired thickness.

  2. Reading your e-mails each week is an important part of my weekly routine. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. Just wondering if you might be able to tell me the difference between whole grain, organic, and non-GMO? Thank you!

    • Hi Jeri,

      Thank you so much for reading the newsletter every week! So glad to hear it is part of your weekly routine!

      Some great questions…

      1. The “whole grain” term is very confusing. Personally, I like the term “intact grain” much better. If the grain looks like what it originally did then it is not processed at very healthy.

      2. According to the USDA, “organic” is defined as: “Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.”

      3. The term “GMO” means genetically modified. In other words, the DNA of the food has been altered in a lab.

      Hope this helps!

      John

      • Thanks for your reply! It was helpful. I’m looking for a delicious whole grain sourdough bread. Thought one was found at Trader Joe’s but when I returned to purchase it a second time, couldn’t find it. Would it be equally nutritious to eat organic whole wheat sourdough bread as whole grain sourdough? Thanks!

        • Hi Jeri,

          Hard to answer this question. In the world of “whole grains,” you really want an intact grain whenever possible. Wheat that has been pulverized into flour is rapidly converted to sugar by the body.

          Trader Joe’s does offer two forms of flourless bread…one is a Trader Joe’s brand and the other is Ezekiel bread. At least with these breads you have a more intact grain so that you don’t get the sugar spike when you eat them.

          Hope this helps!

          John

          • Hi,

            Thanks for your reply and the reminder that whole grain is more beneficial than organic whole wheat! I’ll stick to the whole grain.

  3. I take a blood thinner, and have for a number of years because of AF, so I must limit the green leafy veggies,cabbage,broccoli & green beans. Getting 10 fruits and veggies is difficult. At age over 90, I eat small servings,two meals a day,don’t snack much. Any suggestions for us older people? What is in a breakfast smoothie?

    • Hi Betty,

      I have hundreds of patients who also take the blood thinner warfarin. Even people taking this blood thinner can still eat plenty of green leafy vegetables provided they eat the very same amount every day. If they always eat the same amount every day, then warfarin can be dosed properly. Please work with your provider if you want to increase your intake of green leafy vegetables.

      A smoothie is a thick drink you make in the blender. Most people add fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc. to these drinks. If you want a sample recipe, please check out the recipe section of this website: http://drjohnday.com/recipe/. My wife has posted about 5 of her favorite smoothie recipes.

      Hope this helps!

      John

    • Hi Eileen,

      Thanks for reading. I love a good curry sauce over vegetables. My current favorite is a spinach or lentil curry that I buy from Whole Foods.

      Best,

      John