Beyond their importance in fuelling workouts, fruits and vegetables have very concrete disease-fighting functions

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A new study presented at the 2019 American Society for Nutrition reports that one in seven people around the world die from cardiovascular diseases and stroke brought about by not eating enough fruit. Meanwhile, one in 12 people die from the same diseases because of not eating enough vegetables. 

Beyond their importance in fuelling workouts, fruits and vegetables have very concrete disease-fighting functions. Specifically, they lower blood pressure and cholesterol, two things whose rising levels are directly linked to cardiovascular disease. It’s not a secret that nutrition has a life or death importance, but how seriously do we treat this fact? Not so much—at least based on the numbers presented in the study, which really just emphasizes the need to recognize this crucial link between nutrition and disease; to see beyond the notion of nutrition as a ‘good deed’ and more as a necessity. 

If you need more convincing, here are more details about the study:

Nutrition and Disease

Using diet surveys and food availability data from 113 countries (that’s about 82 percent of the global population), researchers estimated the average fruit and vegetable intake of people. Then, to establish a connection between nutrition and disease, they examined the general causes of death in each country, paying close attention to the cardiovascular risk related to not eating enough fruits and vegetables.

The central message here is clear: We need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Said out loud, it sounds extremely trite, but a quick look at those numbers proves that it might be the contrary. The scientific explanations, too, for why exactly we need to do so are a lot less obvious. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and phenolics, which actively lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The results painted a dire picture: Every year, 1.3 million people from around the world die from stroke, while 520,000 die from coronary heart disease brought about by not eating enough fruits. As for the deaths caused by the lack of vegetable consumption, 200,000 were linked to stroke, while 800,000 were caused by coronary heart disease.

These deaths are particularly concentrated in South Asia, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa—regions where fruit and vegetable intake is generally the lowest.

Here’s How Much Fruits and Vegetables You Need to Eat

The central message here is clear: We need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Said out loud, it sounds extremely trite, but a quick look at those numbers proves that it might be the contrary. The scientific explanations, too, for why exactly we need to do so are a lot less obvious. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and phenolics, which actively lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Minimally processed foods like fruits and vegetables also improve the health and diversity of good bacteria in the digestive tract. People who eat more of these foods also are less likely to be overweight or obese,” said Victoria Miller, a researcher from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

So what exactly qualifies as the right amount of fruit and vegetable consumption? What’s considered enough to lower your risk to cardiovascular disease? According to Miller and other researchers, 300 grams of fruit and 400 grams of vegetables (including legumes) daily are a good start.

“Eating up to 800 grams of fruits and vegetables per day—equivalent to eight servings—has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, with modest additional benefit for intake above this level,” said Miller.

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