The classic nutritional recommendation advises to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. But which ones and how to distribute the contributions?

The first thing to keep in mind is that it is important to vary your diet while ensuring balanced intakes. In other words, each food is of nutritional value, but some should nonetheless be limited (such as red or processed meat), while others will be favored (such as plants). From there, we know the recommendation to consume (at least) five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. One serving is roughly 70-100g, which is shaped like a fist (such as an apple), a handful, or two full tablespoons.

An American team (Harvard University) wanted to clarify this major nutritional advice: should we focus on fruits or rather vegetables, and which ones? To answer this question, the researchers cross-referenced the results of some thirty studies carried out around the world and involving a total of nearly 2 million people followed for several decades.

Based on the results, the five servings of fruits and vegetables do exert a protective effect against the risk of premature death from heart and stroke, cancer and chronic respiratory disease. Then it turns out that the best combination is to eat three servings of vegetables and two fruits (or two servings of fruit). What is also highlighted is that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same benefits.

Thus, researchers indicate that certain grains and legumes rich in starchy foods (such as corn or peas), potatoes or fruit juice are not associated with a reduced risk of premature death. Conversely, highly significant protection is observed with green leafy plants (spinach, lettuce, cabbage, etc.), as well as with fruits and vegetables with a high beta-carotene and vitamin C content (citrus fruits, carrots, berries).

Thus, it is important to favor these foods which seem to have a higher benefit. However, and getting back to the basics, the healthiest approach is to take advantage of all the nutrients that all edible plants give us, and that’s certainly in the variety — combination of special properties that will provide the maximum benefits.

Angie Mahecha

An fitness addict passionate about all things nature and animals, Angie often volunteers her time to NGOs and governmental organizations alike working with animals in general and endangered species in particular. She covers stories on wildlife and the environment for the Scientific Origin.