A diet filled with fresh produce is good for your health, and now a large study suggests that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may substantially cut your risk of death.
Researchers analyzed the eating habits of more than 65,000 people in England between 2001 and 2013. They found that those who ate seven or more portions of fresh fruits and vegetables a day had a 42 percent lower risk of death at any age than those who ate less than one portion a day.
The risk of death was reduced by 36 percent with five to seven portions, 29 percent with three to five portions, and 14 percent with one to three portions, according to the findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
But the study didn't prove that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can cut your risk of death. It only found an association between fresh produce consumption and lower death risk.
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The researchers said their findings suggest that eating seven or more portions of fruits and vegetables reduced the risk of death from heart disease by 31 percent and the risk of death from cancer by 25 percent.
Overall, vegetables appeared to have a stronger health benefit than fruit. Each daily portion of fresh vegetables reduced overall death risk by 16 percent, compared with 13 percent per portion of salad and 4 percent per portion of fresh fruit, the researchers said.
"We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering," study author Oyinlola Oyebode, at the department of epidemiology and public health of University College London, said in a university news release.
"Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you're happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good," Oyebode added.
The study found no significant health benefit from fruit juice. And canned or frozen fruit appeared to boost death risk by 17 percent per portion, the researchers said.
"Most canned fruit contains high sugar levels and cheaper varieties are packed in syrup rather than fruit juice," Oyebode said. "The negative health impacts of the sugar may well outweigh any benefits."