Fruit and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. They are rich sources of vitamins and minerals, dietary fibre, plant sterols, flavonoids and other antioxidants. No single fruit or vegetable can provide all the nutrients needed. Variety, as well as quantity, is important. Furthermore, we should include seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables according to the Mediterranean diet recommendations.
The World Health Organization suggests consuming more than 400 grams (5 servings) of fruit and vegetables per day as part of a healthy diet low in fat, sugars and sodium. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and other starchy roots are not classified as fruit and vegetables.
Reduced fruit and vegetable consumption is related to mortality, including mortality from noncommunicable diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. An estimated 5.2 million deaths worldwide were attributable to inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption in 2013.
Wang et al published a systematic review and meta-analysis1 of prospective cohort studies that examined the associations of fruit and vegetable consumption with risk of all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality. Sixteen studies conducted in the United States (n=6), in Asian countries (n=4) and in Europe (n=6) were included in the analysis. This study supports the theory that higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of mortality from all causes and cardiovascular disease. According to these authors “the risk of all cause mortality was decreased by 5% for each additional serving a day of fruit and vegetables, by 6% for fruit consumption, and by 5% for vegetable consumption”. The authors observed that more than five servings a day wasn´t associated with further reduction in risk. They also found a significant inverse association for cardiovascular mortality, while higher consumption was not appreciably associated with risk of cancer mortality.
Therefore, we should adopt a healthy diet including at least 400 g of fruit and vegetables a day in order to promote health and reduce the risk of mortality from noncommunicable diseases.
1Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W, Hu FB. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014; 349: g4490.
Maria Ana Carvalho, Ph.D