Dietary recommendations are often confusing and unrealistic. For many Americans, it’s an active struggle to get as many servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day as recommended. To make it easier, according to researchers at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, if you follow a “5-a-Day” formula, you should be properly positioned to live a long and healthy life.
Harvard’s food formula for longevity is simple in that you just need to consume two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day. This conclusion is based on substantial evidence, too. To form it, researchers looked at one study tracking the nutrition data of 100,000 men and women over 30 years as well as 26 other studies which evaluated nutrition in over 2 million adults.
“This amount likely offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public,” said lead study author Dong D. Wang, MD, ScD, an epidemiologist, nutritionist, and faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, according to CNBC.
If you’re not a huge fan of veggies—or don’t have great access to fresh produce—you’re in luck, as the study actually found there were no health advantages to consuming more than three servings per day. Serving sizes are generally smaller than you might think, too. For example, one serving of fruit is an apple but it’s also 16 grapes, and one serving a vegetables is half of a bell pepper or six baby carrots, according to the American Heart Association.
There’s an easy way to optimize the benefits of each serving, too. Harvard’s researchers also found that some fruits and veggies offer greater health advantages than others. No real surprises here, though—leafy veggies such as kale, cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, beta carotene-rich foods like carrots, berries, and citrus fruits were all at the top of the list. At the bottom were starches such as corn and potatoes, though to be clear, those veggies are still healthy!
And on that note, if you love fruits and veggies, feel free to go bananas with your daily allowance, as there’s no certainly harm in eating as many plants as possible. Harvard’s food formula for longevity simply offers attainable goals for those who tend to eat less produce-centric diets as well as a catchy new refrain: “5-a-Day” keeps the doctor away!
This vegetarian bolognese recipe hits all the right notes:
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