Everyone knows the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but could consuming more servings of produce actually decrease your risk of dying from heart disease?
Although one apple a day is certainly a good start, the latest research suggests that higher fruit and vegetable intake helps decrease your risk of death from heart disease. One study found that each additional serving of fruits and vegetables cut heart disease death by 4 percent. This means that getting 5 servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis may decrease your chance of dying from heart disease by 20 percent!
Another study looked at the long-term impact of fruit and vegetable intake on heart health and found that people who ate the most fruits and vegetables as young adults (7-9 servings a day) were 25 percent less likely to have any coronary artery calcium — an indicator of heart disease — 20 years later compared to those who only ate 2-4 servings. Healthy eating matters no matter what your age.
The American Heart Association lifestyle guidelines recommend a dietary pattern rich in fruits and vegetables such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which includes 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and the Mediterranean dietary pattern, which is also rich in fruits and vegetables.
Tips for success
Here are 10 tips to help you get your daily dose of fruits and veggies:
- Add frozen or fresh fruit to yogurt, oatmeal, salads or cereal.
- Substitute pea pods or lightly steamed green beans for crackers or pita when you use healthy dips like hummus.
- Try making hummus with different types of beans: Tuscan White Bean Spread.
- Try new veggies you’ve never had before: radishes, jicama (also known as yam bean) and broccolini. Look for whatever is in season — you might find something new and delicious.
- Purchase pre-cut fruits and veggies (or cut your own) so they’re easy to grab and go.
- Add grated or finely chopped veggies to pre-made sauces (like marinara) or soups.
- Make zucchini ribbons with a vegetable peeler to use as noodles, or grind up cauliflower and use in place of rice.
- Layer fruits on skewers for a delicious, colorful dessert or freeze grapes for a cold treat.
- Roast carrots/parsnips/sweet potatoes in place of fries: Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes.
- Take a favorite recipe and substitute veggies or beans in place of meat. Try these lettuce cups: Greek Salad Lettuce Cups.
Include fruits and veggies at every meal. Add them to your omelet for breakfast, stick them in your sandwiches or salads and enjoy them as snacks or for dessert.
Take the next step:
Rachel Schreyer earned her Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She recently completed a one-month rotation in Cardiovascular Nutrition at Domino’s Farms as part of her dietetic internship through the University of Michigan.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.