Eat Five Fruits and Vegetables a Day and Live Longer

Why should you eat five fruits and vegetables a day? They contain a high concentration of antioxidants capable of neutralizing the formation of free radicals, which reduces the risk of getting ill. Learn more!
Eat Five Fruits and Vegetables a Day and Live Longer
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

There’s little doubt today that consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables is good for your health. According to a recent study, consuming five fruits and vegetables a day can increase life expectancy, reducing the incidence of chronic illnesses such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases.

However, we should take into account that to achieve these positive effects, it’s important to ensure the intake of macronutrients in optimal proportions. Covering protein and fat requirements is also fundamental. Both elements are responsible for participating in a multitude of physiological processes.

2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables

First of all, it’s important to emphasize that it’s essential to prioritize the consumption of vegetables over fruit. This is because vegetables usually contain a higher concentration of phytonutrients. These compounds are key in neutralizing the formation of free radicals, which are associated with the prevention of complex illnesses.

According to research published in the journal Circulation, it’s important to ensure the presence of vegetables in your diet to improve the efficiency of physiological processes in order to keep inflammatory levels under control. You should note that excessive promotion of inflammation could lead to problems in the body.

A bad full of green fruits and vegetables.

In order to achieve an optimal state of health, it’s advisable to include plant foods in all your main meals. Fruits can also be included in mid-morning or mid-afternoon snacks to improve the overall intake of vitamins and antioxidants.

You may also be interested in: 30 Foods Rich in Flavonoids to Fight Anxiety

Some fruits and vegetables are better than others

Keep in mind that not all vegetables have the same properties. Exotic fruits, for example, have a higher concentration of phytonutrients. These compounds have proven to be important in preventing problems such as cancer, according to a study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design.

Likewise, vegetables with intense colors or cruciferous vegetables are also capable of improving the state of health more efficiently than others, such as leafy vegetables. Broccoli’s a good example of this, as there’s evidence that it contains key substances to help reduce the incidence of cardiovascular illnesses.

Eat even more fruits and vegetables

In any case, although there’s a consensus that the optimal amount of fruits and vegetables per day is 5 servings, this doesn’t mean that you can’t increase this amount. In fact, a higher intake may even be beneficial. Above all, it’s optimal to ensure a good variety, combining products of different colors to ensure a greater supply of nutrients.

It’s also important to alternate the consumption of raw and cooked vegetables. Physical and chemical processes can alter the bioavailability of some of their nutrients. In this sense, it’s good to make sure a good part of the vegetables you eat are raw. In other words, avoid using aggressive cooking processes.

A skillet, bowl, and cutting board, all full of fresh Mexican foods made of beans, fruits, and vegetables.

A good technique to maximize the use of nutrients is also to consume the cooking broth of vegetables. A large amount of water-soluble vitamins remain in it, and they won’t be wasted.

Characteristics of the study

Referring again to the study published in Circulation, the diets of more than 2 million subjects were analyzed. As you can see, the sample size was very large. This research found that the risk of death was significantly reduced–by 12%–in those who consumed 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Researchers also found that respiratory illnesses were 35% less incident and prevalent in these subjects. The same happened with several types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

However, it wasn’t possible to link a higher vegetable consumption with an even greater reduction in the risk of death. In addition, the most beneficial vegetables were those with green leaves or bright colors, which have a high vitamin C and beta-carotene content.

Eat more fruits and vegetables to live longer

As we mentioned above, eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day is effective in preventing chronic and complex health problems. This is due to their micronutrient and phytonutrient content, which produces a powerful antioxidant effect capable of neutralizing the formation of free radicals.

In addition, it’s also important to reduce the presence of ultra-processed foods in your diet to complement this good habit. This will also reduce the intake of trans fats and simple sugars. As a result, this will produce greater efficiency in the functioning of the human body.

Finally, don’t forget that it’s essential to complement a good diet with regular physical exercise. You need to ensure a good night’s rest to improve your body’s recovery.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Wang DD, Li Y, Bhupathiraju SN, Rosner BA, Sun Q, Giovannucci EL, Rimm EB, Manson JE, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB. Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies of US Men and Women and a Meta-Analysis of 26 Cohort Studies. Circulation. 2021 Mar 1. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.048996. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33641343.
  • Poljsak B, Milisav I. The Role of Antioxidants in Cancer, Friends or Foes? Curr Pharm Des. 2018;24(44):5234-5244. doi: 10.2174/1381612825666190123112647. PMID: 30674247.
  • Vanduchova A, Anzenbacher P, Anzenbacherova E. Isothiocyanate from Broccoli, Sulforaphane, and Its Properties. J Med Food. 2019 Feb;22(2):121-126. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2018.0024. Epub 2018 Oct 27. PMID: 30372361.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.