More is better

Amanda O'Brien
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The saying “everything in moderation” is well-known and used widely when it comes to food. The results of a new study, though, have put that saying into question, at least for one particular food group.

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Earlier this month the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published British research examining the eating habits of more than 65,000 people from 2001 to 2013.

The study found the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die, regardless of your age.

It came as no surprise that eating fruits and veggies was protective, but what was surprising was the more that was consumed the greater the health benefit that was seen.

(Note that the portion used and referred to below was roughly the same the Canada Food Guide portion, about 1/2 cup or 125 ml).

Essentially, by eating less than one portion of fruits and vegetables, the risk of death from any cause was decreased by 14 per cent for those eating one to three portions, 29 per cent for consuming three to five portions, 36 per cent for five to seven portions and 42 per cent for seven or more.

That’s a lot of numbers I know, but the take-home message here is that more fruits and veggies daily is better.

The researchers also looked into different fruits and veg, too, and found that vegetables had the strongest protective effect, with each daily portion reducing the overall risk of death by 16 per cent, while fresh fruit was associated with a smaller but still significant four per cent decrease.

Don’t think you’ll get all these servings in and the same benefits from juice, as drinking fruit juice failed to show any significant benefit.

What’s really neat about this information is that fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked with decreasing all types of deaths. It’s also the first time that we’ve seen health benefits per portion, and been able to identify the types of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit.

Canned fruits and vegetables were shown to have a negative effect on reducing all forms of death. Although not confirmed, it was speculated that one reason for this might be the extra sources of sugar in canned fruit and its high-consumption rate in England.

So what’s wrong with following the lower amount of fruits and vegetables suggested in the food guide?

Nothing, really.

It’s just that the benefit of eating these foods might go beyond what we are currently consuming.

According to 2012 StatsCanada data, on average, only one in four Newfoundlanders and Labradorians eat five or more servings of fruit and veg daily.

That’s well below the national average, and the lowest of any province across our country.

Ten portions of fruits and veggies a day — I know what you are thinking. If you ate that much you wouldn’t have room for anything else, your food budget would be shot, or you might just blow away from all the extra gas you’d have.

If you are keen, however, there are ways to increase your fruit and vegetable portions.

You don’t have to eat 10 portions a day to reap the benefits.

Even increasing your intake from one to three, or from four to five will have some benefit.

One of the easiest ways to increase the amount you eat would be to try implementing a rule for having a fruit or veg at every meal or snack.

If you are eating three meals and three snacks daily, that’s six occasions where you’ll be getting one portion or more.

Consider nixing expensive juices for an actual piece of food. And at your supper meal try having one half your plate as vegetables.

This study also showed that fruit in desserts had a protective effect, too, so don’t forget to include fruit here, as well.

Slowly increasing your intake is the key to getting around the gas.

When it comes to cost, try to eat in season. 

That means, right now, beet and turnip greens, kale, lettuce, peas, and apples might be some of your top picks.

Amanda O’Brien is a registered dietitian

in St. John’s. Contact via

Organizations: Canada Food Guide

Geographic location: England

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