A new study from the American Heart Association has determined that eating two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables every day is the ideal combination for longer life, in comparison with people who eat less than that.

The study analyzed pooled data on fruit and vegetable consumption as well as deaths in 26 studies with 1.9 million participants from 29 countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.  They found that the 2 + 3 combo on fruits and veggies resulted in the lowest risk of death, with a 13% lower risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, 10% lower risk of death from cancer, and a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory disease (like COPD).

What the study also found though, is that you can’t count all fruits and vegetables in your daily total of five.  Starchy vegetables like peas, corn, and potatoes, as well as fruit juices, don’t offer the same reduced risks of death.  The benefits come from eating green leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and kale, as well as fruits and vegetables that are rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, like citrus fruits, berries, and carrots.

A serving of vegetables is about a 1/2 cup of cooked or 1 cup of green leafy or raw; a serving of fruit is about 1 medium or 2 small ones.  Keep in mind though, that even if starchy vegetables are not counted in the daily five, you should definitely include nutritious sweet potatoes, squashes, whole grains, and legumes in your diet because they offer valuable nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber.  Whether you’re eating all or mostly plant-based, make the daily five an integral of your overall meal plan.

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