Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Eat your veggies? ‘5-a-day’ may not be enough

blog not enough vegetables

A key to lowering your risk of cancer and heart disease and living a longer life may be to eat seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day, say researchers from University College London. They argue five servings of fruit and veggies simply isn’t enough to prevent disease and increase longevity.

The recent study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, looked at the eating habits of more than 65,000 adults in England who took part in a public health survey over a seven-year period. The study divided survey participants into five groups according to the amount of fruit and veggies they ate. Those who ate the most produce—seven or more portions—had a 42 percent lower risk of death by any cause. The group had a 25 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.

“What we found with each group we looked at was the more vegetables they ate a day, the better the benefit to their health,” says Dr. Oyinlola Oyebode, the study's lead investigator.

Dr. Oyebode and her colleagues contend vegetables are more beneficial than fruit, and fresh vegetables offer the strongest protection and greatest benefit. They also believe frozen or canned fruit may do more harm than good. Canned fruit, in particular, contained in sugary syrup may reduce or negate the benefits of the fruit.

Sharon Day, RD, CSO, CNSC, National Director of Nutrition for CTCA, emphasizes the compelling message of the study is that more matters. “Our recommendations at CTCA follow that of the American Institute for Cancer Research to eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes,” she says.

According to the institute, basing diets and meals on plant foods such as veggies, fruit, whole grains and legumes (e.g., beans), which contain fiber and other nutrients, can reduce the risk of cancer and promote overall well-being.

Day says when preparing a meal, a good goal is to fill at least half of your plate with produce. A typical portion size is a half a cup of cooked produce or a whole cup of raw produce.

See more nutrition tips.