A multitude of research indicates that consuming at least ten portions of fruits and vegetables per day significantly lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease. While the “five-a-day-rule” yields significant benefits, an extra five portions even further reduces the chance of disease development.

A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology predicts that if everyone ate ten portions of fruits and vegetables per day, approximately 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented—including a dramatic decrease in stroke, heart attacks, and cardiovascular disease. While the current UK guidelines are to eat at least five portions, or 400 grams, per day, fewer than one in three adults are thought to meet this target.

Yet researchers found that even smaller intakes had benefits: a daily intake of two-and-a-half portions was associated with a 16% reduction in heart disease, a 4% decrease in cancer, and a 15% lessening in the risk of premature death. The consumption of ten portions per day was associated with more dramatic decreases—the maximum protection against disease and premature deaths.

The scientific studies reveal that fruit and vegetables reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and boost the health of blood vessels and the overall immune system. Compounds called glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables—such as broccoli—activate enzymes that may also help prevent cancer. Fruits and vegetables may also have a beneficial effect on the naturally occurring gut bacteria, and contain many antioxidants that may reduce DNA damage.

It is critical to eat whole plants in order to receive the aforementioned benefits, as the beneficial compounds cannot be easily replicated in a supplementary pill. As a high intake of fruit and vegetables holds tremendous health benefits, we should all attempt to increase their intake in our diets.

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