Fruit & Veg can save your life! No joke… and let me tell you why.
Experts who carried out one of the largest diet and heart studies conducted, found the potent mixture of these everyday foods can have a major impact on long-term health.
Eating high levels of the combination of fruit and vegetables daily has been shown to dramatically weaken the effects of a key gene in the body which is a big cause of heart disease. In a major breakthrough, their analysis found that those who ate a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables significantly reduced the influence of the gene, effectively protecting them from developing the killer disease. Research co-author Professor Sonia Anand, from McMaster University in Canada, said last night: We observed that the effect of a high-risk genotype can be mitigated by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health. Experts have long known that genetic make-up can sometimes be used to identify risk of heart disease. It is also widely accepted that a healthy diet can slash the risk.
The key fruit and vegetable indicated were:
- green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, swiss collard,
- cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, sprouts and cauliflower
- root vegetables like carrots and sweet potato
- fruits of oranges, apples and pears and of course tomatoes and avocados
- superfoods of berries like blueberries, elderberries, cranberries and grapes
- papaya, peaches, prunes and dates are in there too!
The study found that healthy foods appear to modify genetic code variants on the 9p21 chromosome which is known to increase heart disease risk. The chromosome is one of the packages of DNA that exist in every cell and contain the genes.
Scientists analysed DNA from more than 27,000 people of European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab ethnic backgrounds. Participants were also questioned about their dietary habits. Heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in the UK, claiming 200,000 lives a year. A further 2.5 million people are living with the condition that can trigger heart attacks and strokes.
Research earlier this year found that people who eat eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day can cut the risk of dying from heart disease by a fifth. The most health advice is to try to eat at least five portions a day, with one portion being equal to a medium-sized piece of fruit, such as an apple, or a small carrot.
Last year, experts at Oxford University said that switching to a healthier diet could save more than 30,000 lives each year in Britain, having a dramatic impact on deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Dr Peter Scarborough said that if everyone ate five portions of fruit and vegetables a day 15,000 lives a year would be saved. If people ate the recommended 20 to 30 grams of fibre a day, it would prevent 4,000 more deaths. A further 7,000 deaths would be spared if the public also watched their fat intake, reducing saturated fat to just 10 per cent of their total calories intake. And 7,500 deaths would be avoided if people ate no more than six grams of salt a day.
What I want to say about this study:
This study is an important piece of evidence to support the argument that by taking control of our diets and lifestyle, we may definitely help ourselves avoid developing serious illnesses such as heart disease.
The five-a-day message has been around now for quite a few years and yet it seems that not many of us in the UK manage to meet this relatively modest quota. As stated in this report, if people eat eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day their risk of developing heart disease drops by a fifth. So it may be argued that five-a-day really should be seen as the minimum amount that we have each day.
How do fruit and vegetable reduce heart disease?
The term heart disease is most commonly used to describe the incidence of atherosclerosis which occurs when the coronary arteries (the main blood vessels supplying blood and nutrients to and from the heart) become blocked and hardened from a build up of plaque. This plaque in the arteries may then cause a complete or partial blockage preventing blood from flowing freely such that a heart attack results.
The first step in the process of atherosclerosis is usually from damage to the artery walls. This most commonly occurs from free radicals, which are unstable chemicals produced in the body. The body’s attempt to repair this damage is then thought to result in the formation of plaque with fat and cholesterol building up in the arteries.
This is the reason why a diet rich is anti-oxidants from fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease. Anti-oxidants neutralise the effects of damaging free radicals, thereby reducing damage to arteries and so may reduce the build-up of plaque leading to atherosclerosis.
In particular green, orange and yellow vegetables, dark-coloured berries and citrus fruits give a wide variety of anti-oxidants such as carotenoids, flavonoids and vitamin C. High levels of fruit and vegetables also provide good levels of fibre which may be effective for optimising the levels of good and bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
Tips to meet (and exceed) your five-a-day target
- Start your day with a handful of berries or piece of fruit added to your normal breakfast;
- Always have a fruit bowl within easy reach in the kitchen or where you work;
- Take crudites (e.g. cherry tomatoes, sugar-snap peas, carrot, celery, cucumber and red pepper sticks) in a small container around with you to snack on;
- When snacking on fruit and vegetables, try to include a source of protein with it so that you feel fuller for longer. Good examples are nuts and seeds, houmous or cottage cheese.
- Pile on the salad with your meals;
- Look for new recipes for vegetables to give you inspiration for everyday meals;
- Try adding/hiding grated courgette or carrot to bolognese style sauces to boost vegetables. Other vegetables such as mushrooms, celery, peppers can also be hidden well in many other dishes when finely grated or chopped – dont be afraid to experiment!;
- Soups are a great way of adding lots of different vegetables together – they make a great lunch now that autumn is here;
- Choose fruit and vegetables that are in season as they are likely to be cheaper and fresher;
- Look to eat a rainbow of vegetables every day. The different coloured vegetables provide you with different anti-oxidants and other nutrients so go for as much variety as you can;
- Try to keep vegetables raw whenever possible. Many nutrients are destroyed or lost by cooking especially boiling. So if you do need to cook your veg, opt for steaming and aim for al dente to provide a pleasant crunch to your meal;
- Remember that dried fruit is high in concentrated sugars so be careful not to eat too much. This is the same for concentrated fruit juices. Official guidelines say fruit juice can only count towards one of your five-a-day no matter how much you drink;
- If you think it will help you, keep a chart on the fridge to record what you’ve eaten and give yourself a (healthy) reward at the end of the week when you meet your target;
If this is all still to much for you and you would like help bridging that gap to your 5 a day and providing you with your health insurance, consider eating Juice Plus+ everyday to help you to reach your daily nutrition goals.