In last weeks blog we looked at what dietary risk factors a 27 year long study identified as contributors to early death and disease onset.
One of those risk factors was lack of fruit 🍐. Now, we established that this was not a risk factor for middle-income to high-income North America (we have access to lots of fruit), but it opened up a discussion that's been circulating for a long time now: IS FRUIT BAD FOR US? 😱
So I went digging to find original, reliable research that could tell me about the risks of eating fruit. We've heard that there's too much sugar in fruit, and assume that surely those at risk for/living with type II diabetes should not be eating it. Some diets even instruct us to omit some vegetables due to their sugar content. Is there any reliable science behind this? 🤔
Welp, I couldn't find any. And, handily enough, as I worked to organize the studies I found and put them into an easy-to-read format, I came across a Harvard review on the studies that exist on vegetable and fruit intake...and all the studies I was working with were cited! Thanks Harvard! 🤓
While research on nutrition and health can be tricky because there are so many other factors that impact our health other than what we eat, if we look at long term studies, and/or cohort studies, along with studies that have been reproducible the evidence gets a little stronger.
Our bottom line is this: there is a lot we do not know about plant based foods. They do not just provide vitamins and minerals, but phytonutrients that provide us with benefits we aren't even aware of yet!
So, are you putting your health at risk by eating the recommended servings of fruit? Science says, very unlikely (assuming no allergies, intolerances or other contraindicated medical issues).
Are you missing out on health benefits by not eating fruit? Science says, likely.
Here is a summary from the Harvard review, which is based upon the findings of current research:
1. Vegetables and fruit are an important part of a healthy diet. Variety is as important as quantity.
2. No single fruit or vegetable provides all the nutrients we need. Eat plenty every day.
3. At least 9 different fruit and vegetable families exist. Each family potential contains hundreds of plant compounds that contribute to good health. *I think this is a very important point. Plants give us more than vitamins and minerals. They provide us with so many phytonutrients that we don't even know all of them yet, nor what they do. What we do know is that they provide lots of health benefits with very little risk (if any).
4. Fruit and vegetable intake contribute to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, with an average reduction of 4% per each additional daily serving!
5. When studies from Harvard were combined with long term studies from the U.S and Europe, they all had similar findings. Individuals who ate more than 5 serving of vegetables and fruits per day had ~ 20% lower risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.
6. Vegetables and fruits most strongly associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease: leafy greens (swiss chard, spinach), cruciferous veg, and citrus fruits
7. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to lower blood pressure, especially when carbohydrates are replaced with unsaturated fats or protein
8. Vegetarian diets are associated with lowered blood pressure.
9. While no direct cancer-preventing links can be found, there are suggestions that vegetable and fruit intake can have protective qualities. For ex,fruit has been linked to lung cancer protection, tomato-based products and other lycopene-containing foods may reduce the occurrence of prostate cancer, and the fibre from fruits and vegetables can have protective mechanism.
10. One study found that women who had the highest fibre intake from fruit had a 12% reduced risk of breast cancer.
11. Greater consumption of whole fruits - particularly blueberries, grapes and apples - has been associated with a LOWER risk of type II diabetes.E
We hope this helps relieve the Fear of Fruit! Eat your veggies. Eat your fruits. Nom, nom, nom.