Diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.
Or as my mentor Dr. Michael Greger puts it, one of the least controversial statements in all of nutrition is that fruits and vegetables are good for you. But how much fruit to eat?
Most of my patients tell me during their first consultation that they know fruits are very healthy, and they make sure to eat fruits at least... once or twice a week. Is this enough? Can a large bowl of fruit salad on Sunday compensate for the samosas and ice cream on Saturday night? Or should we ensure to eat fruit everyday?
Scientific studies dating back decades have shown the importance of consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables. The first reports of the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research, Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, was written in 1997 by a panel of international experts, and reviewed by over 100 additional experts. It concluded that:
"Diets containing substantial and varied amounts of vegetables and fruits will prevent 20% or more of all cases of cancer."
The expert panel recommended, in order to prevent cancer, we must all:
"Choose predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, pulses (legumes), and minimally processed starchy staple foods."
How much fruit and vegetables did they recommend eating every day? 400–800 g, or at least five portions (servings) a day of a variety of vegetables and fruits, apart from starchy vegetables.
Does this mean that if we eat five servings of vegetables, we can skip fruits for the day? Um, no... Fruits have their own amazing profile of phytonutrients and beneficial effects on our health, which we cannot get from vegetables.
For example, the China Kadoorie Biobank Study found that the more fresh fruit you ate, the less likely you are to die from a host of individual diseases - ischemic heart disease, stroke, other cardiovascular diseases; cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and colorectum; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory disease, all other major chronic diseases, and all other individual causes of death, as well as overall mortality - death from all causes.
Closer to home, Indians were found to have just half the risk of depression and significant improvement in anxiety if they ate 2 servings of fruits or more per day.
What about heart attacks and strokes, two of our leading causes of death? Coronary heart disease risk reduces by 7% for every 120g serving of fruits per day, and 20-24% of stroke risk can be reduced by eating 400g of fruits everyday. Most large scale studies agree with this quantity: 350 to 400 grams of fruits a day gives us maximum health benefit. This corresponds to about 3 medium sized fruits or 3 cups of cut fruit. Eating more than 400 grams of fruit every day does not appear to be related to any further long-term health benefit.
What about dry fruits? Are they healthy? Yes! Eating at least 3-5 servings of dry fruits like raisins and dates per week has been found to reduce risk of precancerous colorectal polyps by 24%, incidence of prostate cancer by 49%, and mortality from pancreatic cancer by 65%.
Keeping in line with these recommendations, every single meal on our Free 21 Day Plant-based Kickstart as well as our Plant-based Kitchen Sampoorna Ahara start with 150-200 grams of fruit! Since we also recommend eating two meals a day, this perfectly meets our minimum requirement of 350-400 grams of fruits everyday for the maximum possible health benefit.
Great! But what about diabetics? Shouldn't they restrict their fruit intake? Let's find out in our next blog, Are Fruits Good for Diabetes?
For more practical tips, check out Fruit Before Food or After Food?
Dr. Achyuthan Eswar
Co-founder, PHC Lifestyle Clinic
A Life-transforming one-day masterclass on how scientifically proven ancient Indian cooking secrets hold the key to preventing, and even reversing, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other diseases, through a Whole Food Plant Based diet. 6 hours of discovering Nutrition Science + 2 hours of Hands-on Plant Based Chef Training, along with a three-course lunch.
Early Bird discount of Rs. 200 for first 15 participants PLUS additional Rs. 400+ off on booking two seats or more.
100% Whole Food Plant Based, 100% Vegan & 100% Organic.