Women who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as young adults are much less likely to have a heart attack or stroke later in life compared with those who consume lower amounts of these healthy foods.
Researchers from the American College of Cardiology analyzed the food intake of 2,058 men and women, ages 18-30, and then compared the data to their coronary artery calcification (CAC) scores 20 years later in order to determine the amount of plaque build-up in their coronary arteries, an early sign of heart disease.
The results showed that women in their early 20s who reported consuming the most fruits and vegetables (8-9 servings a day for a 2,000-calorie diet) were 40% less likely to have calcified plaque in their arteries in their 40s, compared with those who ate the least amount (3-4 servings a day) during the same time period. (According to researchers, the same benefit did not hold true for men, a finding which warrants further investigation.)
These research findings suggest that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables early in life reduces the chance of heart attack or stroke in women later on in adulthood.*
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants which are known to promote good health. Plant-based diets in general have been linked to greater longevity, less cancer, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and healthier body weight. And, as this most recent study shows, a diet rich in a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables is also associated with healthier arteries later in life, a key factor in good heart health.
To maximize the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, it’s important to start eating these healthy foods early in life. So, start today—be proactive when it comes to adding more fruits and veggies to your diet and to your family meals. It’s an important step in reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic medical conditions like diabetes and certain cancers.
Q&A: How to Add More Fruits & Veggies to Your Day
Q: What’s the best way to establish healthy eating patterns for young children?
A: Be a good role model by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Serve healthy fruit & veggie recipes to your family for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Q: How can I tell if my family is eating enough fruits and veggies?
A: It’s easy! Just fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables at all eating occasions. Be sure to include a colorful variety to get all the nutrients your body needs.
Q: What can I do to add fruits and vegetables to meals when I’m in a hurry?
A: Keep all forms of fruits and veggies on hand for quick and easy meal preparation: fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and 100% fruit and vegetable juice products. Using different forms will provide good nutrition and offer the convenience, good taste, and budget-friendly options you look for when cooking meals at home. Healthy Meal Planning Guide.
Q: How can I encourage my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: Introduce fruits and veggies when your children are young to establish an early preference for healthy foods. Don’t be discouraged if it takes several tries. Also, be creative—mix foods they already like with new foods, like a favorite dip or salad dressing with cut-up vegetables. Spread low-fat peanut butter on celery or “hide” grated carrots, mushrooms, and onions in meatloaf. How to Get Your Kids to Eat a Variety of Foods
Q: What food choices are best when eating out?
A: Many restaurants and fast-food establishments now offer healthier food options. Look for fruit and vegetable items that are lower in fat, sugar, and calories for your main entrée, side dishes, and desserts. Healthy Eating On The Go | Healthy Dining Finder.