Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a host of physical and mental health benefits.

“Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of many leading causes of illness and death, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the proven benefits of regularly consuming fruits and vegetables, just 9% of adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables and just 12% eat the daily recommendations for fruit, according to a CDC analysis. Meeting daily recommendations set for fruit and vegetable consumption could greatly improve your health.

Here are seven benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

1. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients

Fruits and vegetables are a source of essential vitamins and minerals such as folate, potassium, fiber, magnesium, zinc and vitamins C, E, A and K. Harvard Health recommends getting two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables every day.

A 2021 study published in the journal Circulation demonstrates the benefits of consuming a combined five servings of fruits and veggies every day.

Researchers pooled data from multiple studies on diet — which included more than 100,000 men and women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Professionals Follow-up Study (both 30-year studies). Compared to individuals who consumed two serving of fruits and vegetables per day, those who consumed five servings per day experienced:

  • A 13% lower risk of any-cause mortality.
  • A 10% decreased risk of cancer.
  • A 35% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or stroke.

“Fruits and vegetables are major sources of several nutrients that are strongly linked to good health, particularly the health of the heart and blood vessels: potassium, magnesium, fiber, and polyphenols (antioxidant plant compounds),” explains Dr. Daniel Wang, lead author on the study and a member of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, per Harvard Health.

Incorporating five servings of fruits and veggies into your everyday diet can be a challenge. The Mayo Clinic recommends the “1-2-3 approach.” Eat one serving for breakfast, two at lunch and three with dinner and snacks.

2. Fruits and vegetables can benefit your mental health

Numerous studies (including one in 2020 and one in 2021) report that regularly eating fruits and vegetables can be beneficial to your mental health and linked to improved mental well-being.

A recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found an association between higher consumption of fruits and psychological health. Frequent fruit consumption was linked to feelings of confidence, energy and relaxation.

“There is definitely growing evidence that high consumption of vegetables and fruits does help mental health, especially anxiety,” says Uma Naidoo, a physician and director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, per the Washington Post.

Another study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, examined vegetable and fruit consumption in more than 4,000 women. Over a 15-year period, the women who consumed at least five serving of fruits and vegetables per day had a 19 percent reduced risk of developing developing depression, compared to women consuming a max of one serving per day.

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3. Veggies and fruit can beat inflammation

Chronic inflammation is associated with symptoms such as chest pain, joint pain, fatigue and weight gain and can be detrimental to overall health. Regular consumption of vegetables and fruits can aid in reducing inflammation.

“Most fruits and brightly colored vegetables naturally contain high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols. Polyphenols are potentially protective compounds found in plants. Studies have shown that polyphenols have multiple anti-inflammatory properties and may improve the function of cells that line blood vessels,” reports Harvard Health.

“Foods high in polyphenols include onions, turmeric, red grapes, cherries, and plums, as well as dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens.”

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4. Protect your eyes when you eat veggies

Lutein and zeaxanthin are dietary carotenoids that aid in eye health, per Healthline. Together, these antioxidants protect eyes from free radicals and exposure to blue light.

“Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in the retina, and dietary intake of these compounds has been shown to have antioxidant properties and to improve pigment density in the macula,” per Harvard Health. “You’ll find lutein and zeaxanthin in most fruits and vegetables, especially yellow and orange varieties and leafy greens.”

A 2022 study published in the journal Nutrients reports that getting lutein and zeaxanthin through diet significantly reduces risk of disease in one or both eyes and slows the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

5. A diet loaded with fruits and veggies can lower risk of heart disease

Eating fruits and vegetables can improve heart health and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke and mortality, according to the American Heart Association.

A study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports that higher daily intake of fruits and vegetables reduces risk of developing heart disease. Those who consumed eight servings of fruits and vegetables everyday experienced a 30% lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The study notes that leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and citrus fruits were most beneficial for heart health.

“One way to start improving your heart health immediately is to eat more vegetables and fruit,” reports the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

“Many vegetables and fruit are particularly rich in vitamin C and in beta-carotene, which is a form of vitamin A. These work as antioxidants in your body, helping to slow down or prevent atherosclerosis by reducing the buildup of plaque from cholesterol and other substances in the arteries.”

Adding berries to your diet may also improve heart health. According to a study published in the journal Circulation, frequently eating blueberries and strawberries is associated with a significantly lower risk of heart attack.

During the 18-year study, researchers followed more than 90,000 women — the women who ate blueberries and strawberries a few times each week had a 34% reduced risk of heart attack compared to the women who ate these berries once per month or less.

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6. Fruits and veggies aid in digestive health

Consuming high-fiber fruits and vegetables can greatly improve gastrointestinal health. Between fruit and vegetable intake, you consume both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which aid in healthy digestion.

“Fruits and vegetables contain indigestible fiber, which absorbs water and expands as it passes through the digestive system,” per Harvard Health. “This can calm symptoms of an irritable bowel and, by triggering regular bowel movements, can relieve or prevent constipation.”

As reported by the Deseret News, some fruits, berries and vegetables with lots of dietary fiber include:

  • Raspberries (8 grams of fiber per cup).
  • Pear (5.5 grams of fiber per medium pear).
  • Mango (5 grams of fiber per medium mango).
  • Blackberries (8 grams of fiber per cup).
  • Artichokes (7 grams per medium artichoke).
  • Green peas (7 grams per cup).
  • Sweet potato (4 grams per medium potato).
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7. Vegetables and berries boost brain health

Vegetables and berries aid in protecting against cognitive decline.

According to a study published in the journal Neurology, eating a single serving of leafy green vegetables every day can slow cognitive decline. For roughly five years, researchers followed a group of 1,000 dementia-free adults. They found that individuals who consumed a serving of greens everyday were about 11 years younger cognitively than those who rarely or never ate greens.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Martha Morris, the senior author of the study who studies nutrition and brain health at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, per the Los Angeles Times. “Eating these leafy greens was independently associated with slower cognitive decline. That tells you this single food group contains so many nutrients it could be brain-protective.”

Berries also boast benefits for brain health.

“Adding a handful of berries to the diet each day is one of the first and easiest changes I recommend to those looking to improve their brain health,” Uma Naidoo, director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told the American Association of Retired Persons.

Research from King’s College London reports that eating just a handful of blueberries every day could improve brain function. In a four-month durations, researchers found that individuals who consumed wild blueberry powder daily experiences improved memory and accuracy on attention tasks.

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