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Why diversity is so important

Color everyday food.

What does our body need?

It is said that the first rule of healthy eating is: eat only what you like. The second rule: or only what is good for you. It is worth considering for a moment.

Many people like heroin, but not all of us allow ourselves to be so lenient. We know that regardless of the dose of pleasure drugs offer us, they are not worth the damage done to our body. We stay away from them.

Our cells must receive, among others: protein, carbohydrates, fats. These are the so-called macronutrients – the basic conditions for life – substances that make up and fuel our body. There is also a long list of other essential ingredients – vitamins, minerals, salts, enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, electrolytes, micronutrients, phytonutrients, flavonoids, microorganisms, acids, etc. Lots of them, and scientists keep discovering something new.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live, explains that the tomato contains about 10,000 phytonutrients, many of which we have yet to identify. In other words, even an ordinary tomato has a mysterious healing power. If one vegetable has so many treasures in it, imagine how the body is affected by a mixture of many different vegetables and fruits.

Eating vegetables and fruits. What does the current research say?

Cardiovascular disease

There is compelling evidence that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • A meta-analysis of cohort studies involving 469,551 participants found that higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, with an average risk reduction of 4% for each additional serving of fruit and vegetables per day. [1]
  • The higher the average daily intake of fruit and vegetables, the lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Compared with those in the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption category (less than 1.5 servings per day), those who consumed an average of 8 or more servings per day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. [2]
  • While all fruits and vegetables were likely to contribute to this benefit, leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, chard, and mustard were most strongly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale; and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits (and their juices) also made a significant contribution. [2]

Blood pressure

  • The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study [3] investigated the effects of a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and limiting the amount of saturated and total fat on blood pressure. The researchers found that people with high blood pressure who followed this diet lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) by about 11 mmHg, and their diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by almost 6 mmHg – as much as can achieve drugs.
  • A randomized study known as the Heart Health Macronutrient Optimal Intake Trial (OmniHeart) found that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables lowered blood pressure even more when some carbohydrates were replaced with healthy unsaturated fat or protein. [4]


  • A study by Farvid and colleagues that included the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort of 90,476 premenopausal women for 22 years and found that those who ate the most fruit during puberty (about 3 servings per day) compared to those who consumed the least (0.5 servings a day) had a 25% lower risk of developing breast cancer. Women who consumed greater amounts of apples, bananas, grapes, and maize in adolescence and oranges and kale in early adulthood showed significant reductions in breast cancer incidence. [5]
  • After tracking 182,145 women in a nurse health study I and II over 30 years, the Farvid team also found that women who consumed more than 5.5 servings of fruit and vegetables (especially cruciferous and yellow / orange vegetables) daily 11% lower risk of breast cancer than people who ate 2.5 servings or less. Vegetable consumption was strongly associated with a 15% lower risk of estrogen receptor negative cancers for every two additional servings of vegetables consumed daily. Higher consumption of fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of other aggressive cancers, including HER2-enriched tumors and basal-like tumors. [6]
  • A report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce and other leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, as well as garlic, onions, and the like – and fruit “probably” protect against several types of cancer , incl. mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and stomach. The fruit probably protects against lung cancer as well. [7]


  • A study of 85,104 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II and 36,173 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study – who were free from serious chronic diseases found that higher consumption of whole fruit, especially berries, grapes and apples – was associated with a lower risk type 2 diabetes. Another important finding was that higher fruit juice consumption was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. [8]
  • In addition, a study of more than 70,000 female nurses aged 38-63 years who were free from cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes found that eating green leafy vegetables and fruits was associated with a lower risk of diabetes. While they are not conclusive, studies have also found that fruit juice consumption may be associated with an increased risk among women. [9]
  • A study of over 2,300 Finnish men found that vegetables and fruits, especially berries, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. [10]


Data from the Nurses’ Health Studies and Health Professional’s Follow-up Study show that women and men who increased their consumption of fruit and vegetables over 24 years were more likely to lose weight than those who ate the same amount or who reduced their intake. Blueberries, apples, pears, soybeans, and cauliflower were associated with weight loss, while more starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and peas were associated with weight gain. [11] However, keep in mind that adding more foods to your diet will not necessarily help you lose weight unless it replaces other foods such as refined white bread carbohydrates and crackers.

Digestive tract

Fruits and vegetables contain fiber that absorbs water and expands as it passes through the digestive system. This can relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel and, by causing regular bowel movements, can ease or prevent constipation. [12]


Eating fruits and vegetables can also keep your eyes healthy and can help prevent two common eye diseases related to aging – cataracts and macular degeneration, which affect millions of Americans over the age of 65. [13]

What gives-variety?

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent certain types of cancer, reduce the risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, which can help you maintain your appetite. Eating non-starchy vegetables and fruits, such as apples, pears, and green leafy vegetables, can even promote weight loss. [11] Their low glycemic load prevents blood sugar spikes that can increase hunger.

The enormous amount of nutrients is just the tip of the iceberg. It is also important how relationships interact with each other, i.e. they strengthen each other – here are some examples:

iron + vitamin C – in the presence of a vitamin, iron is much better absorbed

calcium + vitamin D – vitamin enhances the absorption of calcium in the body, both components are important for proper bone growth and functioning, it is worth using them together

magnesium + potassium – this combination can be found in many fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, tomatoes and avocados; these two minerals together take part in many important processes in the body, normalize the work of many systems, have a complementary effect – magnesium increases the absorption of potassium from the gastrointestinal tract

vitamin A + E – in combination, they mutually strengthen their biological activity, both dissolve well in fats

vitamin A should be combined with vitamins B and D as well as zinc and calcium

vitamin E is better absorbed in the company of B vitamins, vitamin C, selenium and phosphorus

vitamin D should be combined with unsaturated fatty acids, with calcium and vitamins A, B6, C and E.

What vegetables and fruits to eat?

There are at least five different families of fruits and vegetables, each containing potentially hundreds of different plant compounds that are beneficial to health (green, red, orange, purple, and blue). Eat different types and colors of foods to provide your body with the mix of nutrients it needs. This not only provides a greater variety of beneficial plant substances, but also creates meals that are eye-catching.

For example, the green ones, with a high chlorophyll content, have a stronger anti-cancer effect and are able to eliminate some of the damage to the DNA of cells. In addition, due to the higher content of folic acid, they are recommended for couples trying to conceive and pregnant women. Tomatoes and peppers, i.e. representatives of the red group, abound in lycopene – considered one of the strongest antioxidants and thus effectively fighting free radicals. Carrots, pumpkin or apricot are sources of β-carotene, i.e. provitamin A. It is essential in maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails. In addition, it has a positive effect on eyesight and supports the functioning of the immune system. Representatives of the violet group are, for example, black currants, blueberries, blueberries, chokeberries and eggplants. These vegetables and fruits are rich in anthocyanins – compounds with powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. They make blood vessels more flexible and protect against the development of atherosclerosis, thus reducing the deposition of atherosclerotic plaques.

We know that much and what does it result from?

Despite this knowledge, however, it is difficult for us to achieve the recommended level of five servings of vegetables and fruits, which in practice means 400g. According to the data published in 2019 by Eurostat, over 1/3 of Europeans declare that not every day the described group of products appears on their menu, which, incidentally, is practically the basis of the food pyramid.

Despite the fact that many people know the principle of the recommended 5 servings of vegetables and fruit, in practice for many of them it is difficult to translate the acquired knowledge into a real change in their eating habits. Lack of time or conscious focusing on, for example, a professional career and thus giving up cooking. In addition, the availability of many products turns out to be an additional barrier – in ThriveFood there are as many as 18 of them and the conviction that a healthy diet is associated with big sacrifices.

Increasing your consumption of vegetables and fruits doesn’t have to be that hard. It is worth adopting the rule that we try to add some fruit or vegetable to each meal, trying to keep the advantage of the latter.

About 600,000 Americans die of heart disease each year. This is almost always the result of poor eating habits, which means that this tragedy could have been avoided.

Do you want to know what form you are in? Remember (and write on a piece of paper) what you ate in the last week. This will be the answer.

Author: Weronika Mizuła – Dietician

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The content of is for informational and educational purposes only and the information contained therein does not constitute medical advice or the opinion of a pharmacist, doctor or dietitian. The material describes substances on the basis of publicly available publications, research and materials found on the Internet, books and the press. The material is not a presentation or description of a dietary supplement or any other product containing the above-mentioned ingredients. We make every effort to ensure that the information contained in it is accurate, true and complete, however, we are not responsible for the results of actions taken based on it.

  1. Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W, Hu FB.Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014 Jul 29;349:g4490.
  2. Hung HC, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, Hu FB, Hunter D, Smith-Warner SA, Colditz GA, Rosner B, Spiegelman D, Willett WC. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease.Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2004 Nov 3;96(21):1577-84.
  3. Appel LJ, Moore TJ, Obarzanek E, Vollmer WM, Svetkey LP, Sacks FM, Bray GA, Vogt TM, Cutler JA, Windhauser MM, Lin PH.A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure.New England Journal of Medicine. 1997 Apr 17;336(16):1117-24.
  4. Appel LJ, Sacks FM, Carey VJ, Obarzanek E, Swain JF, Miller ER, Conlin PR, Erlinger TP, Rosner BA, Laranjo NM, Charleston J. Effects of protein, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate intake on blood pressure and serum lipids: results of the OmniHeart randomized trial.2005 Nov 16;294(19):2455-64.
  5. Farvid MS, Chen WY, Michels KB, Cho E, Willett WC, Eliassen AH. Fruit and vegetable consumption in adolescence and early adulthood and risk of breast cancer: population based cohort study.2016 May 11;353:i2343.
  6. Farvid MS, Chen WY, Rosner BA, Tamimi RM, Willett WC, Eliassen AH. Fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer incidence: Repeated measures over 30 years of follow‐up.International journal of cancer. 2018 Jul 6.
  7. Wiseman M. The Second World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research Expert Report. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective: Nutrition Society and BAPEN Medical Symposium on ‘Nutrition support in cancer therapy’.Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2008 Aug;67(3):253-6.
  8. Muraki I, Imamura F, Manson JE, Hu FB, Willett WC, van Dam RM, Sun Q. Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies.2013 Aug 29;347:f5001.
  9. Bazzano LA, Li TY, Joshipura KJ, Hu FB.Intake of fruit, vegetables, and fruit juices and risk of diabetes in women.Diabetes Care. 2008 Apr 3.
  10. Mursu J, Virtanen JK, Tuomainen TP, Nurmi T, Voutilainen S. Intake of fruit, berries, and vegetables and risk of type 2 diabetes in Finnish men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study–.The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2013 Nov 20;99(2):328-33.
  11. Bertoia ML, Mukamal KJ, Cahill LE, Hou T, Ludwig DS, Mozaffarian D, Willett WC, Hu FB, Rimm EB. Changes in intake of fruits and vegetables and weight change in United States men and women followed for up to 24 years: analysis from three prospective cohort studies.PLoS medicine. 2015 Sep 22;12(9):e1001878.
  12. Lembo A, Camilleri M. Chronic constipation. New England Journal of Medicine.2003 Oct 2;349(14):1360-8.
  13. Christen WG, Liu S, Glynn RJ, Gaziano JM, Buring JE. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins C and E, and risk of cataract in women: a prospective study.Archives of Ophthalmology. 2008 Jan 1;126(1):102-9.

Source: The Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health