April 26, 2016

Time to Be Fruitful

Eating a baseball-sized serving of fresh fruit every day is the quickest way to cut your risk of heart attack and stroke.

It’s spring and fresh fruit is finally coming in season in the Northern Hemisphere. Not only will the fruit be tastier, but it will be less expensive, too, and that’s particularly good news, given that a new study finds that eating fresh fruit most days of the week lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The findings come from a seven-year study of 500,000 Chinese adults, a group of people who don’t eat as much fruit as we do in the United States. Their health was tracked through death records and electronic hospital records, and included only those with no history of cardiovascular disease or treatment for hypertension when they joined the study.

How much fruit does it take to get to you to a 3.5 ounce serving? Imagine a piece the size of a baseball or measure a half-cup of chopped fruit. It’s really not that hard to swallow.

Fruit consumption in China consists primarily of apples or oranges. Even after the researchers allowed for factors associated with eating fruit, like education, lower blood glucose, lower blood pressure and not smoking, eating a 3.5 ounce serving of fruit a day was still associated with about a third fewer deaths from cardiovascular diseases regardless of gender or the area of China in which people resided.

Huaidong Du, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement, “The association between fruit consumption and cardiovascular risk seems to be stronger in China, where many still eat little fruit, than in high-income countries where daily consumption of fruit is more common.” Fruit may not be as common in China, but it is almost always eaten raw there, while much of the fruit eaten in other countries is processed. Many previous studies have not differentiated between fresh and processed fruit.

Fresh fruit contains little sodium and fat, and it’s low in calories. It contains many vitamins and minerals, and is a particularly rich source of potassium, a mineral that plays a role in lowering blood pressure. The different fibers in fruit help to keep blood cholesterol levels down and ease any constipation issues.

The many antioxidants in fruit protect the body from oxidative stress, which can lead to diseases, and they also boost the immune system. Different colored fruits offer different assortments of protective antioxidants and phyto-nutrients, so eating a variety is key to getting the most benefit from eating fruit.

How much fruit do you need to eat to reach a 3.5 ounce serving? Imagine a piece the size of a baseball or measure a half-cup of chopped fruit. It’s really not that hard to swallow.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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