The key to long life: eat more fruits and vegetables

October 2, 2015

Think eating large amounts of meat is the natural human diet? Maybe if you live on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, where vegetables just don't grow, but not for the majority of the human race. As these guidelines suggest, it is healthiest to return to your nutritional roots by doubling all of your daily vegetable and fruit portions and cutting the serving sizes of any fats in half.

The key to long life: eat more fruits and vegetables

Most of the large human populations evolved eating primarily fibre-rich, low-calorie vegetables, fruits and beans. That's what natural is for us.  So eat as many vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as your appetite desires!

1. The key action

  • You don't have to eat it raw.
  • Try dropping handfuls of baby spinach into your soup at lunch, cook extra peas or carrots at dinner, and have a cup of fruit instead of a half cup at breakfast.
  • Feeling full? Chunky veggies stretch your stomach, activating special "satisfaction sensors" that tell your brain you've had enough to eat.
  • The bonus: eating this way can save you hundreds of calories and dozens of grams of fat and flood your body with big doses of cell-protecting antioxidants

2. Diet and Alzheimer's disease

More proof that choosing double portions of green beans (hold the butter) and saying "no thanks" to the cream sauce will have a big payoff: in a recent study of 980 older women and men, researchers at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University found those who ate a high-calorie diet were 2.3 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who consumed fewer calories and less fat.

3. Inflammation in the body

Meanwhile, University at Buffalo researchers have found that a single high-calorie meal boosts the body's production of unhealthy free radical molecules. These rogue oxygen molecules damage cells and cause low-level inflammation throughout the body. This type of inflammation has been linked with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and even breast and prostate cancers. The scientists found that eating a fast-food breakfast sent a rush of free radicals into the bloodstream that remained at high levels for the next three to four hours — just in time for lunch.

"A high-fat, high-calorie meal temporarily floods the bloodstream with inflammatory components, overwhelming the body's natural inflammation-fighting mechanisms," says Ahmad Aljada, PhD, a researcher in the division of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "People who experience repeated, short-lived bouts of inflammation resulting from many such unhealthy meals can end up with blood vessels in a chronic state of inflammation, a primary factor in the development of atherosclerosis."

What's happening? Digesting food requires oxygen. The more calories you consume, the more your body must digest — and the more free radicals are produced as a side effect. Foods loaded with saturated fat, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates seem to ratchet up the free radical production process.

In contrast, Mother Nature's favorites — salads, steamed veggies, a dollop of brown rice or barley — don't. When Dr. Aljada's team tested the blood of volunteers who ate a meal packed with fruit and fibre, there was no increase in inflammatory free radicals.

Eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat will help your body function at its best.

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