Fruit is a whole food category that is often maligned by dieters who want to avoid sugar or carbs. Yet even though some fruit is high in fructose, this naturally occurring sugar doesn't get metabolized in the body the same way that added sugar in processed food does, or table sugar that you spoon into your iced tea. And because the natural sugar in fruit is packaged by Mother Nature in whole food that contains fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and other micronutrients, most doctors and nutrition experts wish Americans ate more of it, a lot more.

The latest study shows that you shouldn't worry at all about the effect of fructose in grapes, citrus fruit, apples, and pears when it comes to your effort to avoid sugar to lose weight or stay slim and keep blood sugar low and steady. Some diet programs will tell you the glycemic index of foods like grapes that can cause blood sugar to spike, but in the body, these foods help you regulate calorie-burning since the fiber slows down the rate that the energy you are taking in gets burned. The higher the fiber content in food, the better for you. So rather than looking at the amount of naturally occurring sugar in a food, seek more fiber.

A new study that looked back at the eating habits of two million adults worldwide published in the American Heart Association's scientific journal, Circulation, found that if you want to live a long and healthy life, you should eat fruit every day, and several servings of it. For their research, scientists analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study in the US, which included more than 100,000 adults over the course of 30 years, as well as 26 more studies from around the globe.

“While groups like the American Heart Association recommend four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers likely get inconsistent messages about what defines optimal daily intake of fruits and vegetables such as the recommended amount, and which foods to include and avoid,” said lead study author Dong D. Wang, M.D., Sc.D., an epidemiologist, nutritionist, and a member of the medical faculty at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, in an American Heart Association press release.

So Is there a magic number of fruits and veggies we should eat for longevity? Indeed, through their number-crunching, scientists found that five daily servings of fruits and vegetables in which two are fruits and three are vegetables, “is likely the optimal amount for a longer life.” Interestingly, eating more than five servings of fruits and veggies was not associated with additional health benefits.

Two Servings of Fruit and Three of Vegetables Are Recommended Per Day

The experts believe their findings can be applied to broader populations since the findings of the U.S. data were similar to those found in study participants around the world. Wang also stressed that the study underscored the importance of fitting in your “five-a-day” of fruit and veggies.

“This amount offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public,” Wang said in the same media statement. “We also found that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same degree of benefit, even though current dietary recommendations generally treat all types of fruits and vegetables, including starchy vegetables, fruit juices, and potatoes, the same.”

Dr. Lior Lewensztain, M.D., founder & CEO of That’s it. Nutrition., who isn’t associated with the research, was encouraged by these findings and hopeful that the research makes waves with the general public: “The recent data released by American Heart Association is great news for the plant-based set, but it is equally important that those not following a plant-based diet pay attention to it as well,” he said. “While high consumption of fruits and vegetables have long been linked to improved health and longevity, this study gives us tangible guidelines on how much to consume — and a concrete idea on what we can expect if we do.”

With 90 percent of Americans failing to come close to this five-a-day benchmark, there’s still much work to be done: “I’ve long believed in the idea of food as medicine, and that a diet high in real, whole foods is one of the most impactful ways an individual can maintain overall health and stave off chronic diseases. With the alarming majority of Americans — currently nine in 10  — not meeting these guidelines, I hope that this research will be a catalyst for more people to start consuming the fruits and vegetables their bodies need,” Lewensztain continued.

Morgyn Clair, M.S., R.D.N, for Sprint Kitchen, echoing  Lewensztain’s sentiment, added that while she thinks this recommendation is “excellent” focusing on simply getting five fruit and vegetable servings a day is a stellar starting point, without getting caught up in the nitty-gritty of your fruits- to-vegetables ratio. “I think it's more important for people to work toward reaching that goal of five servings per day, and then concern themselves with the makeup of [these servings],” she said.

“For example, if a client of mine is having three fruits per day and two veggies, when they normally have one-to-two servings of both per day, I consider this a success. In nutrition, sometimes it is about improving on a smaller scale and then honing in on more specific diet aspects later.”

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