How Many Veggies a Day to Keep the Grim Reaper Away?

Is it three, four, five or ten servings of fresh fruit and veggies a day to ensure a longer life? Researchers seem to conflict with their findings but when you actually add it up, it’s pretty much the same.

Grim-Reaper-With-VeggiesIf you thought Dracula was haunting your village you’d make sure you had plenty of cloves of garlic on hand to ward him off at night. Well, you may think the famous vampire is but a myth and most certainly he is. But researchers are showing that another myth and symbol of death, the Grim Reaper, can be kept at bay with that same garlic—And you don’t have to wear it around your neck. Just use it to season your three to four servings of veggies a day. Yes, you heard us right. Just three to four servings.

For decades we have been told that five servings a day of fruits and vegetables is needed to make sure we are in optimal health and staving off all those terrible diseases that are plaguing our modern society, e.g., diabetes, heart attacks, cancer and strokes. Then earlier this year a report from the Imperial College of London said we needed to double that amount (ten servings) if we were really going to be sure of preventing an early death. That study indicated that these amounts of fresh produce would make you 33% less likely to die prematurely.

But less than seven months later, a new, and perhaps much more exhaustive study, has concluded that eating just three to four servings a day is sufficient for keeping the grim reaper at bay. The findings of this latest research was conducted at McMaster University in Canada and published last week in the Lancet, one of the oldest and respected medical journals

That will no doubt provide relief to many who think of eating their veggies as a an unpleasant chore forced upon them by over protective parents. And for families with lower incomes, it will take some pressure off of their budgets when they go shopping.

But what did the study actually say and what does it mean for your meal planning and health goals?

First of all it is important to identify how a “serving” was defined. For this most recent study, a serving was 125 grams of fruit or vegetables. So a daily intake of three servings would be 375g. The serving size used in the February study was only 80g which corresponds with the World Health Organization’s serving size in their recommended five a day. So prior to this year’s study the prevailing wisdom suggested getting 400g of veggies every day. Even the most math-challenged of us can see that the amount is pretty similar from both recommendations. And if you take the four servings a day from the latest research as the best, then you are well over the five a day amounts previously advised (500g vs. 400g).

The latest study was an isolated study and focused on 135,000 people across Europe, North America, Japan and China for a ten-year period (2003-2013). That’s pretty exhaustive but was it more exhaustive than the Imperial College survey? The British study was not original research but analyzed the results of 95 other previous studies on fresh produce intake. The numbers of people involved in those studies added up to over 2 million people. But did the research methods differ substantially to skew the results of their analysis?

These are all questions that are difficult to quantify. But the authors of the new study are quick to point out that they feel their research aligns with the Imperial College research. In the Canadian effort, they did not see a large additional advantage for consuming more than the three to four servings, but their was some so they are hopeful that their work will not discourage people from eating more fruits and veggies if they already are.

Victoria Miller, the lead author of the report said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in England, “In western countries like North America and Europe we don’t want to suggest that [people] should start eating less fruit and vegetables – we think that it is part of an overall healthy diet and there is benefit from eating more.”

The new study doesn’t really change the opinion of nutritionists. The lesson is we need to be getting as many fruits and veggies in our diet as possible and even if it’s only 3-4 servings per day the evidence shows that is of great benefit. And if we can get more than that it will have added benefits toward extending our lives. But the dieticians also warn that only getting 3-4 a day and filling up on other non healthy foods may cancel out your efforts. Nutrition packed veggies need to be replacing our intake of highly processed foods and those with high amounts of fats and sugar.

Keep fruits and veggies on your mind and close at hand throughout the day, especially when you feel the urge to snack. Before you open that bag of chips or a candy bar, eat a fresh apple or pear. If you’re still hungry after that then maybe you can indulge, but we think chances are you won’t. This way you will easily increase your servings per day and increase your chance of a long healthy life.

You can stay fresh produce aware and keep inspired to eat healthier by Liking and Following all of Produce Buzz’s social media feeds.


How Many Veggies a Day to Keep the Grim Reaper Away?

What’s the Definition of Healthy?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is caught in a debate over what most consider an outdated definition of the term “healthy.” The current requirements for a food product to legally use the term on packaging was crafted in the 1990’s when healthcare practitioners were focused on the amount of fat in foods as the biggest threat to health. As a result, natural and fresh foods like salmon and avocados could not put “healthy” on their labels while some sugary cereals and puddings which contained no fat could. No one made the effort or took the time to change this odd set of circumstances until the makers of a new snack bar called Kind wanted to use the term on its products made of all natural foods.

Kind Foods couldn’t use the word “healthy” on its snack bars because of high fat content. Also avocados and salmon couldn’t be labeled with the term. But some processed foods such as puddings and cereals could. The FDA is rethinking its requirements for calling a food healthy.

Many of the Kind bars contain a lot of nuts which are high in fat and that put them above the allowed amount of fat in the FDA’s definition of a healthy food. But with the latest nutrition research showing that it wasn’t necessarily the amount of fat in our diets but the kind of fats, the makers of Kind thought the definition needed updating. But rather than fight the FDA on their own, they turned to the public through a petition that got the attention of the officials at the FDA.

In response, the FDA allowed Kind to begin using the phrase “tasty and healthy” again on its packaging, but only as a company slogan and not as a direct reference to the product inside. But the FDA also decided it was time to consider updating its definition of healthy and for the past six months has been soliciting comments and opinions from nutritional experts, organizations and consumers as to what the new definition should contain. The allotted time for comments ended this week and now the FDA must get down to sorting through them to make their decision.

Not surprisingly, these interested parties could not all agree on a new standard. And even within some of the organizations they couldn’t come to a mutual understanding for a definition. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said that in the comments they gave the FDA this week that could not recommend an effective legal definition for the term “healthy.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest told the FDA in their input that they are concerned defining and allowing “healthy” to be used on packaging and in marketing may encourage people to choose processed foods over fresh fruit and vegetables and other natural foods on the grocery shelf. They do not want to see marketers misleading consumers with terms that are too nebulous.

In the end consumers need to be educated about what are the best foods for good health. They need to be savvy to avoid the tricks of marketers and the claims on packaging. Fortunately there is more and more good information as nutrition experts and researchers continue to show that fresh, natural foods and less processed packaged foods in our diets are key to keeping us “healthy.” Stay tuned to Produce Buzz as we highlight these findings on a weekly basis.

What’s the Definition of Healthy?

Want to Lose Weight and Feel Better? Then Ditch the Fad Diets

The secret to weight loss and healthy diet is that there is no secret. Your mother’s advice, “Eat Your Vegetables!” is still the predominant wisdom when it comes to eating right. There’s no magic weight-loss pill or new undiscovered combination of superfoods that will replace her emotional plea. The latest research continues to point out that the way to good health and long life is eating lots of fresh foods, that is, fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and leafy greens.


In a new study by the American College of Cardiology, in which they surveyed some of the latest and most popular nutrition fads, including juicing, gluten-free diets and antioxidant pills, the scholars determined that most of the claims of the promoters of these ideas for nutrition are unsubstantiated.

Here are some of the key myths they addressed in their report:

  • Eggs and cholesterol: Although a U.S. government report issued in 2015 dropped specific recommendations about upper limits for cholesterol consumption, the review concludes, “it remains prudent to advise patients to significantly limit intake of dietary cholesterol in the form of eggs or any high cholesterol foods to as little as possible.”
  • Vegetable oils: According to the authors, coconut oil and palm oil should be discouraged due to limited data supporting routine use. The most heart-healthy oil is olive oil, though perhaps in moderation as it is still higher calorie, research suggests.
  • Berries and antioxidant supplementation: Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest and most beneficial source of antioxidants to reduce heart disease risk, the review explains. There is no compelling evidence adding high-dose antioxidant dietary supplements benefits heart health.
  • Nuts: Nuts can be part of a heart-healthy diet. But beware of consuming too many, because nuts are high in calories, said the authors.
  • Juicing:The authors explain that while the fruits and vegetables contained in juices are heart-healthy, the process of juicing concentrates calories, which makes it is much easier to ingest too many. Eating whole fruits and vegetables is preferred, with juicing primarily reserved for situations when daily intake of vegetables and fruits is inadequate. If you do juice, avoid adding extra sugar by putting in honey, to minimize calories.
  • Gluten: People who have celiac disease or other gluten sensitivity must avoid gluten – wheat, barley and rye. For patients who don’t have any gluten sensitivities, many of the claims for health benefits of a gluten-free diet are unsubstantiated, the authors conclude.

Food is the most important factor in ensuring good health and our best medicine. And fresh foods are the key part of that medicine cabinet. Produce Buzz was created to help spread this message far and wide. We are joining the crusade that has been going on in the nutritional and medical communities for a long time.

But still research shows that only a small percentage of people around the world get the recommended amount of fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. Please join us and bookmark the Produce Buzz Website and follow us in all of our social media channels.

And join in the conversation by sharing your favorite recipes, farmer’s markets finds and gardening triumphs. Welcome to the community!



Want to Lose Weight and Feel Better? Then Ditch the Fad Diets

Are “Superfoods” Really Super?

If you want to get your daily does of unscientific diversity of opinion (and who doesn’t crave that on a regular basis?), type into a search engine the phrase “top ten superfoods.” And for real kicks, do the search in the engine’s images side of things. You will quickly get a visual of the ever-expanding list of foods that are supposed to provide exceptional nutritional value or magically cure some ailment. And you will also quickly see that no two lists are the same. So what about these claims? Are they scientific or just hype from marketing pros?

Several authoritative organizations have weighed in on this question. The American Heart Association gives a thumbs up to certain foods that have been making a lot of the “Top Ten Superfoods” lists. But they are quick to point out that none of these foods by themselves are panaceas nor are they sufficient on their own to provide all the nutrients, dietary needs or prevention that a well-balanced and diverse diet does. In an article on the AMA site titled, “What’s So Super About Superfoods,” they spoke to Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, a registered dietitian and professor at Penn State University who says that” most myths about super foods are perpetuated by marketing efforts…which is why most nutrition experts prefer not to use the term.”

Kris-Etherton went on to tell the AMA that, “A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems. They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet. Eating too much of one type of food may prevent you from getting the nutrients you need.”

The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) cautions on their Website that, “The term ‘superfood’ has become a popular buzzword in the language of food and health. However, there is no technical definition of the word and the scientific evidence for the health effects of these foods — while often positive — does not necessarily apply to real diets.” The article concludes that a diet based on a variety of nutritious foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, remains the best way to ensure a balanced nutrient intake for optimal health.

The EUFIC seems to have found the original use of the word “superfood” in a Jamaican publication from 1915. But an article on credits the author of an early 1990’s cookbook as the first to popularize the term. They point out that this author Michael Van Straten is now dismayed at how the term has been over applied in our current day. Van Straten advocated in very general terms that a diet rich in ruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts “supply the vital bricks that build your body’s resistance to stress, disease, and infection.” also notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has of yet, not attempted to regulate the term superfood.

Many other reasonable voices in the media, nutritional and health sciences have spoken out cautioning against identifying certain foods as superfoods. In most every instance they advise a wide range of fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains along with healthy proteins as the best way to ensure your diet is “super.”



Are “Superfoods” Really Super?