What good is 5 hands of fruits and vegetables every day? – SWR3

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – just about everyone has heard the saying before. Follow the principle: if you eat healthy, you stay healthy longer. Is that correct? We do fact checking.

Every year in January, many people decide to live and eat healthier. According to a survey from last year, nearly two-thirds of Germans made a New Year’s resolution for 2021 that they wanted to eat healthier. This can mean anything. Most people consider fruits and vegetables to be healthy. But how much is recommended? How much is too much And what fruits and vegetables? the global campaign 5 a day makes a clear statement: five hands full of fruits and vegetables. Every day.

Uwe Knop is a nutritionist and one of the biggest critics of this requirement. He doesn’t think much of this recommendation:

Because that’s a fictitious amount that suggests to people that if you eat that much, it’s healthy for you. But there is no evidence of this, so it is a dietary rule, like all the others that come with specific specifications but have no scientific basis. So you can safely ignore them and you should better listen to your body, it already knows how many fruits and vegetables you really need, but nobody else knows.

So what is the point of this recommendation? And what does science say?

what’s behind 5 a day?

behind the campaign 5 a day is a registered association with members such as the German Cancer Society, some health insurance companies, ministries, foundations and partners in the economy. One of the most important participants is a kind of self-proclaimed Stiftung Warentest for Essen: the German Nutrition Society, the DGE. It publishes, informs and advises on issues related to nutrition. It is paid mainly through taxes. She supports the recommendation of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But is there a scientific basis?

Before that, in the late 1990s, we had data from several studies from the World Cancer Research Fund, that is, the international cancer fund and the American Cancer Society, showing that there is a so-called inverse relationship between fruits and vegetables.

According to Gahl, this means that if we eat more vegetables and fruits, it would have health-promoting effects on certain types of cancer.

Reference to studies appears reliable at first glance and provides a scientific basis for a recommendation. Right?

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Longer life thanks to fruits and vegetables?

The results of some studies show that fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, or various types of cancer. In it University College of London Researchers have found that the mortality rate decreases with increased consumption, especially of vegetables. Based on their research, they even recommend at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The DGE points out that initially there were only observational studies:

This means that we can use these studies in nutrition science to prove connections, that is, associations or connections, but not causal connections. That means direct proof that exact amounts of this can be derived, so to speak, you have to eat that many vegetables to definitely prevent cancer, we can’t do that.

So there is this problem with all studies: Most of the connections that the studies can find are relatively weak because they are observational studies. Cause and effect have not been thoroughly investigated. Instead, one relies more on guesswork as to what cause and effect might be.

One concrete example: If you have a lot of studies on a topic showing that people who wear red shirts live longer, we can’t recommend everyone wear red shirts now because that’s our extended life. All study subjects may have eaten bread. So how do you know if the bread did not have the effect of prolonging life? This means that other influences and life conditions can also explain the connection. For example, it may be because people who eat a lot of fruit or vegetables tend to do more sports, take care of their health and, in general, eat better. And that, on the contrary, people who do more sports sometimes look more for the apple than the cake. Longer life through fruits and vegetables can be, but it doesn’t have to be.


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Too much fruit can also be unhealthy

All people use food differently. Different people need different nutrients. Some nutritionists speak of personalized nutrition in this context and would describe good nutrition as follows:

If someone would like to eat 5 a day because they enjoy it and it makes them feel good because the whole structure of the body is involved and in harmony with the body and mind, then that is not a problem at all, anyone can do it. as he wants. And, of course, fruits and vegetables themselves are not bad for health. The question is always, that is the essence and the end of it all: What do you tolerate well and what do you not tolerate well?

Tolerance is one aspect, but fruit, for example, is not without its problems. Key word: sugar. Too much fructose can also play a role in diabetes or lead to obesity. Apart from complaints if there is intolerance. But still, many apple varieties help lower blood pressure, which is too high for most older adults throughout life. And that makes the body of evidence as to whether the apple is healthy at this point an individual question.

5 a day Either way, there is one food that has many of the nutrients that humans need. At least in terms of minerals and vitamins. It contains almost twice as much vitamin C as oranges, plus vitamin B, E, calcium, iron, magnesium and much more. I mean, fennel. A fennel a day and a good part of your daily needs are already covered.

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Conclusion: How do you eat healthy?

Of course, eating one fennel a day is not enough and it is quite boring in the long run. What is clear, however, is that this great campaign, financed by health insurance companies, ministries that German Nutrition Society and many others, is based on studies that are more than dubious because they are mostly based on observations.

But it is also a fact that fruits and vegetables provide important nutrients. The amounts in which they should ultimately be consumed also depend on other factors, such as tolerability or the question of whether the ingredients are already covered by other foods.

frantically to the 5 a day-It makes no sense to stick to the goal. However, it is not enough to eat the lettuce of the hamburger. A simple rule, less dogmatic but that says it all about a healthy diet is: varied and without excesses. So basically you can eat whatever your body wants.

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