You've gotta love it when research findings contrary to the conventional wisdom don't do much to change the status quo or even challenge the assumptions we hold. Take for instance our belief that fruit is important in our diet and must be eaten each day to make sure we're eating a healthy-balanced diet.
True? Probably not.
The data from various studies have shown many times that long-term health is not dependent upon eating fruit, nor any specific quantity of fruit each day. Yet, that hasn't stopped the leading health organizations and government policy makers from repeatedly telling us to eat fruit, warning that diets that limit or restrict fruit are bad, and that we all need at least 2-3 servings a day or we're going to have health problems.
Now don't get me wrong - fruit is good, I like it, I eat it too; but it's just not essential for our long-term health; especially if we're eating a nutrient-rich diet and including non-starchy vegetables.
The latest study to explore the necessity of fruit in the diet was published in the October 24 issue of Neurology - Associations of vegetable and fruit consumption with age-related cognitive change - to investigate the role fuits and vegetables in the diet had for protecting against cognitive decline as we age. Just as the Nurses' Health Study data showed previously, fruit consumption was not associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline, but vegetables, specifically non-starchy vegetables, were protective!
As reported by CBC News - the study "found that high consumption of fruit had no effect on thinking ability."The lead researcher, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, said "By far, the association with a slower rate of decline was found in the group that ate high amounts of green, leafy vegetables." Such foods included lettuce and tossed salad, spinach, kale and collards. The study also found that the slowdown in cognitive decline was greatest in the oldest people who ate at least two more vegetable servings a day.
Take home message here - eat your vegetables, specifically non-starchy vegetables.
So far as fruit - it's fine to include in your diet if you want to, I just don't think you must include fruit to be healthy; it's a nice, sweet addition that also packs in antioxidants; but there doesn't appear to be any big benefit long-term to eating fruit every day.
Interestingly, some countries with better health and longevity actually eat less fruit each day than we do in the United States. So next time you hear about how miserable our intake of fruit is in the US, remember too that Japan, France, Iceland, Switzerland and others eat less fruit than we already do and they live longer and in better health too. Keep in mind they each, also, eat a lot more non-starchy vegetables each day!