The paleo diet is relatively simple diet. But it has a secret ingredient that lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer. It may even help you quit smoking.
The secret ingredient: fruits and vegetables.
Of course, those constitute more than one ingredient. And they’re hardly secret. But if you look at what most people eat you’d be forgiven for thinking that the incredible benefits of these foods are still largely a secret.
Consider the fact that even without acknowledging all the other benefits of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, research shows that consuming these foods is linked to living longer. A study at the University College London shows that if you eat seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day, you lower your risk of death at any point in time by a whopping 42 percent.
The research, involving more than 65,000 Brits shows that seven or more daily portions of fruits and vegetables drop the risk of death by cancer by 25 percent and the chances of being felled by heart disease by 31 percent.
The study shows that every carrot, bowl of broccoli, portion of cauliflower or any other vegetable serving that you put in your mouth reduces your overall risk of death today by 16 percent. Every fruit shrinks your risk by 4 percent.
“We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering,” says researcher Oyinlola Oyebode. “The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age. Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”
If you follow the paleo diet, you are eating plenty of these fruits and vegetables while forgoing processed foods, wheat products, corn products and sugary packaged foods.
That’s great for your well-being: The British researchers found that eating canned, sweetened fruit or drinking fruit juice increases your daily risk of death by 17 percent per serving.
“Most canned fruit contains high sugar levels and cheaper varieties are packed in syrup rather than fruit juice,” says Oyebode. “The negative health impacts of the sugar may well outweigh any benefits. Another possibility is that there are confounding factors that we could not control for, such as poor access to fresh groceries among people who have pre-existing health conditions, hectic lifestyles or who live in deprived areas.”
A wide variety of other studies demonstrate the health effects of fruits and vegetables:
- A study in China involving more than 760,000 people shows that every 200 grams of fruit you eat a day reduces your stroke risk by 32 percent. Take in 200 grams daily of vegetables and the risk drops by 11 percent.
- For women in their 20s, according to a study at Minneapolis Heart Institute, eating about eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day reduces the chance of middle-aged heart disease by 40 percent.
- A study at the University of Buffalo shows that smokers can triple their chances of success at giving up smoking if they stuff themselves with fruits and vegetables every day.
The consequences of the typical American diet are pretty clear: Eating the processed foods advertised everywhere you look produces the health problems that are now rampant everywhere medical researchers look. But devote yourself to paleo eating and you have a fighting chance of staying healthy and living to an enjoyable old age as ripe as a juicy apple.