As you know, I recommend you enjoy five servings of organic fruits and vegetables daily as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
I base this sensible recommendation on the latest science showing that FIVE is the “magic number” for preventing not just cardiovascular disease (CVD)…but cancer and respiratory diseases as well.
Of course, there’s always going to be that one, fly-in-the ointment study that gets it all wrong… yet gets all the attention in the press.
Case in point: A big, new study tried to claim eating vegetables doesn’t support the heart. And it made its rounds across all the popular news feeds.
But there were several problems with that particular new study right from the get-go.
Let me explain…
Study flawed from the start
For this new study, researchers followed nearly 400,000 adults living in the United Kingdom. They were all free from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) at the outset.To start, at baseline, the researchers asked participants to estimate their daily intake of raw and cooked vegetables using a dietary questionnaire. (For example, they asked, “On average, how many heaped tablespoons of raw and/or cooked vegetables do you eat per day?”)
Then, the researchers collated that data and followed the participants for 12 years.
During the follow-up period, more than 18,000 people suffered major CVD events (such as heart attack or stroke). And more than 4,000 CVD deaths occurred.
Moreover, people who reportedly ate the most raw vegetables had a slightly lower risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who reportedly ate the least.
However, the consumption of cooked vegetables did not seem to affect CVD incidence or mortality (death) risk at all.
Okay, fair enough.
But, now, let’s examine some of the problems with those findings…
First off, this study only relied on a food survey to collect the data…and they only collected it ONCE at the beginning of the study. They never checked back in to see if eating patterns changed—in any way—over more than a decade.
Talk about a limited study!
As I’ve said before, dietary data taken from surveys or questionnaires is unreliable at best. (On the other hand, using blood, stool, or urine samples that test for certain nutrient biomarkers are far more accurate and reliable.)
With food surveys, people tend to forget how often they do, or don’t, eat certain foods. In addition, it’s well-known in the scientific research community that people don’t accurately report their food consumption. And they may overestimate healthy foods and underestimate unhealthy foods.
So, the fact that these researchers used the results of a food survey…taken only ONCE over 12 years…doesn’t lead me to place ANY faith whatsoever in their findings.
Now, let’s move onto the fact that they found that eating raw vegetables benefitted the heart but not cooked vegetables…
Here again, we just don’t have nearly enough data to form a strong conclusion.
For example, my own research with the U.S. Department of Agriculture back in the 1980s found that carotenoid content remains stable and abundant in several vegetables (including broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes) after cooking.
In fact, when you eat a vegetable like broccoli…the bioavailability of nutrients actually IMPROVES after cooking it!
So, this particular finding doesn’t hold much bearing.
In the end, the connection between diet and heart health is a LOT MORE COMPLICATED than these researchers seem to realize.
Furthermore, as a nutritional scientist for much of my career, I know we shouldn’t just look at any one element in someone’s diet. In fact, as I’ve said time and again, it’s the general pattern of eating that matters.
So, with that in mind, let’s talk about what a healthy eating pattern should look like…
Two key elements of a healthy diet
First and foremost, you should strive to eliminate ultra-processed foods from your diet. Because more and more evidence suggests these foods—like cakes, cookies, and colas—are the real culprits when it comes to heart disease and other serious conditions. And, unfortunately, Americans are eating more and more of them.
Second, strive to fill your plate with wholesome, satisfying, unprocessed foods. A Mediterranean-type diet checks all those boxes with:
- Full-fat dairy, including butter, eggs, cheeses, and yogurt (Remember, in the Mediterranean, they eat cheese at each and every meal. But health experts typically overlook that point because it doesn’t fit their “anti-fat” narrative.)
- Wild-caught fish and grass-fed, free-range meat, especially lamb, which has the best nutritional profile of all meats
- Nuts and seeds
- Five fruits and vegetables each day
- Alcohol in moderation
Lastly, there are literally DOZENS of safe, effective, and natural ways to support your heart health. In addition to following a balanced, Mediterranean-type diet, I recommend finding a doctor who’s willing to discuss them with you…and who doesn’t just rely on reading headlines about studies like this.
I also outline these effective, science-backed strategies in my Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. To learn more about this comprehensive online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Raw and Cooked Vegetable Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A study of 400,000 Adults in UK Biobank.” Frontiers in Science, 2022. doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.831470