As if you didn’t have enough reasons to eat your fruits and vegetables, a new Harvard study shows that women who get their daily servings, or more, have a lower risk of breast cancer, especially aggressive tumors, than those who eat fewer servings of fruits and veggies.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and yellow and orange vegetables, had a very strong link to lower risk of breast cancer.
In the study, lead by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researchers analyzed diet questionnaires from the Nurses’ Healthy Study (88,301 women, starting in 1980) and the Nurses’ Health Study II (93,844 women, starting in 1991).
They found that women who ate 5.5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day had an 11% lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate 2.5 servings or fewer.
(A serving is defined as one cup of raw, leafy vegetables, a half cup of cooked or raw vegetables, or a half cup of chopped or cooked fruit.)
A reduced risk of breast cancer had previously been linked to higher fiber intake, but the new study found that the benefits of fruits and vegetables appear to be independent of their fiber content. This suggests that it is also likely that the antioxidants and other micronutrients are important in reducing breast cancer risk.
Not eating enough fruits and vegetables has also previously been linked to lower rates of fertility in women.
“While a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is associated with many other health benefits, our results may provide further impetus for women to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables,” said senior author Healther Eliassen, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Chan School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The study is published in the International Journal of Cancer.