Diet makes an enormous difference

Diet makes an enormous difference – value of fruits and vegetables

As a runner you are a committed exerciser and way ahead of your non-exercising peers for long life and good health. The next most important variable you have in your control for good health is diet. And, the single best thing you can do for yourself is to increase the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables you eat. Five servings a day is a minimum recommendation, and despite much urging, the average American eats only about half that. Some research sources are even recommending seven to 11 servings a day for optimum health.

Protection against heart disease and cancer is well documented. A 1998 meta-analysis showed that the risk of heart disease was 15% lower among those who had the highest amount of produce in their diets compared to those in the bottom 10%. That 15% improvement was the result of a diet that had four times the fruit and twice the amount of vegetables as the bottom 10%. In another study, women who ate nine or more servings of fruits and vegetables had a 31% lower risk of stroke than did those who ate only two servings a day. Cancer rates show a similar response to fruits and vegetables in the diet.

It’s not just quantity that helps, but variety as well- eating the same one or two different fruits and two or three different vegetables isn’t the ticket. Phytochemicals is a broad term for the health-giving components of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and seeds and includes antioxidants, beta-carotenoids, isoflavones, lutein, zeaxanthin, sulfur compounds, and folic acid, just to name a few and not to mention, of course, fiber. If you eat just a small selection of produce items, you’ll miss the phytochemical advantages you’d get with a wide variety.

(New England Journal of Medicine, 2000, Vol. 343, No. 1, pp. 76-22; American Journal of Public Health, 2000, Vol. 90, pp. 777-781: Nutrition, 2000, Vol. 16, No. 9, pp. 767-773; Journal of the American Medical Association, 2000, Vol. 283, No. X, pp. 2709-2115 and 1999, Vol. 282, No. 13, pp. 1233-1239; European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 7999, Vol. 53, No. 17, pp. 900-904)



Diet has the power to lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, and to help prevent osteoporosis and diabetes. And it makes a huge difference in your athletic performance-increasing the benefits of your running and training. If you make one health resolution for 2001 – commit to eating more fruits and vegetables and choose a wide variety from the year-round selection available. By making that one resolution, you will cover a host of health and performance variables.

COPYRIGHT 2001 American Running & Fitness Association

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group