Fruit and vegetables

Epidemiologic studies have consistently shown that diet plays a major role in the prevention of chronic diseases. Especially consumption of plant foods – fruit and vegetables, as well as grains, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and age-related functional decline.

“Diet plays a major role in the prevention of chronic diseases,
like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer”

Fruit and especially vegetable are key for a healthy nutrition. They contain:

Of course, fruits and veg contain much more substances, for example loads of water and sugar. Generally, vegetables contain less sugar and more dietary fibre then fruits. These are the main reasons, why vegetables should be the most important part of your diet.

“Stay healthy by eating loads of fruit and especially vegetables”

Why fruit and vegetables are so important for a healthy diet

Besides vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre, the contained secondary plant substances (phytochemicals) may be one of the reasons why plant foods are so important for our health. In fact, the protective effect of fruits and vegetables against cancer appears to be mainly due to the content of phytochemicals in plant foods. This is probably the main reason why vitamin supplements alone rarely provide additional protection against chronic diseases.

Super foods – Fruit and vegetables

In my opinion, the potential of foods to support human health is tremendously underestimated. People in the Western world generally consume much less fruit and vegetables than people in other parts of the world. The fact that in the Western world cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer (colon, breast, prostate) occur much more frequently than, for example in Asian countries, could be directly related to the (lower) consumption of fruit and vegetables.

“There is no superfood. The best for your health
is to combine various fresh fruit and vegetables”

If it comes to fruit and vegetables, I don´t think there is one of them that combines all the properties beneficial for health. There is no such a superfood. On the contrary, a recent study suggests that the health benefits from plant foods arise from the combination of fruit and vegetables and the contained vitamins and phytonutrients. When it comes to the phytonutrients, there seems to be additive and synergistic effects of phytochemicals from different fruit and vegetables.

“The mix of different fruit and vegetables that are
ripe and fresh: this is super food!”

This explains why no single dietary supplement (phytonutrient or vitamin) is able to replace the combination of natural beneficial substances in plant foods. I believe that these natural substances from fruit and vegetables are best received by eating them fresh – and not by taking a pill or an extract.

“Dietary supplements will never replace all the natural substances
we can get directly from fresh fruit and vegetables”

Plant foods and cancer risk

There are very promising results of studies on the anti-cancer effects of certain fruit and vegetable. They suggest that vegetables such as cabbage, garlic, soy, tomato, beetroot, and fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, grapes, citrus fruits, the spice turmeric and green tea contain a variety of different phytochemicals that are capable of preventing the development of cancer.

“Fruits and especially vegetables reduce overall cancer risk by around 50%”

Already in 1997, an analysis reported that adequate intake of fruits (and vegetables) reduced overall cancer risk by 36% (59%). Cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and citrus fruits (risk reduction 38%, 59%, 36% and 27%) seem to be particularly potent in reducing overall cancer risk.

Other examples: consuming (only!) one glass of red wine daily decreases the overall cancer risk to 40%. Regular consumption of soy products can reduce breast cancer risk in women to almost half. It is very likely that these reductions in cancer risk are due to the phytonutrients resveratrol in red wine and isoflavones in soy beans.

In fact, the protective effect of fruits and vegetables against cancer appears to be mainly due to the content of phytochemicals in plant foods. Many of these secondary plant substances (phytochemicals) have properties as antioxidants.


Oxidative stress is involved in the development of a wide range of various chronic diseases. Numerous studies have shown that antioxidants can greatly reduce risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, like heart attack and stroke. Antioxidants have the property to neutralise free radicals. Molecules with antioxidative properties in our diet are vitamins, phytonutrients and other molecules, like glutathione. Well known examples of vitamins with antioxidant properties are vitamin A, C, and E.

“Most of the antioxidant activity in apples comes from phytochemicals – 99.6%”

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Apples are rich in Vitamin C. However, Vitamin C in apples contributes only to less than <0.4% of total antioxidant activity. Most of the antioxidant activity in apples (99.6%) comes from phytochemicals, not from vitamin C!

If you want to know more about dietary fibre, read more here