Sneaky Ways to Get Your 7 Servings

Add more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet, and you could slash your risk of an early death

When it comes to eating your fruits and vegetables, seven really is a lucky number. Eating at least that many servings a day is associated with a 42 percent lower risk of death from any cause, according to a new British study.

Researchers analyzed lifestyle data for more than 65,000 Brits over the age of 35 and tracked recorded deaths for an average of 7.7 years. The results: People who ate seven or more 2.8-ounce daily servings of fruits and vegetables fared best when it came to staving off life-threatening conditions. Seven servings was linked to a 25 percent lower risk of death from cancer and a 31 percent lower risk of dying from a stroke, even after adjusting for other potential risk factors like age, sex, BMI, alcohol consumption, and physical activity.

The study also found that vegetables have slightly stronger protective benefits than fruit. Two to three daily servings of vegetables was linked to a 19 percent lower risk of death, compared with a 10 percent lower risk for the same amount of fruit.

Now, seven servings does seem a bit daunting. But super-simple swaps or additions to your daily diet can help you reach that magic number—without sacrificing flavor, says nutrition expert JJ Virgin, author of The Virgin Diet. For a serving of fruit AND vegetables first thing in the morning, try blending spinach or kale into a fruit smoothie, she suggests.

Other sneaky options include adding steamed cauliflower to mashed potatoes, mixing pureed carrots, onions, and red peppers into pasta sauce, or throwing some frozen vegetables into the pot when heating up canned soups. Even your signature meatballs can get a healthy upgrade by adding in julienned onions and zucchini.