Mom was right (again). Turns out all that nagging about eating your fruits and vegetables really was good for you.
According to a new study by Minneapolis Heart Institute, young adults who ate more produce have a lower risk of developing calcified coronary artery plaque up to 20 years later.
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“People shouldn't assume that they can wait until they're older to eat healthy — our study suggests that what you eat as a young adult may be as important as what you eat as an older adult,” says lead author Dr. Michael D. Miedema.
Plaque, which is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances, hardens and narrows your arteries over time, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs.
The condition, called atherosclerosis, can lead to serious problems, including heart attack or stroke, according to the American National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Researchers studied 2,506 participants and divided them into three groups, based on how many serving of fruits and vegetables they ate daily. Women in the top third ate an average of nearly nine servings of daily greens, while men had on average more than seven daily servings. In the bottom third, women only consumed 3.3 daily servings and men 2.6 daily servings.
Scientists found that the group who ate the most fruit and vegetables at the study's start had 26 percent lower odds of developing calcified plaque 20 years later, compared to those who ate the least amount.
The link between eating more greens and a drop in heart disease risk among middle-age adults had already been shown, but this is the first study to examine whether eating more fruit and vegetables as young adults could produce a measurable improvement in the health of their heart and blood vessels years later.
"Our findings support public health initiatives aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable intake as part of a healthy dietary pattern," Miedema explains. "Further research is needed to determine what other foods impact cardiovascular health in young adults."