Given that each additional serving suggested an additional heart health benefit, "it may be a relatively simple public health goal to encourage everyone to increase their intake of [fruits and vegetables] by a portion per day," she says.
We all know that fruits and veggies are good for us, but why would eating them prevent death from heart disease?
The evidence points to a number of ways that these foods could work to boost heart health.
It could be that vegetables and fruits contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are having a specific effect on cardiovascular health, says Dr. Keith Ayoob, associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Another possible mechanism "is the impact of fruit and vegetables to lower inflammation, a known mechanism contributing to cardiovascular disease," adds Dr. Stephen Devries, a preventive cardiologist at Northwestern Hospital.
It also may not be what fruits and veggies add to the diet, but what they replace. There's less room in the diet for the high-fat, high-cholesterol, high-salt foods often associated with increased risk of heart disease when someone is consuming so many fruits and vegetables each day, doctors noted.
This makes for "lower blood pressure (because these foods are salt free), lower cholesterol (because they are fat free), lower weight (because they are likely to be associated with weight loss), [and] lower blood sugar (lower carbohydrate and sugar content)," says Zusman.
"Just by taking up a lot of room" in the stomach, [those] ounces of fruits and vegetables inherent in eight servings "will have a salutary effect vis-a-vis [cardiovascular disease]," Wolper says.
More importantly, there are few if any drawbacks to consuming a good amount of fruits and veggies .
"I tell my patients to eat whatever fruits and veggies they like at whatever means they can," says Ayoob >. "They're that good for you. Indeed Weight Watchers doesn't even count them in their programs now. No one gains weight eating whole fruits and veggies."