The case for kids to eat a more healthy diet just keeps getting stronger. It may take decades to see the benefits, but young adults who eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day may be able to keep their arteries clear and heart free from disease later in life.

The Study

Researchers have found an important discovery. According to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, eating more fruits and veggies as a young adult is associated with less calcified coronary artery plaque two decades later.

A CT scan can detect a disease that hardens the arteries and underlies many types of heart disease called atherosclerosis while it can measure calcified coronary artery plaque.

The Findings

Researchers analyzed data from 2,506 participants between the ages of 18 to 30 from a study that began in 1985. Researchers split participants into three groups based on the number of fruit and vegetable servings eaten each day. Men and Women in the top third ate close to seven and nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day, respectively. Women in the bottom third ate an average of 3.3 servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Similarly, men in the bottom third were eating 2.6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

The published research also reports the findings of scans 20 years later. Researchers found those eating the most fruit and vegetables each day had a 26% lower chance of developing calcified plaque.

Why Kids Need More Fruits and Vegetables

“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, ” said lead author Michael D. Miedema, M.D., senior consulting cardiologist and clinical investigator at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota.