One thing is for sure—I will never tire of touting the benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables, particularly low-sugar fruits and non-starchy vegetables. These are among the healthiest foods on the planet. Two recent studies really hit home why we all must increase the amount of fruits and veggies in our diets.

The first study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of death at any age by 42 percent compared to eating less than one serving. That’s a striking statistic. The researchers studied the eating habits of over 65,000 people in England and found that eating seven portions or more reduced the risk of death by cancer and heart disease by 25 percent and 31 percent respectively.

If you eat one to three servings of fruits and veggies each day, you will reduce your risk of death by 14 percent compared to eating less than one serving. Your risk is reduced by 29 percent when you eat three to five servings, 36 percent when you eat five to seven servings, and 42 for seven or more. “We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering,” noted Oyinlola Oyebode, PhD, lead researcher.

Interestingly, they found the highest protection from fresh vegetables over fresh fruit, which doesn’t surprise me because most fruits are fairly high in sugar, which can cause a number of ill effects in the body.

In another study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session, researchers studied the association between dietary intake of fruits and vegetables and presence of coronary artery calcification, an early indication of heart disease and plaque build-up. They found that women who reported consuming the most fruits and vegetables (eight to nine servings a day) in their 20s were less likely to have calcified plaque in their arteries in their 40s when compared with those who ate only three to four servings daily.

“These findings confirm the concept that plaque development is a lifelong process, and that process can be slowed down with a healthy diet at a young age,” stated Michael Miedema, MD, MPH, lead author. Coronary artery calcium scoring is the best predictor for future heart attacks, he noted.

If these studies don’t inspire you to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, I’m not sure what will. For me, the thought of living a vibrant, healthy life into my older years so that I can spend quality time with my grandkids helps motivate me to take studies like these and put them into action on my dinner plate. I encourage you to find your own form of motivation to help you stay the course of eating and being well.