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Experts: More Fruits And Vegetables Could Save Americans Billions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- An extra serving of fruits or vegetables could significantly prolong lives and save Americans billions in health care costs, according to a report released Wednesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"The $11 Trillion Reward: How Simple Dietary Changes Can Save Lives and Money, and How We Get There" found that if Americans consumed one additional serving of fruits and veggies every day, there would be about 30,000 fewer deaths from cardiovascular diseases -- most notably heart disease and stroke -- and the nation would save about $5 billion in health care expenditures.

If Americans ate 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit every day -- as recommended by federal dietary guidelines -- the numbers would climb to 127,261 prevented deaths and $17 billion in medical savings.

Experts: More Fruits And Vegetables Could Save Americans Billions

"Eating right is good for your health, and it rewards both your wallet and the economy," said Jeffrey O'Hara, the report's author, who revealed the findings to reporters, including WCBS 880's Marla Diamond, at the Mount Sinai Greenmarket, a farmers market that operates in conjunction with Mount Sinai Hospital. "Helping Americans eat more of the right foods should be a public policy priority."

The Union of Concerned Scientists called for Congress to pass legislation providing more incentives for fruit and vegetable farmers. The group noted that the federal government offers subsidies for crops such as a corn and soybeans, which are used as feed for livestock and in processed foods, which are less healthy and drive up health care costs.

Fruits and veggies
Fruits and vegetables at the Mount Sinai Greenmarket (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

In 2010, the total cost of treating cardiovascular diseases was $273 billion, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which added that the amount is expected to increase to $818 billion by 2030.

"All around, our doctors, our teachers need to slowly reintroduce people to the way their grandparents ate -- lots of fruits and vegetables, and a lot less meat and a lot less junk food," said Carol Horowitz, an associate professor of health policy at Mount Sinai.

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