Reporting in the journal Circulation, scientists studied how differences in the amount of fruits and vegetables that people ate as children affected their hearts 20 years later.
The reasons are believed to be improved lipids, lower blood pressure and an increase in antioxidants.
For the study, researchers used data from 2,506 adults, aged 18 to 30 years old, who took part in a USA government-funded heart health study of black and white young adults. After recording their diets, they divvied them up into three different groups - the women in the first group ate an average of almost nine servings of fruits and veggies a day, while men ate an average of more than seven servings.
As it stands, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now recommends that people eat four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruits a day.
Researchers divided more than 2,500 young adults into three groups based on how many fruits and vegetables they ate. Further studies that track changes in the rate of calcium plaques would be helpful in solidifying the connection between early fruit and vegetable consumption and later heart disease.
It is well established that fruits and vegetables are good for us. Last year, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting eating more green vegetables may protect against heart conditions, while other studies have linked a diet high in fruits and vegetables with lower risk for heart disease.
"Our findings support public health initiatives aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable intake as part of a healthy dietary pattern", Miedema said.
Although the study doesn't prove that greater fruit-and-vegetable intake alone led to the healthier arteries, the results appear promising, they added. "So the best time to establish a healthy dietary plan is when you're young".
Cost and access can be barriers to getting enough fruits and vegetables, especially in "food deserts", Miedema said. The investigators found that, after adjustment for demographics and lifestyle variables, higher intake of fruits and vegetables was associated with a lower prevalence of cardiac disease (0.56 to 0.99 for the tertile with the highest consumption to the lowest).