According to a new study, women who ate two or more servings of fresh fruit per day were less likely to develop uterine fibroids than those who didn’t.

“Our study suggests that uterine fibroids can now be added to the list of potential health outcomes for which increased fruit and vegetable intake might be beneficial,” lead researcher Lauren Wise, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health, told Reuters.

About 70 percent of women develop fibroids at some point in their lives, but African-American women are up to three times more likely to get them. The non-cancerous growths often have no symptoms, but they can be painful, affect menstrual periods, and, in some cases, cause fertility problems or make it difficult for women to carry a pregnancy to full term.

The study, which was published in the December 2011 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from more than 22,500 African-American women gathered by the Black Women’s Health Study.

The data, which tracked the habits and medical diagnoses of those women for 12 years, showed that women who ate four or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day were 10 percent less likely to get fibroids than women who ate less than one helping of fruits and vegetables each day. But after taking a closer look at the data, researchers discovered that the biggest benefit came from eating fresh fruit: Women who ate two or more servings per day were 11 percent less likely to be diagnosed with fibroids than women who ate less than two servings a week.

The amount of vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, and fiber that the women ate didn’t affect their risk of getting fibroids, Reuters reported. Getting more vitamin A-it’s also found in some dairy products-could be the key, but researchers aren’t sure what, exactly, made fruit so good at protecting women against the painful uterine growths.

“Although this doesn’t prove that if you change your diet you may be able to change your risk of fibroids, it does appear that there is some association between diet and fibroids.” Elizabeth Stewart, who studies fibroids at the Mayo Clinic, told Reuters.