The protective effects of fruits and vegetables against CHD have been suggested by many epidemiological studies among Western populations. However, prospective data are lacking for Asian populations. In the present study, we examined the associations of fruit and vegetable intake with CHD incidence among 67 211 women (aged 40–70 years) and 55 474 men (aged 40–74 years) living in Shanghai, China. Food intake was assessed using validated FFQ through in-person interviews. Coronary events (non-fatal myocardial infarction or fatal CHD) were identified by biennial home visits and further confirmed by medical record review. During a mean follow-up period of 9·8 and 5·4 years, 148 events in women and 217 events in men were documented and verified. After adjustment for potential confounders, women in the highest quartile of total fruit and vegetable intake (median 814 g/d) had a hazard ratio (HR) of 0·62 (95 % CI 0·38, 1·02) for CHD (P for trend = 0·04) compared with those in the lowest quartile (median 274 g/d). This association was primarily driven by fruits (HR for the highest v. the lowest intake in women: 0·62, 95 % CI 0·37, 1·03). The strength of the association was attenuated after further controlling for history of diabetes or hypertension. For men, no significant association was found for fruit and vegetable intake when analysed either in combination or individually. The present findings suggest that a high consumption of fruits may reduce CHD risk in Chinese women.