Most of us are probably aware of the 5-A-Day health message introduced by the government well over a decade ago, encouraging us to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
The campaign was adopted by the UK government in 2003 in order to ease the ongoing burden of diet related health issues affecting the nation. It could be argued that from an awareness perspective the 5 A Day message is one of the most successful of all the governments health messages. So why then are most of us still not managing to eat 5 portions (a portion being around 80g) of fruit and vegetables a day (on average we manage around 3.5)?
Why 5 a day?
First let’s look at how exactly we hit upon 5 as being the number of servings of fruit and veg most likely to keep us healthy. The strategy is based on advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems such as some types of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Recently however, researchers from Imperial College London analysed data from 95 studies in order to try and more accurately work out optimal consumption in order to gain the maximum protection against disease.
What they discovered backs up current thinking and health promotion messages; broadly speaking, increasing fruit and veg consumption dramatically decreases risk of disease. So although eating 5 a day reduces disease risk, the greatest benefits were seen from eating 10 portions!
Don’t panic though if you’re still working up to 5 A Day, there is still an indisputable wealth of scientific evidence to show that there are significant health benefits to getting close to 5 x 80g portions of fruit and veg, and here’s some tips for incorporating more into your day;
- Start the day with a piece of fruit before or with breakfast
- Top your porridge oats with frozen berries, raisins or stewed apple
- Take a bag of chopped celery, carrot or peppers to work to eat in the car or at your desk
- Fill at least a third of your plate with salad or fresh vegetables at lunch and tea
- When you crave something sweet, have an apple or a piece of fruit instead of a biscuit
- Try a soup or a big salad for lunch instead of a sandwich
- Whizz up any sad looking fruit and veg into a smoothie. Smoothies are better than juice, as they ensure you get the whole fruit, fibre and all.