We’ve all heard the recommendations that we need to eat more fruit and veg every day, but what are the benefits for getting your five a day? What does the evidence say about the nutritional value of fruit and veg, and is five portions really what we should be eating? We’ve broken down the guidelines on five a day to explain what scientists and nutritionists believe about these guidelines.
What is the five a day rule?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least 400mg of fruit and vegetables every day to reduce the risk of health problems like stroke, certain cancers and heart disease. The concept of the five a day rule was designed to make it easier for people to remember to add fruit and veg to their diets.
What are the benefits?
Fruit and vegetables provide a great source of nutrients, including Vitamin C, folate, potassium and Vitamin A. There are certain nutrients that are best taken via a supplement, such as vitamin D tablets, but a balanced diet of a wide range of colourful fruit and veg will provide you with a variety of nutrients for good health. Fruit and vegetables are also rich in fibre, which is important for digestion and bowel health.
Research has shown that fruit and vegetables can help to reduce your risk of health conditions, but they also contribute to overall good health such as healthy skin, a stronger immune system and good eyesight. An increase in these healthy ingredients also bulks out your meals to help you find a balanced weight, as fruit and veg are low in calories and fat.
What counts as a portion?
A standard portion of fruit or vegetables is 80g. A glass of fresh orange juice counts towards your five a day, as well as beans and other legumes. There are several ways to increase the amount of fruit and veg you eat each day, such as eating a piece of fruit with your breakfast, adding spinach to cooked meals or swapping out regular white potatoes for sweet potatoes.
Try adding a portion of vegetables, like peas or broccoli florets, to your dinners or eat a salad for your lunch instead of a sandwich to up your intake of ingredients like lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Most fruit and vegetables count towards your portions, including fresh, frozen, canned, juiced and dried fruit, although juiced and dried are typically higher in sugar so these should be kept to a minimum. White potatoes and cassava don’t count though, as they are too high in starch.
Most of us aren’t eating enough fruit and veg every day, and while there’s a minimum of five portions, eating more than that is always preferable. The more fresh fruit and vegetables we can eat, the healthier we will be!