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Nutrition: Is ten-a-day too much when it comes to fruit and vegetables?

April 3, 2014 - Nutrition

fruit vegResearchers say we should DOUBLE the amount of fruit and veg we eat a day to get enough daily nutrition, but are they leading us up the garden path?

Since the 1990s we’ve been told to eat our five-a-day. Five portions of fruit and vegetables every day is widely considered to be the correct amount for a balanced, healthy diet, but now University College London and the University of Liverpool are encouraging us to increase that to ten.

The new suggestions say we should be eating anything from seven to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, but with frozen, canned and juiced advised to be off the menu have we really got the time, the money or even the stomachs to facilitate that?

Reducing health risks

Using figures from the Health Survey for England researchers analysed the eating habits of 65,000 people. The research concluded that people who ate seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day were less likely to die from conditions like heart disease. The overall risk of death from poor health was reduced by 42%.

Eating fruit and vegetables regularly has been proven to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and obesity. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre and needn’t be a struggle to fit into your daily routine.

‘The five-a-day message was never intended to be a hard maximum, instead the overall message was really meant to be ‘at least five per day’, rather than ‘five per day, job done’, says LighterLife’s Head of Nutrition and Research, Dr Kelly Johnston.

‘A recent study shows that consuming seven portions is associated with a lower risk of all –cause mortality and simply put, is generally recognised as being better for you than eating five or fewer. Although it has to be said, if you’re currently consuming five per day, that’s more than the average British person. And for optimal nutrition, ideally no more than 2-3 should come from fruit, with the rest of your intake coming from a wide variety of different vegetables, including pulses and greens.’

Fitting it into your diet

Take a look at Dr. Johnston’s guide to fitting more portions into your daily diet:

You don’t need to stuff yourself with vegetables to get each portion, just 80g (about a handful) is considered enough and it is important to eat a variety of both fruit and vegetables each day. All fruit and vegetables contain different combinations of vitamins and minerals but non-starchy green vegetables are recognised as providing a greater variety of health benefits than just consuming fruit.

With two thirds of us currently falling short of the five-a-day target it might seem ridiculous to ask us now to hit seven or even 10, but increasing your daily intake by just one portion can make a difference. If you make adding fruit and vegetables a part of your daily routine, soon you’ll find that it’ll become second nature, and you could be cutting your risk of serious illness without even thinking about it.

It’s a good idea to check with your GP before embarking on changes to your diet if you’re unsure.