22 Aug 10 a day to work, rest and play?
Hold up, isn’t it 5 a day?
Something that I’m asked a lot about is what the recommended intake for fruit and veg per day is – especially with the growing trend towards more plant-based eating. There are all kinds of headlines out there about how much fruit and veg we should be eating each day to stay healthy but in terms of recommendations, ours haven’t changed much recently. Let’s look at why that is…
One of the more recent headline-grabbing news stories was around a study by Imperial College London – a meta-analysis (meaning that they crunched the numbers on all available, relevant population data worldwide ~ 2 million people!).
They found that though there were benefits to consuming 400g per day (5 portions if 1 portion = 80g), eating around 800g per day (10 portions) provided better protection from a range of conditions including cancer and stroke and could prevent significantly more premature deaths.
So where did our recommendations come from?
Our own 5 a day message comes from the World Health Organization which recommends a fruit and veg intake of 400g (5 portions) per day to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
The research this recommendation is based on actually saw maximal benefits at 7-8 portions of fruit and veg per day, but due to the fact that as a nation we were not eating anything like that amount, 5 a day was seen as more realistic – and so a Public Health campaign was born.
Ok, so 5 a day, we all know that – we all must be there by now, right?
Despite the 5 a day recommendations, recent NDNS survey (page 18) <popover explanation?> data show that we’re still eating nowhere near that amount – less than 1 in 10 children (11-18 y/o’s) are eating 5 a day and less than 1 in 3 adults (18-64 y/o’s) are meeting the recommended levels.
Why aren’t we eating more fruit and veg?
Many reasons are cited for this – including cost, lack of knowledge around cooking and preparation and simple convenience. For sure it’s easier to buy a bar of chocolate at the shops (even at WH Smiths?!) than it is to grab an apple or some veg.
How much fruit and veg do you eat in a typical day – Are you meeting 5 a day, 10 or more?
So which one is it? 5? 10? 8? 5 plus 2?
Long answer: 10 could be brilliant, 5 is great
Short answer: just eat more fruit and veg
All of these studies show that simply by eating more fruit and vegetables – even at 200g per day, we’re reducing our risks of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
If you’re not getting 5 a day every day – let alone 10 a day, don’t worry. Just focus on getting a little more in at a time and go from there. Why not try picking up a different fruit or vegetable each week with your shop and trying out some new recipes? Check out what’s fresh and in season; they should be cheaper – even at the supermarket.
If you’ve got a family and shop with your kids, try getting them to pick out something new that they want to try. Some supermarkets are also offering free fruit for children to eat as they’re wandering around shopping.
Challenge: 10 a day for 7 days
As a dietitian, my day to day work involves helping people to find ways to get more fruit and veg into their lives. It’s hands-down one of the simplest things that you can do to improve the quality of your diet – even if you don’t manage to eat loads every day.
Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and energy – plus eating a wider variety also increases the variety of antioxidants, phytonutrients and gut-friendly fibre that your body loves.
So, inspired by my colleagues, I decided to set myself a challenge to eat 10 portions of fruit and veg a day for 7 days – to see how realistic it is in a regular working week. I’ll be keeping a daily food diary and I’ll put up links to recipes for any meals that I cook up.
Keep an eye on my Instagram for more (hopefully) colourful 10 a day pics and Part 2 next week – where I’ll be seeing how it all went, passing on some top tips on ways you can get get more fruit and veg into your life plus talking fruit sugars, sweet potatoes, bananas and what counts as a portion.