A colourful way to get 5-a-day
Following a recommendation by the World Health Organisation that individuals consume 'a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers)', the current UK advice is to try to consume ‘at least 5 A Day’ meaning 5 portions of combined fruit and vegetables daily.
The decision to divide the 400g recommendation into a more consumer-friendly message of five 80g portions was part of a pragmatic approach taken by the UK government to encourage the consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
Are we meeting the target?
The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (years 5 and 6 combined) reports that only 27% of adults aged 19-64 years are meeting the 5 A Day recommendation. The researchers found that eating fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, looking especially at deaths as a result of cardiovascular disease and cancer, so it’s well worth thinking about your current intake. The higher a person’s intake of fruit and vegetables, the greater the protective effects seemed to be. People who ate seven or more portions a day had a 33% reduced risk of death compared with people who ate less than one portion. This figure can only increase if we eat more! Nutritional Therapists recommend aiming for nine portions daily, including several good helpings of dark leafy greens.
Balance of fruit and veg
Recommendations vary from one country to the next and there is no robust evidence to suggest the consumption of a specific ratio of fruits to vegetables has more benefit than simply consuming at least 5 portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables. That said, the sugar (fructose) content of fruits can be high, so it would be wise not to focus too heavily on fruits across the week as a whole.
Eat the rainbow
Nature provides a full spectrum of colours within the fruit and vegetables we can grow. This rainbow of colours gives us the opportunity of eating foods rich in nutrients that are linked to the various colours, each having their own health benefits:
- Green Foods – anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, cell protection, skin health, hormone balance, heart health, liver health, rich in minerals.
- Red & Pink Foods – anti-inflammatory, DNA health, immune health, prostate health, vascular health.
- White Foods – anti-microbial, gastrointestinal health, heart health, hormone balance, liver health. Generally sources of complex carbohydrate.
- Yellow & Orange Foods – anti-inflammatory, immune health, reproductive health, skin health, eye health, heart health, vascular health. Source of beta carotene (carotenoids).
- Blue & Purple Foods – anti-inflammatory, cognitive health, heart health, vascular health. Source of proanthocyanidins.
Increasing our intake of fruit and vegetables can only be a good thing, and even increasing by one portion a day will have some benefit. If you don’t want them all at mealtimes experiment with healthy smoothies and buy organic where possible. Aim for a colourful mixture every day to ensure you’re getting a good all-round intake of nutrients, and don’t forget those dark leafy greens!