Why is it so important to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day?
The term 5-a-day is a national campaign to encourage people to eat a varied intake of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis to prevent serious health conditions. A report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) supports evidence that consuming around 400g of fruit and vegetables a day helps to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and stroke.
Not only are fruit and vegetables full of essential vitamins and minerals, they are also a great source of dietary fibre which helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.
It is easier to achieve the recommended 5-a-day than you might think..
If you’re not someone to tuck into a plateful of veges or a colourful plate of salad items, then don’t feel overwhelmed at the prospect of making sure you consume the recommended amount! Consuming 5-a-day doesn’t mean you have to eat only whole pieces of fruit and vegetables! Take a look below at some different ways to ensure you are eating your full quota of fruit and vegetables:
- Fresh – whole pieces of fruit and vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked. Try to not to overcook your food as this can deplete the vitamin and mineral content. Try sprinkling a portion (80g) of blueberries, raspberries or banana onto your breakfast cereal or adding to greek yoghurt for a delicious snack! Even if you’re not a big fan of vegetables, they can be added to so many tasty meals such soups, stir fries, stews, curries, bolognese pasta sauces and much more.. raw carrot sticks dipped in humous are delicious too! Give it a go!
- Frozen – as some produce is frozen within hours of being picked, they can be higher in nutrients than ‘fresh’ varieties due to the length of time it can take for some produce to get from plant to plate – they may have been hanging around on a supermarket shelf or sitting in your fruit bowl for a little too long. However, proper storage of fresh fruit and veg can help to prevent the loss of nutrients! Add frozen peas, or frozen mixed vegetables to risotto, soup, pasta bake, casserole or once cooked, add cold to a salad with rice and quinoa, top off with a delicious salad dressing!
- Juices/smoothies – 150ml of 100% fruit and vegetable juice or a smoothie counts as one portion. Unfortunately, drinking more than 150ml of the same or many varieties of fruit juice or smoothie will only count as one of your daily portions due to the juicing process which removes most of the fibre.
- Dried fruit – a 30g portion of dried fruit counts towards your five-a-day. However, dried fruit can be quite high in sugar and calories; once the fruit is dried it becomes a concentrated source of sugar and calories, so take care not to overdo it!
- Tinned fruit and vegetables – portion size 80g. Opt for fruit in natural juice and vegetables in water with no added sugar or salt. Tinned soup containing vegetables is good too!
Foods you may not think about that also count as part of your 5-a-day!
Chickpeas, guacamole, olives, lentils, beans, seeds, heaped teaspoon of tomato puree, onions, mushrooms and sweet potatoes! Even half a tin of baked beans and spaghetti hoops in tomato sauce count as part of your 5-a-day (however, processed white pasta isn’t too good for you and watch the sugar content!). Potatoes, although classed as a vegetable, doesn’t count towards your 5-a-day as they mainly contribute starch to your diet.
Give yourself the essential nutrients you need to maintain a healthy body by choosing what works for you best and what fruit and veg you like and in what form! You will soon find that you are incorporating 5-a-day into your daily routine. And don’t forget, you are at work for a large part of your waking hours where you can eat a balanced diet too – read more about eating healthily at work here
References and further reading