5 a day – why is it so important?
There can’t be many people who haven’t heard the 5– a-day health message. Yes, we know you should be eating 5 portions of fruit and veg a day—but research shows that most of us actually eat fewer than 3.
Just why is it so important that we up our intake? And how can we get into the 5-a-day habit?
Why is it so important?
Fruit & veg are vital for a healthy lifestyle because they contain essential vitamins & minerals which our bodies need to function properly.
For example, vitamin C helps to maintain healthy skin, gums & nerves, while calcium helps support healthy bones & teeth.
Fruit & veg also contain healthy fibre & antioxidants, which help mop up free radicals. These are the toxic by-products of the body’s metabolic processes, and they can cause damage that leads to disease & ageing—but the good news is that antioxidants found in fruit & veg can help make these harmless.
According to the Department of Health, increasing the amount of fruit & veg you eat is the second most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of cancer, after stopping smoking.
5 great reasons to make 5-a-day part of your daily eating plan
1. Most fruit & veg contain very little fat and are lower in calories than other foods, making them a great choice for maintaining healthy weight.
2. Fruit & veg are packed full of vitamins & minerals that are vital for good health.
3. Fruit & veg are also an important source of antioxidants which help to maintain a healthy heart
4. Fruit & veg contain both soluble & insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre helps maintain a healthy digestive system, (essential for weight loss) whilst soluble fibre may help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
5. Studies have shown consistently that populations that have a high intake of fruit & veg have a lower incidence of heart disease, some cancers and other health problems.
Eat a rainbow every day
For optimum health benefits you should vary your 5-a-day as much as possible. Why? Because different coloured fruits & veg contain different combinations of nutrients. So oranges are high in vitamin C while asparagus is high in folic acid.
What is a portion?
Here is an adults guide: 1 portion equals 80g of fresh, frozen or canned fruit or veg, about 30g dried fruit and 150ml glass of 100% juice (fruit, vegetable or smoothie)
Small fruits: 2 plums, 2 satsumas, 2 kiwi fruit, 3 apricots, 7 strawberries, 2 handfuls of raspberries, 1 handful of blackberries, 3 tablespoons of frozen summer fruits.
Medium fruits: 1 apple, 1 banana, 1 pear, 1 orange, 2 halves of canned peaches.
Large fruits: half a grapefruit or a 2 inch slice of melon
Dried fruits: 1 tablespoon
3 heaped tablespoons of cooked carrots or peas or canned sweetcorn
5 spears fresh asparagus / 1 corn on the cob / half a pepper / 8 brussel sprouts / 2 whole canned plum tomatoes / 1 medium fresh tomato / 3 heaped tablespoons of canned beans or pulses / 2 inch piece of cucumber / 8 cauliflower florets / 1 cereal bowl of mixed salad
Do potatoes count?
No they don’t. Although they are vegetables, the main nutrient in potatoes is carbohydrate (starch). We eat potatoes in place of other sources of carbs / starch such as rice, pasta or bread, so this is why they don’t count towards our 5-a-day. Other root vegetables, such as parsnips, Swedes and turnips are usually eaten as well as the main starchy food in a meal, so they do count. As do sweet potatoes, which provide starch but are also rich in vitamin A,C and E.
What about beans & pulses?
Yes, they count, but they can only be counted once, no matter how many portions you eat. This is because although they contain fibre, they don’t provide the same mixture of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as fruit & veg do.
Why does only one glass of fruit juice count?
You can’t get all of your 5-a-day in the form of fruit & veg juices, because juice contains very little fibre. Fruit squash doesn’t count at all.