We are often advised to increase our fruit and vegetable intakes to ensure sure we are meeting the recommended daily intakes (RDI) of at least 5 portions per day (2). There have been public campaigns to inform and inspire us to eat more fruit and veg like the Public Health England 5-a-day campaign which was introduced in 2003; yet it was reported in 2018 that still only 28% of UK adults meet the 5-a-day recommendations (6).
It has also been documented that low fruit and vegetable intake is one of the top 10 risk factors for global mortality or death rates (14). You are probably aware of the government's recommendations to eat 5 different fruits and vegetables per day but do you know what different types of fruit and vegetables count and how much you need? Let’s explore more..
A recommended portion size is 80g per serving. The 5-a-day campaign was based on advice from the World Health Organisation recommendation of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer (2).
What Are The Benefits Of Eating 5-a-day?
Fruits and vegetables are jam-packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, which are all beneficial for health (1). They have been found to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 30%, as well as decreasing cancer risk by up to 20% because of their antioxidant properties (3). Non-starchy fruits and vegetables like apples and leafy greens have a low glycaemic index helping to prevent us from getting wild sugar rushes that increase our hunger (15). This low glycaemic index, high fibre and water content can prove helpful in weight management, as we feel less hungry and fuller for longer (13). Not only are fruit and vegetables great for our physical health they can also reduce our chances of developing depression and anxiety. Pretty cool, huh?
What Does An 80g Portion Of Fruit And Vegetables Look Like?
When it comes to portion sizes, our average consumption of fruits tends to be above 80g for fruit and below 80g for vegetables (10). An easy way for you to visualise a portion of fruit/vegetables could be by comparing it to the amount that you could fit into the palm of your hand.
Ideal 80g portion sizes work out as being (23):
1 medium-sized piece of fruit (e.g. apple, banana, pear)
2 small fruits (e.g. plums, satsumas, kiwis)
A large handful of berries/grapes
3 heaped tablespoons of peas/carrots
4 heaped tablespoons of cabbage/kale
What counts towards your 5-a-day?
Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced fruits and vegetables all count towards your 5-a-day (3). So adding some tinned fruit to your yoghurt or some frozen berries to your cereal is a great place to start (21)! Some people may be a bit skeptical about the quality of frozen fruit and vegetables, but it is important to note that freezing fruit and vegetables can preserve their nutrients, giving them a very similar nutritional value to fresh varieties (22). Frozen fruit and vegetables are also cheaper than fresh, so win-win!
Although fruit / vegetable juices and smoothies both count towards your 5-a-day, they do contain high levels of naturally-occuring sugar and so are recommended to keep to 150ml per day (4). Sadly, white potatoes do not count as one of our 5-a-day, as they are regarded as a starchy food source on the Eatwell Guide (5), but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t any good. Potatoes are such a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and are a staple that many of us have lurking in our cupboards.
How you can start including more fruit and vegetables into your diet this week!
Here are a few ways that you can cram those fruits and veggies into your daily diet, without too much fuss:
Adding some berries (fresh/frozen) to your cereal, porridge or yoghurt
Putting some frozen peas into curries or stews
Beans and pulses also count, so go for those baked beans on toast!
Adding some salad-y bits (i.e. lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber) to sandwiches
Grating some carrot into pasta dishes like spaghetti bolognese - the mince will disguise it!
Choosing a tomato-based curry/pasta sauce
Check food labels for the 5-a-day logo on sauces and pre-prepared meals - these could count! (3)
Having 150ml of fruit juice at breakfast
Try buying some vegetable crisps, or even make you own
Try cucumber / carrot sticks with hummus or salsa for a tasty snack option
Article Written by Jade Mottley & Della Humphries - Health & Nutrition Writers
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