It was the World Health Organisation (WHO, that in 1991 first advised adults should have a daily consumption of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day which equals to about 5 portions of 80g each but it wasn’t until 2001, ten years later, that the department of health in the UK translated this to the 5 a day plan that most of us have come to recognise.
So first of all, what is a portion? Well, it equates to 7 strawberries, 8 cauliflower florets or a 2 inch piece of cucumber for example.
I would say that the governments recommended 5 a day is not enough to keep us optimally healthy. France recommends 10 portions, Denmark advises 6 portions and Japan recommends a whapping 17 portions (although they are a bit smaller at 50g but that is still more than double the UK’s 400g a day recommendation).
So to make sure you are getting as much fruit and vegetables as possible and get the most nutrient value out of them here are some tips:
Snack on fruit and veg instead of sugar and salt laden processed food through out the day.
Aim to eat more vegetables than fruit so as to keep your sugar intake down.
Try and eat as much of your fruit and veg raw as cooking depletes nutrients. When you do cook avoid cremating your food and boiling it to death. Veg should have a slight crunch to them so try steaming for a healthier option. The only exception to this rule is tomatoes, cooking tomatoes releases the nutrient lycopene.
Aim to have half of your main meal plate made up of vegetables.
Spuds don’t count towards your 5 a day, neither do yams or cassava. They are carbohydrates and sit in the pasta, rice and bread category. But, sweet potatoes do count towards your 5 a day as they are a rich source of beta carotene and protein.
Organic is better than non-organic. Researchers from NewcastleUniversity found that organic varieties of fruit and veg contained up to 40% more antioxidants.
Eating 5 bananas a day doesn’t count either I’m afraid, you need to have variety. Eat a varied range of colours of fruit and veg as the different colours signify different nutrients.
And finally, I would recommend supplementing with a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral to make sure you are filling the gaps left by your diet because lets face it, its not easy consuming that much fruit and veg every single day. Even though I make a conscious effort to make sure I am getting as much as possible there are days when it just doesn’t happen.