At school I was taught or made aware of healthy eating and the need to consume at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day. As a child who actually cared about my health, I was interested but hesitant to believe this. I thought to myself, ‘that isn’t a lot,’ and it turned out it wasn’t! What came as more of a shock was the fact that the required ‘portions’ were quite large for each fruit and vegetable, and yet, somehow only counted as 1 portion if you had a bunch of vegetables mixed together. Why? Surely there is something to be understood from this lingo.
On the NHS website, they detail what counts as your 5 a day, some include; 80 grams of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables; and 30 grams of dried fruit (80 grams fresh) – think prunes, raisins, cranberries.
So is that really the truth? Do you need to eat 5 a day which consists of 80 grams of fruit and vegetables? Many people can interpret that how they want. For example, literally eating only 80 grams a day. But what it means is that each portion should be that amount. However I disagree with this, as 80 grams is quite the amount if you weighed it.
An analysis by Harvard does still show that five servings a day of fruit and vegetables offers the strongest health benefits. The research indicated that compared with people who eat two servings a day, people who ate five had the following;
1) a 13% lower risk of death from any cause
2) a 12% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke
3) a 10% lower risk of death from cancer
4) a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
The truth of the matter is that eating this amount of fruit and veg a day is realistic, doable, beneficial and most importantly it is very likely cheaper than processed food. I just had dinner, consisting of at least 5 portions of vegetables, and I’ve had 1 portion of fruit today. But I am not an advocate of eating a lot of fruit, simply because it raises blood sugar and wreaks havoc on your liver, the organ that processes fructose.
Steve Jobs was a fruitarian, and he passed away due to cancer. Now, the reason I mention Jobs is this, he had a liver transplant after his bout of pancreatic cancer. He ‘gamed’ the transplant allocation system to get a liver (probably due to his money). Skeptics doubted he should have received the organ at all, because he had previous treatment for the pancreatic cancer. People suggest the liver was sought as a result of the cancer, which itself made him a poor transplant candidate, as the risk of cancer returning (and it did) meant it could have gone to better use. We can see that eating fruit will impact the liver, since it deals with fructose, and the pancreas – the organ that produces insulin, a hormone that lowers blood sugar. I’m going to let you draw the connection between a fruitarian diet and liver failure. So, just to reiterate, don’t overload on fruit, it really isn’t worth it. Vegetables are much better.
The main reason people don’t eat the recommended amount is twofold; they know it is simply a recommendation and not anything more, they can’t be forced to do it; and people don’t think it is possible. I think the second part has merit simply because people might forget to eat that amount if they have busy schedules. It comes down to better day planning, perhaps meal planning and advanced preparation which, let us be honest, most people ironically don’t have the time for, or worse cannot be bothered. The health benefits extend far and wide, as adequate – not high – intake of fruit and veg can actually reduce blood pressure, manage diabetes, reduce high cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity and cancer. If we all want to eat more healthily this is a simple and great way to start! See:
It isn’t quite as daunting when you look at the above picture. There is a mixed variety above. But don’t stick to this all day, mix it up. Having multiple bananas isn’t going to be as effective as a banana in the morning and a grapefruit at night. Variety is the key here, and one of the many things people get confused about. You can eat tons of broccoli but it doesn’t mean you’ve had 5 portions, it means you’ve had 1 portion.
Price comes into play too. I guess prices have increased but the fresh fruit and vegetables, for the most part are quite affordable. You aim for 5 portions of each a day, then that is probably going to cost what… £10 a week? Probably less. If cost is an issue, try markets, offering literal dirt cheap veg and fruit, farmers markets which don’t have all that extra cost to cover shipping and to make a profit. Food that is bought in season, like summer fruits, are likely to last considerably longer and are usually cheaper than those bought out of season.
Variety doesn’t just mean variety of food, it also means how you eat them. Boring fruit and vegetables you say? Why not make a smoothie and drink them! You can fry vegetable, heck, you could fry a banana if you wanted. You can make something like a bean salad with balsamic vinegar to give it a kick. Add a variety of sauce too. I found so many sauces that work well with vegetables, not just gravy for your Sunday roast either. I’m talking about mixing it up, trying horse radish, caramelised onion (yes I put this on vegetables), so explore the world. Make your own with vegetables!
At the end of the day if you want to eat healthy you have to start taking active steps to achieve that goal. Sometimes the smallest steps can be effective. The first step is always the hardest. I no longer eat animal products and don’t want to go on about being vegan, but it does have benefits beyond eating meat. I think this is my preferred diet. Don’t get me wrong I am tempted occasionally, but am more motivated to eat plant based for my health. It costs a lot less too.
The first step is always the hardest
3 thoughts on “The Truth about 5 Fruits and Vegetables a Day”
We think very similarly. I eat mostly plant based. It’s not canned, either. Our grocery bill is half or less of the average American consumer. Our biggest treat is popcorn. It’s doable. I have not gained weight and my overall health is pretty darn good.
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I am relieved to hear that, particularly the bills side. And tbh, popcorn is a weakness of mine, along with dark chocolate!!