Research by the World Health Organisation has led to the recommendation that we should have at least five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Getting our 5 a day has both long and short term health benefits. Fruit and vegetables help us in two main ways. Firstly, they contain fibre, which helps to keep the digestive system healthy. Secondly, they contain vitamins and minerals that help keep our whole bodies healthy.
- Fresh fruit and veg are the best way of meeting the requirements. Try to get as many of your 5 from these as you can.
- Frozen fruit and veg are the next best thing – some even argue that since they are frozen very soon after harvest they retain more nutrients.
- Canned and dried fruit and veg are a good way of topping up your intake. As they’ll keep for months in the store cupboard, you can always have a good stock of them. However, processing them destroys some of the nutrients, so ideally you should have fresh or frozen too. Note: the quantity of a portion of dried fruit is 30g not 80g (because there is no water weight).
- Juice is another convenient source, but the recommendation is that juice only counts as one portion per day, however much you drink. This is because there is no fibre in juice. There are also concerns about dental health and weight gain associated with drinking too much juice. A portion of juice would be 200ml/7oz.
- Smoothies: if smoothies contain the whole fruits then they can count as more than one portion, but as with juices, dental health and weight gain may be an issue with drinking too many smoothies.
- Beans and pulses can only count as one portion per day. Although they’re an excellent source of fibre, they don’t have the range of vitamins and minerals that fruit and vegetables have.
- Variety is important: each of your 5 portions should be different. So if you have an orange, a glass of orange juice won’t count as another portion. Or if you have grapes, then raisins and sultanas won’t count.
- Sweet potatoes count but ordinary white potatoes don’t.
10 easy ways to get to 5 a day
- Snack on dried fruits: There’s a wide range of dried fruit available in the supermarkets. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try mango or pineapple.
- Have a glass of juice a day: Although juice can only count as one portion, it’s an easy one to get in and can be a good way of getting a variety of plant nutrients into your diet. For example, watermelons are usually very large and aren’t the easiest fruit to prepare, so drinking a glass of watermelon juice is a good alternative.
- Buy ready prepared frozen veg: ingredients like chopped onions, peppers, mushrooms, carrots and sweet potato are handy for quick and easy stir-fries, soups and curries.
- Add chopped vegetables to scrambled egg or omelette.
- Keep canned fruit (preferably in juice) in the store cupboard: ways you can use canned fruits include eating them with Greek yoghurt for a healthy dessert, using them in smoothies or pureeing them make frozen fruit pops.
- Add berries, chopped banana or dried fruit to your breakfast cereal.
- Have vegetable soups for lunches or starters: vegetable soups can be as much as 3 portions. Buy good quality soups with a high vegetable content or, even better, make your own. For an extra portion, add some canned beans or lentils.
- Use sweet potato instead of white potatoes for jackets or wedges.
- Add drained canned sweetcorn to tuna mayonnaise for sandwich fillings or jacket potato toppings.
- Keep bagged salad or boxes of sprouted seeds in the fridge to add to sandwiches.
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