We have been educated by the Government, health professionals and exercise professionals for many years now of the benefits of eating five-a-day. However, many people don’t understand why you need to eat five pieces of fruit or vegetables every day? This article will focus on the truth behind the slogan. We will explore the nutritional and health benefits of fruit and vegetables and what portion size is acceptable. We will look at the benefits of a five-a-day diet on the body and mind in partnership with a healthy lifestyle.
Ground-breaking research was conducted by Havas, Heimendinger et al, who published ‘5 a day for better health’, which ran case studies evaluating the impact on people and children who did and did not increase their intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (Havas, et al, 1995: p68-79). The research was groundbreaking. The data changed healthy policies and practices around the world and was the genesis of the ‘five a day’ maxim.
Why does the body need fruit and vegetables?
Fruit and vegetables contain diverse mixtures of phytonutrients (these are plant-based protective compounds). These nutrients act as powerful bodily antioxidants – a substance that removes damaging oxidizing agents from living organisms – which can help protect the human body from harmful bacteria and diseases. Scientists also agree that there are ‘superfoods’ these are fruit and vegetables which contain higher concentrations of some phytonutrients, such as blueberries, broccoli and tomatoes. However, the most important element is variety. This is the spice of life. You need to juggle up what you eat. You can’t just eat an orange or apple every day. You need to focus on the different fruits and what they can offer you. This can be done by looking at the BBC or NHS healthy eating section which will explain, in detail, the fruit antioxidant breakdown of the hundreds of different fruit and vegetables available.
What is the right portion?
GPs will tell patients that a medium sized fruit – such as an apple, banana, peach or orange – is the definition of a singular portion. So if you eat a banana, apple, peach, orange and carrot you will have consumed your five-a-day. Portions in fruits like melon, mango or pineapple are calculated on a slice per portion basis. One 125ml glass of 100% fruit juice or vegetable juice is considered one portion.
However, a smoothie containing of one or two fruits can account for 50% of your five-a-day intake. A single serving of vegetables on a dish is considered a portion whilst a small tin of fruit is also considered a portion. Therefore by following the above you can organise your fruit and vegetables into portions that means you are always getting your five-a-day intake.
How can eating five-a-day help a healthy lifestyle?
By eating five-a-day your body will get minerals, vitamins and nutrients from different fruit or vegetable foodstuffs. So you need to mix-it-up. You need to add variety to your intake. We understand that fruit and vegetables can be expensive – the increase in 2012 of nearly 10% across the board in fruit and vegetable prices at major supermarkets makes these purchases even more expenses. However, variety can mean eating diverse nutrients. Instead of taking a banana to work why not take a carrot? If you want to make a dish extra special why not try an aubergine or some root ginger?
There are a whole plethora of different foods that people just walk by every day in the supermarkets because either they don’t know what to do with one or they haven’t tried it. Be brave and try different things.
The British Government spends over £30 million a year educating people about the merits of eating five-a-day. The British Medical Association claims GP’s spend around 2% of their time educating patients of the benefits of eating healthy and the five-a-day mentality. This level of professional medical and political support means there is a wide public awareness of the scheme and its benefits. However people, due to their own purchasing or routine habits don’t buy different foodstuffs. This means people are missing out which in turn means they could be loosing out because ‘superfoods’ might not be in their baskets.
So next time your in the supermarket why not pick-up the broccoli, blueberries and tomatoes whilst making sure you get the bananas, apples and carrots. There are hundreds of different fruit and vegetables available – the burgeoning growth of local markets mean fresher produce is always available. So incorporate the five-a-day mentality into your diet and regime. You’ll quickly see the benefits as a healthy diet can help further a healthy lifestyle.