The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day to help lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Based on this advice, the UK Government recommends at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetable intake per day. Unfortunately, only 26% of adults ate the recommended 5 or more portions of fruit or vegetables a day in 2015.
This is to help supply our bodies with vitamins and minerals which cannot be produced within the body, such as folate, vitamin C and potassium. Furthermore fruit and vegetables are great sources of fibre, which can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, a healthy gut and prevent constipation.
Even better, fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories. Providing we eat these in abundance, without adding heaps of oil to the cooking process, fruits and vegetables can help us to maintain a healthy weight and healthy heart.
A meta-analysis (a statistical approach of combining the results of current literature to draw a stronger conclusion on the subject area) published in February 2017 concluded that 800g a day of fruit and vegetables (10 a day) indicated a greater reduction in strokes and heart diseases. However 600g of fruit and vegetables per day (approx 8 a day) was optimal to lower our risk of cancers. The findings support that we should all be eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, to help promote good health. Realistically the 5 a day guidelines are unlikely to change anytime soon. 5 a day was set by the UK Government as this was an achievable target for the public to achieve.
What is 5 a day?
But what is one portion size? Unlike our main macronutrient sources, one palm size does not constitute to one portion size for all fruits and vegetables for example. Dried fruits will have a smaller recommended serving size compared to fresh fruits due to their high sugar content. It’s daunting to know that there are individuals who believe that eating 3 bananas per day will count towards 3 portions of fruit.
We don’t need to be eating expensive fresh foods to reach our 5 a day target. Fruits and vegetables which have been frozen, tinned and dried will all count towards your 5 portions. Remember, you need to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables to achieve 5 a day. Different fruits and vegetables will contain different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. If it helps, try and think about eating a rainbow.
Here are the portion size guidelines for fruits and vegetables. Additionally there are examples of popular foods consumed.
Fruit – Adult portion size = 80g.
- 1 medium apple, banana, orange or similar sized fruit
- 2 small tangerines, plums, or similar sized fruit
- 2 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
- 1 slice of large fruit such as melon or pineapple
- 2 handfuls of blueberries
- 1 handful of grapes
- 2 slices of mango (5cm slice)
- 20 raspberries
- 7 strawberries
- *FRUIT JUICE AND FRUIT SMOOTHIES = 1 small glass (150ml)
Vegetables – Adult portion size = 80g
- 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses/beans
- 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
- 1 dessert bowl of salad
- 2 globe hearts of artichoke
- 7 spears of asparagus
- 1/3 of an aubergine
- 3 whole ‘baby’ beetroots, or 7 slices
- 8 florets of broccoli or cauliflower
- ½ courgette
- 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree
- Tomatoes – Fresh = 1 medium or 7 cherry, tinned plum = 2 whole, tinned chopped = ½ can
- *VEGETABLE JUICE = 1 small glass (150ml)
Dried fruit – Adult portion size = 30g
- 1 heaped tablespoon of berries/raisins/mango/mixed fruit
- 3 dates
- 4 pieces of sundried tomato
* Juices will only count for 1 of your 5 a day regardless of how much you have. They are high in sugar. These are best consumed with meals to help reduce tooth decay.
Tips to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet:
- Add fruit to your porridge or cereal
- Make stews where you can easily add a lot of vegetables
- Cut back on your meat portions and include more vegetables to your plate
- Snack on carrots, cucumbers, peppers etc
- Add an extra portion of vegetables to your stir frys
- Have a salad or vegetable side dish with your main meal
- Choose a tomato based sauce instead of a creamy sauce
How many portions of fruit and vegetables do you manage to consume a day?