Research now suggests that we need to eat 10 portions of fruit and veg each day, up from 5, to help us live longer. Imperial College London, who conducted the research, have said that 7.8 million deaths could be avoided each year if more fruit and veg is eaten.
The research not only highlighted how much fruit and veg you need to eat each day but also what fruits and vegetables can combat certain diseases. The main finding of the research however is that the more fruit and veg you eat the better.
The research pooled data from 95 separate studies over a 12 year period. The research was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology which also looked at the risk of dying before your time. So when compared with eating no fruit or veg each day 200g cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13%, 800g cut the risk by 28%.200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, 800g cut the risk by 13%. 200g cut the risk of premature deaths by 15%, 800g cut the risk by 31%.
Fruit and veg contains many antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Antioxidants for example are crucial to reducing DNA damage so reducing the cancer risk. The research also found that vegetables were more beneficial than fruit. Each portion of vegetables lowers your risk of death by 16%, each piece of fruit lowers the chance of death by 4%.
A portion is defined as 80g, in real terms that is equal to 1 banana, one apple, one pear or three tablespoons of peas. Bear in mind that an average apple weighs 150g and a small cauliflower weighs in at around 265g.
Lower risks of cancer are linked with green veg including the likes of spinach and cabbage, yellow veg like peppers and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower. Lowering heart disease and stokes was linked to apples, pears, citrus fruits, salads, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous veg.
To get the right blend of fruit and veg each day nutritionists tend to suggest that you simply ensure that you get a spread of different colours on your plate each meal time.
Public Health England, whilst accepting the research, have said that they think 10 portions a day is unrealistic for a lot of people. This is based on evidence that many people struggle to eat five potions of fruit and veg a day, in fact it’s as low as 1 in 3 people meeting the 5 a day target.
Look at smoothies and snacks that include raw vegetables and fruit with healthy dips like hummus. But the key message here is that even if you are struggling to achieve the 10 portions don’t give up. Even a little more fruit and veg each day will bring health benefits. So a daily intake of just 2.5 portions of fruit and veg each day was associated with a 16% reduced risk of heart disease, a 4% lower risk of cancer and a 15% reduction in the risk of premature death.
Health experts have called on the Government to subsidise the cost of fruit and veg which they suggest could be funded by taxing sugary foods. It may be worth bearing in mind the Australian Government advice to eat ‘two plus 5’, in effect two helpings of fruit and five of vegetables.