Which 5 a day?

Diets that are low in veg are associated with more than 20,000 premature deaths across the UK

Which 5 a day? blog image


Why should you eat more veg?

A few weeks ago we went to the Vegetable Summit, organised by The Food Foundation in London’s city hall. It aims to change the food environment and the food system to make it easier for us to eat our veg. 

This was gathering of representatives from towns and cities, food producers, restaurants, supermarkets and retailers, and manufactures of food products, all pledging to promote vegetables and vegetable uptake more. You can find out more about it here.

Now there was a lot of talk about the ‘5-A-Day’ and the fact that very few people manage to eat 3.5 portions of fruit and veg a day let alone 5. Diets that are low in veg are associated with more than 20,000 premature deaths across the UK (IHME 2015) so we really need to do something!

Where did the 5-A-Day come from?

In the 1980’s heart disease was growing and the World Health Organisation (WHO) wanted to find a way it could be slowed or prevented. They reviewed studies on heart disease prevention, and combined the results, which showed that the more fruit/veg you consume, the lower your risk of heart disease. 400g was considered an amount which was obtainable.

Check it out here (Part 2 page 112). It states that a “lower limit of 400g of fruit and vegetables should be consumed each day“, this equates to 5 portions a day.

Now this doesn’t mean that WHO said we should eat 5 a day, in fact that came from a meeting of 20 fruit and veg companies and the U.S. National Cancer Institute at a meeting in California in 1991 who saw the WHO recommendations as an opportunity to sell more veg, while being good for you as well.

And so the 5-A-Day campaign was born. 

Not all fruit and veg are equal!

It’s been said that the 5-A-Day campaign is over-simplified as it assumes that 1 portion of a fruit or vegetable is nutritionally similar to another which we all know isn’t true and why is the humble potato left out? 

According to the NHS this is because they are a starchy food. When eaten as part of a meal, potatoes are generally used in place of other sources of starch, such as bread, pasta or rice. Because of this, they don't count towards your 5 A Day.

This just seems crazy as they are full of nutrition:

An average baked potato provides – 52% of your RDA for thiamin (B1), 45% for vitamin C, 33% for potassium, 28% for B6, 25% for pantothenic acid (B5), and 23% of fibre!

These nutrients are vital for the health of your DNA, immune system, brain, liver, heart and mood.

So how do you know which 5 a day to eat? 

My suggestion is to find out what nutrients do for you (the science), how much of them you need for optimum health (RDA’s) and then seek out the foods that are highest in them.

Only when you know what is in your food you can make more informed choices about which 5 a day to eat!

One of the easiest ways to see if you’re getting all of the nutrition you need is to keep a food diary that logs not only your calories, protein, carbs, but every vitamin and mineral and even those all-important phytochemicals found in fruit and veg. 

The CheckYourFood food diary does just that and it's free! See your reports in a simple traffic light reporting system so you can easily pinpoint where you’re doing well and where you can improve. 

Surya Wright

Surya Wright

Co-founder, production manager

I'm our communications and marketing person, dealing with social media and copywriting. I also work with Matt and Ric overseeing the design and strategic management of the site. I'm also the author of the Eva the Hungry Amoeba children's book series (only one so far). You can find it on Amazon. My favourite foods, shepherds pie and smoked haddock!

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