Well, we’ve have been told for years to eat Five a Day. I’m sure everyone is familiar with that phrase.
So, in the early noughties I decided to change my diet and deal with the almost constant heartburn I was experiencing. I checked out the advice to maintain optimum health, and it was to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg per day. I thought OK, I'll start there and major on veg as I’m not really keen on fruit.
I bought some scales and began weighing my veg every day, oh boy five 80 gram portions of veg a day is a massive amount, no way I could eat that much in day unless I didn’t eat anything else. So, I began to look a little deeper into what is supposed to be in the '5 a day' that benefits our health.
Food composition data
Anyway, I came across food composition data, which is the analysis of the nutrients in all foods, and to my delight found out that I could substitute ingredients I didn't like for ones I did and get the same if not more benefits. Cool, but I noticed that two particular ingredients I adore, nuts and potatoes are not included in the 5 a day advice, so what should I do?
The 5 portions of fruit and veg a day advice is aimed at providing us with protection for our health and in particular protection from heart disease and cancer.
Given that it is the nutrient content of these foods that provide protection for our health, surely it can be argued that nuts and potato out score a lot of fruit and veg on this front!
The Evidence - nuts about nuts
Nuts are some of the most nutritious ingredients on the planet, for example – 30g of roasted peanuts provides – 100% of your recommended daily amount (RDA) for biotin (B7), 30% for manganese, 28% for niacin (B3) and 14% for vitamin E along with loads of the phytochemicals called phytosterols. Plus if you eat the raw peanuts you will get even more vitamin E and add thiamin (B1)!
Together these nutrients provide us with vital support for our immune systems, healthy DNA, energy creation, detoxification and the cleansing activity that protects us from cancer.
An average portion of hazelnuts or almonds will provide you with over 30% of your RDA for vitamin E one of the most powerful antioxidants (cleansers) we know of.
An average portion of Brazil nuts will give you near to 100% of your RDA for selenium a vital mineral for your immune system and antioxidant activity.
The Evidence - potty about potatoes
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 our DNA, immune system, brain, liver, heart and mood.
The 5 a day mantra, whilst being good advice, has very little basis in science and therefore it may not be a surprise that nuts and potatoes got left out, however the US National Cancer Institute were also involved in the 5 a day and should have picked up on the anticancer benefits of these great ingredients.
Knowing how vital all the nutrients gained from nuts and potatoes are, surely we should include nuts and potatoes in the 5 a day advice!
So, what should you do?
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!
The best way to make sure you are getting enough of all of the vital vitamins and minerals in your diet is by keeping a food diary.
The food diary on Check Your Food will let you know exactly how many vitamins and minerals you getting plus all of your macronutrients as well, that’s proteins , carbs , sugars etc. and it’ll give you your calorie intake as well!
Start your free food diary now!
Director - Nutrient expert, researcher & data miner
I am responsible for the scientific research and data oversight at the CheckYourFood Group. A great journey of discovery for me as I uncover the myriad of goodness that natural food contains and facilitate others to promote health and wellbeing.