Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They are also an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can help maintain a healthy gut, prevent constipation and other digestive problems. They can help reduce the risk of heart disease and aid weight loss through feeling fuller for longer periods of time.

Despite their well-known benefits, a study in the United Kingdom in 2018 showed that there was less than a third of adults eating the recommended amount of five portions of fruit and vegetables each day meaning that the average intake is 3.7 portions per day. Survey also showed that men were less compliant than female in following five-a-day guideline.

So why is eating less than 5 portions detrimental to our health? What counts towards a portion? How can we easily incorporate more fruit and vegetables into your diet?

Science and evidence:

Evidence shows that fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium. They are an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can help maintain a healthy gut, prevent constipation and other digestive problems.

They can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Research has shown that eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily has a 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease than participants eating fewer than 1.5 servings per day. It is likely that the blood pressure-lowering effect of fruit and vegetables is the major mechanism that contributes to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Evidence also shows reduction in risk of stroke and some cancers. Increase in fruit and vegetables in our daily diet helps weight loss through feeling fuller for longer periods of time.

A portion is 80g or about one handful, and the recommended amount in the UK is at least 5 different portions each day, ideally 3 vegetables and 2 fruits. This amount has been taken from the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation which many countries follow. However, the recommendation in Australia is 7 portions a day, ideally 5 vegetables and 2 fruits.

Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your 5 a day, so it may be easier than you think to get your recommended daily amount. Potatoes, yams, cassava and plantain don’t count as they are usually eaten as starchy food but sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips do count towards your 5 a day because they’re usually eaten in addition to the starchy food part of the meal.

Action:

Use the following tips to increase your fruit and vegetables intake up to and beyond the WHO recommendations.

  1. Start by adding 1-2 portions of fruit and/or vegetables to your breakfast.
  2. Get extra energy from fruit or vegetable snacks.
  3. Try filling half of your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner meals.
  4. Use fruit and vegetables as ingredients and hide them in meals.
  5. Try a new fruit or vegetable each week.