Your heart may have sunk when you heard this year that the pretty challenging ‘5-a-day’ guideline is, in fact, double that. Studies now show we should be aiming for 10 portions daily (ideally 7 veg and 3 fruit). 800g of fibre. That is loads. Quite unnerving given that estimates show less than 25% people in the UK manage 5 portions.
What happened to 5-a-day :(
- 5-a-day was never the optimum target. It was chosen for “pragmatic” reasons.
- The NHS dubbed 10-a-day unrealistic. Which to be fair, it is, but still: good to know. Aim high.
What difference does it make?
- A meta study that assessed over 2 million people found that 10 portions daily could lead to the prevention of 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide each year.
- This is a 31% reduction in premature death (morbid, but quite impressive when you think about those vegetables on your plate saving your life).
- Scientists estimate that 1/3rd of the 13 most common cancers in the UK could be prevented through improved diet, physical activity and body weight.
- Aiming to hit that 10-a-day goalpost is one step towards treating the cause not the symptom of a disease, targeting prevention before ill health manifests. I would imagine that those (if anyone) reading this are roughly my age, in roughly good health, and would like to keep it that way. The exact dose-response relationship between fruit and veg intake and risk of CVD, cancer and mortality hasn’t been identified. But it seems to me like the best place for us to start.
- The great thing about this guideline, is that its all about inclusion not exclusion. You don’t have to stop eating those delicious things you love, in order to eat more vegetables. Although you’ve got to make space for that extra 800 grams of goodness somewhere.
- Lots of people don't know that legumes & pulses count as one portion. This is a real winner. Baked beans genuinely count. As does hummus, if you make it yourself.
- And one particularly fab perk is that eating veg can counter the effects of sugar on your body. Fibre slows down the digestion of food in your gut, which means that the blood won’t absorb sugar so quickly, which means you won't suffer such a blood sugar spike. So if you carry on eating your daily dose of choc, but also eat a carrot, then you are still doing yourself a small favour.
- The key thing to hold on to is that: something is better than nothing. Health benefits have been noted in people who managed 2.5 portions a day, so if all you can handle is one banana and some salad: don’t panic.
I categorically do not eat 10-a-day. But since I came to understand the power it can have, I try harder, and hit the target more often. Some days I eat zero. Some I eat loads. It’s a start.