This week it's felt as if everybody is talking about the 10-a-day fruit and vegetable portions advice. I'm sure this is probably just a reflection of the kind of people I follow on social media and the news sites I come across day to day, but it's got me thinking even so.
I'm well used to hearing the 5-a-day figure and although it's not something I consciously think about day-to-day, I am mindful of the benefits of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.
So, question: do we really need to eat ten portions of fruit and veg a day?!
Where did this 10-a-day figure come from?
This week's hype has all come from this study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology by a group of medical and academic researchers.It's a review of current evidence, looking at a total of ninety-five studies that have already been done, and combining their results to generate one huge analysis.
From the combined studies they've found that consuming 800g of fruit and veg a day (equivalent to ten 80g portions) can reduce the risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease and the risk of death. Consuming fruit and vegetables reduces the risk, and consuming more each day, up to 800g, reduces the risks further. Therefore the more portions of fruit and veg you eat a day, the more you reduce your risks of these diseases (compared to eating none).
The NHS Behind the Headlines pages do great summaries of health research that makes the headlines, and I'd thoroughly recommend reading this review of the study for more information about the strengths and limitations of the report.
Is increasing fruit and vegetable intake enough?
Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in our diets is just one change we can make to improve our overall health, but it's not the only one.
There are lots of other factors to take into account, including other aspects of our diets, exercise and lifestyle choices. Adding in a load of extra veggies won't change much if you're still eating a diet high in saturated fats, leading a sedentary lifestyle and smoking!
Is 10-a-day realistic?
According to figures stated in lots of the news reports I've read this week, only about a third of people in the UK are even meeting the 5-a-day target, raising questions about whether upping it to ten is realistic.
Aiming for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is the public health advice here; supposedly an achievable number with the knowledge that eating even more than this brings further benefits. If public health advisors were to change this advice to 10-a-day, I think people would struggle and this isn't the kind of encouragement needed to get everyone thinking about healthier lifestyles!
10-a-day isn't impossible or unachievable, but it's a big jump from where the majority of people in the UK are right now.
How can we up our fruit and veg intake?
We're already advised that fruit and vegetables should be making up about 50% of our diet, but I think we still tend to see them as "additions" to our meals. Starting to think about vegetables and fruits as the main components helps shift them into the spotlight. I often pick out the vegetables I want to eat for my main meals first, then think about what will go with them rather than the other way around.
There's almost always a way to add one more portion to whatever you're eating - whether that's topping your porridge with a handful of berries, adding vegetables to stews, pies and sauces or having a fruit juice or smoothie with a meal.
If you're feeling inspired, here are some fruit and veg packed recipes to get upping your intake with!
What are your favourite ways to enjoy getting in your daily fruit and vegetable portions?