Friday, 24 February 2017

Real Health | Do we really need to eat 10 fruit and veg a day?

Fruit and vegetables

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?!

Handful of tomatoes

The Evidence

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.

Yoghurt with blueberries and mango

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! 

Healthy lunches with vegetables

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. 

Vegetable Chilli

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?


  1. I felt like I was finally good at doing 5 a day and then it got upped to 10! I've been trying to snack more on fruit and love making veges the star of the show - doing things like stuffed peppers or stuffed sweet potato!

    Jasmin Charlotte

    1. Five a day is still the official advice as a target, but the more the better! I love things like stuffed peppers, I don't make that often enough :)

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  3. As much as I agree that everyone needs to up their fruit and veg, aiming for numbers of portions is unrealistic when you think about actually how expensive fruit and veg is and the people who's lifestyles would most benefit from changing their diet are also usually the people who can't afford. So I have very mixed feelings about the whole 5/10 portions a day.

    1. I agree, it's all well and good setting a number but it's another thing altogether to actually enable people to meet it. Buying and preparing a healthy diet needs to be affordable and achievable for those most in need of it!

  4. I tend to get between 5-6 portions in a day (mainly veg - my stomach does not appreciate a lot of fruit!), but sometimes it can be as little as 1. I always try to have something with every meal though - and eat veggie twice a week to both cut bills and try new things.

    Tonight we're having tandoori cauliflower steaks with a veggie curry - it's already smelling good!

    NINEGRANDSTUDENT: A Lifestyle Blog

  5. I saw the discussion and I've decided to make my own little experiment, last week we had 10-a-day. I thought that I will struggle, but it was relatively easy. I had a couple of days with more than the recommended 10. I also realized that I have my 5-a-day without any problems.
    I hope you don't mind, I left a link to my post, if you want to have a look.
    10 a day for 1 week


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