A recent National Health Survey showed that the average fruit and veg consumption for adults in the UK was 4.2 portions and 2.7 for teenagers! Only 31% of adults in the UK are getting the recommended 5-a-day. However, there is talk that we should be aiming for way more than this. So let’s discuss…
This 10-a-day guideline promotes the consumption of 800g of fruit and veg per day (although this can be consumed in a variety of ways e.g. not necessarily 10 80g servings). Evidently the idea of this is to get the population consuming more fruit and veg to increase their micronutrient profiles. Some research has shown that eating 10-aday can reduce the risks of cancer by 13% and heart disease by 24% (although these diseases are multifactorial and more research is required).
At this point you’re probably thinking why did the government suggest 5-a-day in the first place, if really, our bodies require much more than this? Let’s be realistic, if 5-aday isn’t being achieved - we wouldn’t have had much luck with 10!
Even 200g of fruit and veg daily has been shown to reduce disease risk.
You know I love my practical tips so here are my best ways for packing in the F+Vs.
· Get creative and look for new recipes to increase your fruit and veg intake.
· Rely on the frozen varieties. They’re cheaper and easier to cook with.
· Swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes, squash or carrots. For example, make a roast vegetable mash to top your cottage pie or vegetables chips with your fish are great ways to get some different vegetables onto your plate.
· Soups, stews and stir-frys are not only great way to pack in the veg, but also are amazing at using up whatever is leftover in the fridge. I love making a big soup on a Sunday evening to use up any leftover veg.
· If you are struggling with upping your veg intake, try choosing veg that are less hassle to prepare. Frozen peas for example such an easy way to incorporate another protein and veg into your meal
· Eat seasonally and try new fruit and vegetables when they come into season.Explore your local farmer’s market and try buying a new variety each week. This can really help you to get creative in the kitchen.
· Finally snack wisely.Switch crisps for hummus or guac and crudites.
So,what does 10 a-day look like?
Breakfast: Mushroom and spinach omelette with roasted vine tomatoes (2)
Snack: Fresh berries and whole almonds (1)
Lunch: Three bean salad with cucumber, red onion, lettuce, peppers and sweetcorn (3)
Snack:Banana or an apple (1)
Dinner: Thai chicken curry with pok choi, bean sprouts, green beans, peas (3)
Dessert:Dark chocolate (0!!!)
Total = 10 servings!
But what are the benefits, is 10-a-day really necessary?
· You’ll increase your fibre intake which has been linked to a reduction in colon cancer risk and improved bowel movement. Fibre acts as a digestive aid, helping stool move through the digestive system more easily.
· Improved gut health. F+V are a source of prebiotics. Prebiotics remain undigested until they reach the small intestine where they then act as a food source for your gut bacteria. This can help your gut microbiome thrive and increase its diversity and population.
· Increased micronutrient profiles. These have multiple benefits and are critical for almost every pathway in the body and they are particular important in an effective immune system - something that is particularly topical at this time of year.
· As F+Vs are high in water they can contribute to increased hydration.
· Eating seasonally means you could ensure a greater nutritional profile as you’re eating the produce at their natural stage of growth. This could include higher antioxidant and polyphenol contents and therefore more benefit to your body!
So overall 10-day is definitely something which we should all be aiming for (although take it slow). It’s not realistici to jump from 2 to 10 over night (and could cause a shock to the gut which may result in bloating, gas, stomach cramps and poor digestion). Try easing yourself in, gradually introducing more fruit and vegetable portions, week by week. A good way to encourage this is to try at least one new type of fruit and vegetable per week. This may also encourage you to eat seasonally and make the most of fresh produce.