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Should we be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day?

Most of us have heard the five a day message. However, in April new advice was issued. It turns out that to really benefit and prolong our lives we need to eat at the very least seven helpings of fruit and vegetables a day.

Why seven and not five a day?

The new advice was issued after an extensive study carried out by a team from The University College London (UCL). Their statistics are compelling. They studied the diets of 65,000 people, a huge study group, so the results are unlikely to be down to chance.

The length of the study is another reason that we feel that everyone needs to take the findings seriously, with the sample group’s eating habits analysed for eight years.

The findings of the study

In particular, the UCL team looked for a correlation between cause of death and diet and they found several. Overall, those people who ate at least seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day had a much lower risk of mortality.

The headline figures

Simply put, individuals who ate more veg and fruit lived longer and were less likely to suffer from serious diseases.

When the researchers looked at the cause of death, the subjects who ate only three to five portions a day were found to have an overall reduced mortality risk of 29%, while those who consumed seven or more servings had a 42% reduction. For cancer, the 3-5 group saw a 19% reduction compared to that of 25% for the 7+ sample, and those analysed had a lower risk of dying from heart disease of 18% to 31% respectively.

How much is a portion of fruit or vegetables?

As you can see, the statistics are quite compelling, so naturally many people are trying to eat even more fresh veg and fruit. However, not everyone knows how much a portion is, which makes it hard for them to measure their intake.

For children, it is enough food to fit into the palm of their hand. As they grow, their portions get bigger.

Adults can use the same measurement. However, small people who follow this advice can end up not eating enough. On the other hand, a big person will normally end up eating more than they need.

Overall, portion size depends on the item, but they do tend to fit into certain groups. For fruit, one portion could constitute two small items like plums or kiwis, while also one medium sized piece of produce, such as a banana or apple. For larger fruit, for example, a grapefruit, one portion usually equals half, while 30 grams is a realistic portion for dried fruit.

Vegetables are a bit easier. Most of the time you need to eat between two and four heaped tablespoons per portion.

In conclusion

Without a doubt, it is wise to try to eat seven portions of fruit and veg every day. Doing so is not as hard as you think. If you eat seven 80-gram portions of any fruit or vegetable, you will be meeting the target.

Posted by Mark
May 24, 2014
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