Consuming ten servings of veg and fruit per day is recommended in order to ward off heart disease, cancer and premature death. That’s the latest health advice from a review conducted by Imperial College, London, which included studies of close to 2 million people.
What if I don’t even get my 5 a day?
Many people already struggle to get close to the ‘five a day’ currently recommended by UK authorities. Consuming some is better than none, so even if you are only getting a couple of servings per day, don’t give up, you can always build on your personal best! Aim to ‘eat a rainbow’ as the more varied the colours of your diet, the more diverse the plant nutrient boosters you’re getting. Green coloured veg is particularly protective, so load up on your greens! The protective benefits of veg and fruit are amplified the more of them that you have. But how can we fit 10 servings into our daily diet, and what are the best choices to make?
Veg versus fruit
In regards to nutrient content and reduced sugar levels, vegetables are generally superior to fruit, so aim for four potions of veg to just one portion of fruit.
What is a portion size?
A serving of fresh veg or fruit is 80g. This could be one medium sized apple, or half a cup of a cooked green or orange vegetable. It’s worthwhile getting your kitchen scales out to get familiar with what a portion looks like. Then it will be easier to tally up how you have fared during the day.
Make a soup
Soups are an excellent way to get plenty of veg. Try sautéing a half teaspoon of cumin powder with a small brown onion and medium potato cubed, add 2 cups of finely chopped leeks and 2-3 cups of stock to cover the veg. Add a bay leaf and gently simmer until all veg is softened. Add a cup of peas for the last five minutes of cooking, to keep their vivid greenness. Depending on how thick you like your soup you can add or remove some stock. Remove the bay leaf and whizz the soup in the blender. Serve with plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, a pinch of fine Himalayan salt, some parsley and a good squeeze of lemon. That’s about nine portions of vegetables in one pot! You may not get through the whole soup, but you can share it or save some for a delicious warming breakfast.
Swap other foods for veg
Great ways to get more veg and fruit into your diet include: replacing pasta by spiralizing courgette or sweet potato; using aubergine and pumpkin slices instead of pasta sheets in lasagne; learning to make cauliflower rice; freezing bananas and blending them with strawberries to make ‘ice cream’; shredding lettuce or Chinese cabbage to replace rice noodles in Asian dishes; using lentils instead of mince in bolognaise sauce, as one serving per day of ‘beans’ can count as a veg.
Add a slice of lemon or orange or drop a few blueberries into your herbal tea; make crudités of broccoli, cauliflower and cucumber for dipping; thinly slice a sweet potato and toast in the toaster for a dipping ‘bread’.
Home-made green smoothies are also great, but bear in mind that store bought juices and most bottled smoothies have such a high sugar content that they can only be counted as 1 portion of fruit no matter how much you have. This is not the case for a smoothie made at home using greens, whole fruit, and preferably coconut or filtered water to blend.
Eating more veg and fruit will not only improve your chances of a long and healthy life, but will also lift your mood and improve your waistline. We recommend buying organic whenever you can to maximise nutrient content and reduce toxins. Experiment and enjoy!
By Naturopath and CNM lecturer Gemma Hurditch