So we all know that we’re supposed to aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day – or do we? According to reports on a recent study, it seems that we should be eating seven or even ten!

Now, whilst I agree that eating more fruit and vegetables is a good thing, the conclusions that these articles have reached seem to me to be a little over the top. Huge numbers of Britons are already struggling to reach the recommended 5 a day (which, it should be remembered, is a minimum guideline.) Rather than raising the benchmark even higher, to a number which will seem unattainable to many, I believe the focus should be on guiding and helping people just to increase their intake of fruit and veg. Teaching people how to include fruit and veg in their diet, and in particular about seasonal fruit – as many cite expense as a major reason why they do not eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables.

I do genuinely believe that the details of the 5 a day guideline have not been made properly available. For example, I used to work with a lady who was very keen to start eating her 5 portions daily. One day she said to me “How do manage to fit your 5 a day in? I just can’t manage to eat all that extra food!” Yes, she was trying to add the five portions into her diet without removing anything. I can understand how that could happen though – I have read the 5 a day page on the NHS website a few times, and I actually cannot see anywhere where it explains that the extra fruit and/or vegetables are intended to replace less healthy foods. The other thing that is rarely mentioned is about the colours of the foods that we pick – ideally our 5 (or 7 or 10) a day should be made up of different coloured foods, to ensure a good range of vitamins is included. With that in mind, I made “seven speed curry” for my dinner. Seven Speed Curry I used foods that SW call speed foods – slow release, filling foods, which all also happen to fit into the government’s guidelines of vegetables which are acceptable, and I made sure that I used a lot of different coloured veg – red onion, tomatoes, yellow peppers, spinach, red (orange) lentils, mushrooms and aubergine. For extra health points I ate it with brown rice, and I have to say it was really good, and very filling!

There are a few issues with the study, mostly outlined in the article on the NHS website The main thing I see as an issue may just be me being pedantic, but I have seen numerous assurances in these articles that eating more fruit and vegetables lowers the risk of death. Death is inevitable. I’m sure that they really mean that it lowers the risk of premature death, or perhaps that it lowers the risk of deaths from certain illnesses, but the phrasing definitely needs to be altered in my opinion! The study also takes only a snapshot or each participant’s life – the food intake on the previous day. Circumstances change daily, and I think that more reliable results could have been obtained by use of a week of even two-week food diary. Finally, although the study attempts to take certain confounders into account, I believe that it is very difficult to take everything into account – and would definitely put forward the theory that people who regularly ensure they eat plenty fruit and vegetables will also eat healthily in other ways, and may well also exercise regularly, drink and smoke less and avoid other harmful substances.

So yes, I think that the study is interesting, and I do think that people should be eating more fruit and vegetables in general. But, I feel that the articles from the BBC and the Telegraph are almost scaremongering, and could do more harm than good.

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