A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables is something we all aim to do, but what sort of intake is most beneficial? In Australia, we are all familiar with the 5 and 2 catch phrase referring to our recommended vegetable and fruit intake. However, new research out of the UK is showing for the best outcomes, we may need to eat well beyond 5 and 2.
The recent research identified that while the current UK recommendations of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily is very beneficial to reduce risk of disease, the greatest benefit came from eating 10 serves daily. This is equivalent to 800g in total, broken down into 10 x 80g portions of fruit and vegetables. Specifically, compared to eating no fruit and vegetables, 10 portions daily was found to be associated with:
- 33% reduced risk of stroke
- 31% reduction in premature death
- 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- 24% reduced risk of heart disease
- 13% reduced risk of total cancer
What is an 80g portion?
An 80g portion is equivalent to:
- 1 banana
- 1 apple
- 1 pear
- 3 tbsp. cooked vegetables including spinach, peas or broccoli
How does this compare to Australian serving sizes?
According to the Australian Government, a serve of vegetables is approx. 75g, equivalent to:
- ½ cup cooked greens or orange vegetables
- 1 cup leafy or raw salad vegetables
- ½ medium potato
- 1 medium tomato
A standard serve of fruit is approx. 150g, equivalent to:
- 1 medium apple, banana or pear
- 2 small apricots, kiwi or plums
Best pick of the bunch?
The research looked at which individual types of fruits and vegetables were most effective for preventing different types of disease and found the following:
- Coronary heart disease, stroke and/or cardiovascular disease: apples/pears, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables, tomato and beta-carotene rich and vitamin C-rich fruit and vegetables
- Total cancer: cruciferous vegetables and green-yellow vegetables
- All-cause mortality; apples/pears, berries, citrus fruits, cooked vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, potatoes and green leafy vegetables.
How do fruit and veg benefit health?
Fruit and vegetables are a rich source of nutrients, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants which all work together to reduce risk of chronic disease. Fruit and vegetables also contain fibre, which is proven to reduce signs of cardiovascular disease including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, inflammation and poor vascular function. Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli and cauliflower contain compounds, which help support detoxification that can improve hormone balance and also has a beneficial effect on gut bacteria balance. Finally, being low in energy increasing fruit and vegetable intake may help support weight loss or prevent weight gain, both important for reduced chronic disease risk.
How to add more fruit and vegetable to your day?
- Start the day with a fresh vegetable juice with 1 x fruit added
- Snack on fruit or raw vegetables with a plant-based dip such as hummus or beetroot and lentil
- Add a handful of rocket or alfalfa to your toast in the morning
- Add tomato, onion, capsicum and herbs to scrambled eggs or omelette in the morning
- Aim for at least ½ plate vegetables at main meals
- Grate vegetables into meatball mixes and Bolognese sauce
- When eating out, order an extra side of vegetables or side salad
- Cook a batch of vegetable and fruit based muffins for weekly snacks eg beetroot and carrot
- At lunch instead of a full sandwich try an open sandwich with 1 slice bread and extra handful salad
- Make a vegetable based slice using eggs, grains and a mixture of vegetables and freeze into portions for quick meals
- Have a homemade vegetable soup for lunch a few times weekly
- Adopt meat free Monday in your house hold weekly
- If having dessert aim for fresh fruit with yoghurt, nuts and seeds
It is important to remember, this research specifically looks at chronic disease risk, 800g daily may not be achievable for all, and the research did not state factors which can increase fruit/veg demand such as smoking etc. The message to take away, is that fruit and veg intake is important for health and if you are not someone who actively consumes regular veg/fruit, its a good reminder, to aim to increase your portions as best you can. Alternatively, if you are someone who eats regular fruit and veg and can easily add more fruit and veg to your day, it is very likely to benefit long-term health!
Dagfinn Aune, Edward Giovannucci, Paolo Boffetta, Lars T. Fadnes, NaNa Keum, Teresa Norat, Darren C. Greenwood, Elio Riboli, Lars J. Vatten, Serena Tonstad. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality–a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyw319