We know fruit and vegetables are important to our health – so much so that some scientists say they should be on prescription! But what counts as a portion and are you really eating enough?
It’s one of those pieces of advice we all know by heart: eat five portions of fruit or veg every day. And yet, like so much good advice, it’s often ignored. Topping up your consumption of all things fresh and fruity is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to avoid illness later in life.
In fact, scientists now suggest that fruit and vegetables should be prescribed by doctors, saying this would ultimately save more money than preventative drugs.
“Having your five a day can bring many benefits, including serious diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, as well as obesity and its associated health problems such as type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Lucy Chambers, senior scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. Not to mention a dose of fiber to keep your digestion in good shape. So no more swerving the salad aisle – double up on your portion sizes and get cooking!
How Fruits and Vegetables Give You a Boost
“Vegetables and fruit provide a range of vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed for good health, as well as bioactive compounds such as polyphenols that can help protect against illness,” says Dr. Chambers. “Each type of vegetable and fruit has different amounts and combinations of these nutrients and compounds. To make sure you get the full benefit, it’s best to eat a wide variety.”
Getting your levels right doesn’t just mean eating bags of apples – there are portions of vegetables in soups, pasta sauces, and stews (but if you buy them ready-made, watch for high levels of sugar, fat, and salt). Canned food is a cheap way to push up portions, just check that your canned fruit or vegetables don’t have added sugar or salt.
Challenge yourself to get fruit or vegetables into every meal. Top your cereal with fresh or dried fruit, add mashed banana into your porridge, and pop grilled tomatoes or mushrooms on the side of your eggs. For main meals, mix frozen veggies into your rice, top your pizza with spinach, mushrooms, onion (or whatever takes your fancy), or add grated carrot or zucchini to a pre-made pasta sauce.
Think about snacks too. There are lots of ways to add a full portion in between meals. Slice a carrot or half a pepper to dip in hummus, have a handful of dried fruit, or chop four large strawberries and add them to natural yogurt. To make sure you get as many nutrients as possible, aim for a rainbow of colors too!
What counts as five a day?
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Yours.