Saturday, 29 August 2015

What does 5 a day mean?

"5 a day" has been the advice given to UK consumers for over 10 years; that is, for optimum health you should eat a minimum of 5 different fruits and vegetables a day.

This came from world health organisation advice that we should eat 400g of non starchy fruits and vegetables daily, this is because insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables causes deaths.  Yes, you read that right.  If a drug was this effective, it would be the new wonder potion and people would pay a fortune for it.

Different governments have interpreted this differently but in the UK the government broke this down into five 80g portions.

But this is the thing; it is a minimum not a target and sadly it's not worked.

70% of the UK population fail to eat 5 a day.

Advice around the world varies.  In Australia the advice is 2+5 (2 fruit, 5 vegetables).  In the US the message is "more matters" which is a little less clear and is very unclear on their website that the original intention of the WHO advice was to exclude starchy vegetables.  Do I sense the hand of a potato lobbyist in the heart of the US government?

Recent research has suggested 7-10 is the optimal number, of which more should be vegetables.  Laughable really when we're so bad at eating 5!

So what counts as part of your 5 a day?  Personally I would aim for 5 different fresh fruits and vegetables every day if you can, especially if you're eating them raw but if you can't, these others also count (some can only count as 1 portion a day however much you have.)

1 portion of Fruit juice - see note below
1 portion of Pulses
Tinned fruit and vegetables - see note below
Frozen fruit and vegetables - see note below
1 portion of dried fruit

So read the above correctly and you realise you can have a portion of fruit juice from concentrate, hummus, some tinned strawberries, some frozen peas and some raisins.  Hang on, that's 5 a day and you've not had a whiff of anything fresh from the field?  I'm not sure that was quite what the WHO meant?

The above is official UK government advice, however, the research referenced here and above stated that fruit juice appeared to have no protective effect and tinned and frozen fruits and vegetables appeared to not help at all.  I can see why this is but will take all of this with a small pinch of salt.  There is a wide variety in what a tinned fruit or vegetable is.  It could be sugary tinned cling peaches in syrup (what is a cling peach anyway) or tinned tomatoes which are an excellent source of lycopene.  Likewise juices can be made from the whole fruit or vegetable into a smoothie and drunk within minutes of preparation or they could be extracted, fibre removed so you're left with mostly sugar, concentrated, destroying many of the vitamins, reconstituted, etc, etc.  You get my point but the way the UK government has interpreted the WHO advice does slightly miss the point in my view.  Fresh has to be better, frozen, yes I can see why that could also be good, pulses have their place for sure but it cannot be right to be able to comply with the 5 a day message without eating anything fresh.

In my opinion, the best idea is to eat as fresh as you can, "eat a rainbow" so you get a range of nutrients and include fruits and vegetables into every meal.  If you can eat some raw, even better.  Many of us do this naturally, especially with the bounty of fresh produce in summer and autumn.

 I've included a recipe for each colour just to show you how easy it is.


I love tomatoes at their best.  Try this simple tomato salad with herb vinaigrette as a light meal or side dish.

Eat some delicious:

Red peppers


Make this carrot apple and ginger smoothie for breakfast and you'll definitely wake up!

The vibrant bunch:

Butternut squash
Sweet Potato
Clementines / Satsumas


Prawn and pineapple skewers with a yellow pepper and cucumber salad.

Also include:

Yellow peppers
Honeydew melon
Swede (rutabaga)


A great and surprisingly filling lunch box salad of broad beans and sugar snap peas

Great greens include:

Broad Beans
Savoy cabbage
Kiwi fruit
Sugar snap peas
Rocket (arugula)

Blue / Purple

Blueberry breakfast bowl.  A great way to start the day.

Other blue or purple options include:

Red cabbage
Black grapes

White / Brown

Indulgent cauliflower cheese is not an every day treat but if it's instead of mac and cheese?  It's a much better option.  Mix it up by making with half cauliflower, half broccoli to squeese two of your portions in.  You can even add in sliced cooked green beans as well.

Others include:


Have a go.  It's worth checking sometimes that you are reaching your 5-10 a day as it's harder than you think.  Aim for variety, try something new.  Really eat fresh!

Live It Up at the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Blog Hop #85


  1. Even though I love to eat lots of fruits and vegetables I am not always sure if I have eaten enough so this post is such a helpful resource. I am delighted that you shared this healthy reference with us on the Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop. I'm pinning and sharing.


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