Thursday, 14 April 2011

It's not just me!

I've been telling clients for years that five portions of fruit and veg is a minimum for optimum health and that everyone should be eating eight portions daily - but because government guidelines have said five is the right number I think my advice often falls on deaf ears.

Well finally there is some official advice to back me up - the World Health Organisation are now recommending we eat eight portions of fruit and vegetables. Hurrah!

The World Cancer Research Fund has long advocated between five- and 10-a-day whilst research by the UK Institute for Optimum Nutrition, where I studied, found that the healthiest people they surveyed ate eat eight-a-day.

Outside the UK recommended intakes have been higher for sometime - In Denmark it's six, in Australia seven, Spain eight, Greece nine, Canada "up to 10" and Japan an astonishing 17 (it's no surprise that the Japanese are the longest living nation).

So why does the UK government only recommend five portions?

It's more than likely that five a day was picked by the government as a realistically low goal for a nation that is notoriously unhealthy rather than because it's actually what we need. However I think the low goal has lead to complacency and that a lot of people who think they are eating five portions of fruit and veg a day are actually eating a lot less.

Research from the department of health showed only 1 in 3 brits actually consumed five portions of fruit and veg daily. At least with a higher target even if people miss it they might still eat more portions trying to get there. I have to admit I often set five a day as an initial goal for clients but ultimately I want them on eight portions a day for optimum health.

Have a think about what you ate yesterday and jot down how much fruit and veg you had when you weren't consciously making an effort - you might be surprised at how little you had.

However if eight portions sounds too much don't be put off from trying - actually it's pretty easy:
Yesterday I had: berries with my breakfast, a salad of peppers, spinach and cucumber with my lunch, some carrot sticks as part of a snack, pak choi and baby leaf salad with my dinner and the juice of a lime in my favourite daily cherry active cocktail.

That's eight portions without any difficulty and that's before you count the cherry active which has equivalent antioxidants to 15+ portions of fruit and veg.

But that's an important caveat - I don't let my clients count juices, smoothies or concentrated antioxidant supplements for more than one portion as you lose some of the nutrients in this process and concentrate the sugars. This is why I also recommend everyone eats more portions of veg than fruit, as otherwise someone could be eating 8 portions of tropical fruit a day sending their blood sugar into orbit, whilst thinking they we're being healthy!

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