5 a day

I thought I would start with an easy one. The concept behind ‘5 a day’ seems simple enough and the NHS provide a lot of information about what your ‘5 a day’ can consist of and, also, why we should be eating five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. According to the NHS:

5 A DAY is based on advice from the World Health Organization, which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

In the UK, we have taken the 400g recommendation and turned it into a message about getting five 80g portions every day. So I guess that this is the first confusion-busting message:

1portion

Does it get more complicated than that? Of course it does.

The NHS recommend that we eat a variety of fruit and vegetables each day “because different fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients”. That would seem to make sense and, to be honest, I don’t think I could stomach eating five apples every day. That’s a lot of apples.

Most, but not all, fruit and vegetables count towards your daily total and, again, the NHS provide a guide to what is an acceptable portion of fruit or vegetables. Remember, we’re talking about 80g per portion, or thereabouts. It’s not always possible to measure your fruit (who carries a set of scales with them wherever they go?), so there are some approximations that the NHS suggest, for example:

Small fruit

At the other end of the scale, how much mango makes up a portion?

Large fruit

There are also guidelines for dried fruit, tinned fruit, green vegetables, cooked vegetables, salad vegetables and tinned and frozen vegetables and all of these are available on the NHS link above. The poor potato doesn’t make the cut though, because it is classed as a starchy food, so you cannot count that towards your daily total.

Now here is something that I hadn’t realised: pulses and beans also count towards your ‘5 a day’. But there is a catch. However many you eat, they can only ever count as one portion, no more.

Pulse

Other than that thing that hammers out a rat-a-tat rhythm as I run, a pulse is ‘an edible seed that grows in a pod’. So that includes baked beans, lentils, garden peas, runner beans, chick peas, broad beans, butter beans and so on. Chuck three heaped tablespoons of any of them into your dinner and you have yourself a portion. Throw a few more in and you might feel fuller, but you will still only have one portion.

So let’s recap quickly.

In and out

It is interesting to note that plantains (that variety of banana that must be cooked before they are eaten) are not acceptable, but bananas are. Perhaps that is where I had the strange idea that you couldn’t count a banana as one of your ‘5 a day’.

As we saw earlier, the advice is not to eat five portions of the same thing (so don’t go eating 70 cherries and thinking you’re okay), but can you eat more than one portion of anything? However many pulses you pile on your plate, they will only ever count as one portion, but if I ate two apples, does that make two portions?

The answers seem a little less certain in this area and I guess that is understandable. At the end of the day, this is not a magic formula. If you eat your five portions every day, it will not guarantee you health and long life. If you miss out on your ‘5 a day’, it is not certain that you will wither away and perish. But there is evidence that eating more fruit and vegetables can help improve your health. The aim of the ‘5 a day’ initiative is to encourage us to eat fruit and vegetables every day and to make sure that we eat enough. Five portions is a recommendation and it makes sense for those five portions to include a variety of different fruit and vegetables. So we probably owe it to ourselves to try a range of fruit and vegetables every day. And, to be honest, it’s going to make life a little more interesting isn’t it? Variety is the spice of life, and all that.

And talking of spice, I wonder if there are any benefits to including spice in our diet? Perhaps that is something to look into. Watch out Google, here I go again, back down the rabbit hole…


Running Buffet is not run by a health expert, nor a food scientist. I did once get a food hygiene qualification but that was a long time ago and I have since lost the certificate. I am, instead, an enthusiastic amateur. So please do not rely solely on anything I have to say in these posts, but you may be able to use them as a starting point, a jumping-off point, from which to build up your own opinions on what is right and what is not. I will provide links to various websites, but please be aware that I am not responsible for those sites, nor do I necessarily agree with what they say.

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2 thoughts on “5 a day

  1. Pingback: Aqua vitae | Running Buffet

  2. Pingback: Let’s look at the evidence | Running Buffet

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