10 is the new 5…apparently

So most of us know we should try and eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day to be on the way to a healthy diet don’t we?

Well, now we all need to think again and re-plan those meals because research by Imperial College in London says forget 5, its 10 portions you should go for. In an almost smug fashion, the research effectively says, “yeah, 5 is good, but 10 is way better if you don’t want to die prematurely”.

My stepmother’s favourite food is cauliflower…raw cauliflower. I know. In fact her only vice is diet Pepsi, which admittedly isn’t very good for you, but if that’s the only ‘bad’ thing you consume…and your favourite food is raw cauliflower, I think it’s allowed. While we are all likely to know someone who has an abnormally healthy diet and loves Quinoa; it isn’t what most people are like. We tend to like something fried and greasy now and then, or some chocolate as a treat (unless you stupidly took up a bet to give up chocolate for 2017. Don’t ask).

However, let’s for a second think that we could squeeze 800g  (10 x 80g portions is recommended) of fruit and veg into a day, what would it look like;

2 x Kiwi Fruit
1 x Apple
1 x Pear
½ Grapefruit
8 Cauliflower florets (stepmother in heaven!)
1 glass of orange juice
3 x tablespoons of peas
2 x broccoli spears
1 x tomato
1 x banana

 

1 x regular bowel…

 

To me that seems like a lot of food, considering there is no diary or protein yet.

According to the research, the benefits of consuming this level of plant matter are seen in a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, 33% reduced risk of stroke, 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, 13% reduced risk of total cancer and a 31% reduction in premature deaths. Now to be fair, they are some eyebrow raising stats and we’d all like to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and early death, but everyone also needs a healthy dose of realism.

Many people buy fruit and vegetables with the very real intention of actually eating it. I know however, that it is the food item that I end up throwing away most, as it passes its shelf life and turns brown, mushy and furry in my bowl or fridge. This is obviously not deliberate, but despite good intentions plans change and recipes don’t end up getting made, or my kids decide what they liked yesterday they will never eat again even if it means no Paw Patrol for a month.

To be serious for a minute, when I throw away mouldy fruit and veg, I am throwing away money, and not a small amount. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not cheap when feeding a family, either in monetary terms or in fact in the time they take to prepare. It means that trying to get three or four portions on a dinner plate, as is required to hit the target, is a difficult, inconvenient task for many and the advice can act to make people feel inadequate for unintentionally increasing a family members chance of chronic heart disease.

Taking a step back, and being a bit fairer to the research, it does add that the beneficial figures are when compared to someone who has little or no fruit and veg a day. Those people managing to only get two and a half portions regularly will still be benefitting from a 16% reduction in heart disease risk, 18% reduced risk of stroke, 4% reduced risk of cancer and a 15% reduction in the chance of premature death.

In summary, what radical new information have we really learned? That we need to eat more fruit and vegetables to live longer, but we knew that didn’t we? The problem comes when we give a number to it, something to measure and compare against. With such figures comes the expectation and pressure to conform, which may make you feel fed up, which is when you reach for the treats, be that chocolate, cakes or in some cases raw cauliflower.