Health advisers tend to agree that we need to eat a minimum of 5 portions of fruit and veg a day to stay physically healthy. Now, a study has shown that if we increase the guidelines to seven portions our mental health would improve too. So what are the benefits of getting our 5 (or 7) a day? And what fruit and veg should we be eating?
Government recommends eating a minimum of 5 a day
Fruit and veg improve our mood
Our recommended 5-a-day figure is based on advice from the World Health Organisation, which suggests eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of health problems like heart disease, stroke, obesity and cancer.
But researchers from University of Warwick and Dartmouth College recently found that people who ate around eight 80g portions of fruit and vegetables a day felt more cheerful, loved and optimistic about their future. After analysing data on 80,000 Britons they concluded:
“Our findings are consistent with the need for high levels of fruit-and-vegetable consumption for mental health and not merely for physical health.”
The link between happiness and fruit and veg remained even when people’s exercise levels and overall diet were accounted for- two other factors that are known to influence mood.
UK at the bottom of the league table
A Brit, on average, eats less fruit and veg than almost any other European. For many people in the UK, 5 portions of fruit and veg seem unachievable, but the figure is actually very low when compared with guidelines around the world.
In Australia the recommended amount of fruit and veg is seven, and in Greece it is nine. The French are told to eat 10 portions a day, and the Japanese an impressive 13 portions of veg and 4 pieces of fruit. It’s no coincidence that Japanese women have the second highest life expectancy of any country in the world!
A handful of blackberries counts as one of your 5 a day portions
So what makes up a portion of fruit?
One of the problems with the ‘5-a-day’ mantra is knowing the portion size. One portion should be about 80g after you’ve peeled, pipped and chopped the fruit up, but this can be hard to visualise. The Department of Health offers a handy guide online- here are a few examples of what constitutes a portion:
- One handful of blackberries
- Two spears of broccoli
- One medium onion
- 14 button mushrooms
- Two handfuls of fresh raspberries
- One medium tomato or seven cherry tomatoes
Get rewarded for living a healthy lifestyle
If you need motivation for eating your five-a-day, you may benefit from medical insurance policy like PruHealth’s Vitality Scheme. PruHealth customers collect 10 Nectar points for every £1 spent on healthy food in Sainsbury’s, from a list of over 1,500 products. Customers are also awarded 1 Vitality point for every £2 spent. The more Vitality points collected, the bigger the rewards, with get discounts on things like cinema tickets and Caribbean cruises.
Compare PruHealth plans online with ActiveQuote now to kick-start your healthy diet.
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