The science of nutrition and healthy eating
The science of nutrition and healthy eating

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The science of nutrition and healthy eating

1.2 Five a day – or more?

The current UK healthy eating advice is at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. These provide a good source of vitamins and minerals, particularly folate, vitamin C and potassium, and dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy gut.

Large-scale studies also indicate that individuals who eat more fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of heart diseases, stroke and cancer. Fruit and vegetables are usually low in calories and fat, so they can help with weight control.

Activity 3 Eating five a day

Timing: Allow approximately 35 minutes.

First, watch the following video.

Download this video clip.Video player: snhe_1_week_6_vid_2.mp4
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Fruit and veggies are so rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and they’re low in fat. But what’s really interesting is that there’s worldwide research to show that eating five portions of fruits and veggies a day can help to reduce the incidence of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers. It’s really important because what we have in our bodies are free radicals. These are substances that cause inflammatory reactions in our body. Each portion represents one serving or one portion of your five a day.
I don’t know. I thought an apple was one portion. I don’t know maybe – I honestly don’t know actually.
It’s like – no. I just eat two pieces of fruit a day and try to eat as much vegetables as possible. I guess one cup of vegetables is one portion? I don’t know.
So, for example, one portion of your five a day could be a banana, or a pear, an apple, an orange. You know, roughly a handful of grapes or cherries or strawberries. When it comes to vegetables, beans and pulses count once a day. So three tablespoons of any beans, just baked beans, or chickpeas, or kidney beans. No matter how much you have, they will count once a day. And the reason for that is that they didn’t have quite the same range of nutrients as the other fruits and vegetables. A bowl of salad, for example, or in terms of salad vegetables. Something like a 5 centimetre stick of cucumber. Not quite a whole carrot there. An average tomato.
Other vegetables – around three tablespoons of any type of vegetable will count towards your five a day. That would be one portion each. And a glass of fruit juice, an average-sized glass of unsweetened fruit juice, again, will count just once a day no matter how much you drink because you have stripped the fruit of its natural fibre. In terms of dried fruit also, you know, about a heaped tablespoon of any dried fruit counts. And even canned fruit will count. Roughly three tablespoons.
Well, recently, I’ve been eating five a day veggies and fruit because I’ve got two young children so obviously we’re trying to give them a decent diet. So it’s made me think more.
I just try to dump as much into a stir-fry as possible.
It’s usually – dinner’s usually quite a vegetabley-type meal. Probably two for dinner in the evening. Lunchtime is – try to get salad with it.
In terms of snacks in the office, it’s really quite easy to have an apple or a pear in your desk drawer. Or perhaps to take some dried fruit and have that on the way to work. Or have a smoothie is another way if you’ve missed breakfast, which I’m not advocating, but if you’ve missed your breakfast, that’s another way to try and have something in the morning.
I mean, I never used to but now, I find I’ve got an apple or a banana in my bag, which I’m getting used to now. So rather than going to get my customary Mars bar, I snack on that. So I’m probably eating better now than I did all my life, really.
If you’re worried about trying to incorporate five a day into your diet, just start with one more. So look at what you’re eating. Add one more and gradually add number one. And it could be as simple as just taking a piece of fruit to work, or having some dried fruit in your desk next to you, or having some salad with your sandwich at lunch time. For more information, visit
End transcript
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Now read the BBC article Seven-a-day fruit and veg ‘saves lives’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Stephens, 2014).

How close do you get to your five (or seven) portions of fruit and vegetables a day?

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