So, a new study from Imperial College London, which concluded that if we want to protect ourselves against disease and premature death, we should actually be eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day – not 5. The study, which draws on findings from more than 2 million people, recently made headlines in the UK. It’s conclusions, that “eating up to 800grams per day – equivalent to 10 portions and double the recommended amount in the UK”. But how realistic is this? For those of us already struggling to meet current guidelines – let alone double that – don’t panic.
Let’s start with the maths. In Australia, our Dietary Guidelines already recommend a minimum of 5 x 75gram servings of vegetables (one serving = 1⁄2 cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw salad vegetables), plus 2 x 150gram servings of fruit each day. This totals 675grams of fruit and vegetables – or 85% (a lot more than half) of the 800gram target suggested in this study.
If you’re thinking that your diet is falling short of the targets – you certainly aren’t alone. Findings from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show 93% of us don’t eat enough vegetables, and only half of us eat enough fruit – so there’s definitely the danger that a headline to double our target may actually discourage people from trying to chew through their fruit and vegetable targets. A supplement isn’t going to make up for your lack of intake – the researchers observed that you need to eat whole fruits and vegetables to gain the “whole package of beneficial nutrients” crucial to health.
Bottom line is this, while 800 grams may be an ideal, the same study observed that a daily intake of even 200grams of fruits and vegetables (less than a third of Australian recommendations) is associated with significant disease protection. It doesn’t matter if your vegetables are raw, cooked, tinned, frozen – just aim for as many as you can, and a wide variety (not just 10 servings of potatoes).