Five-a-day: fruit and veg portions explained

Yahoo Lifestyle

If you valiantly try to scoff down five portions of fruit and vegetables a day as recommended by government health officials, take heart - you're adding years to your life.

New research has found that eating your five a day increases life expectancy by around three years and even managing just three a day can give you an 18 month advantage over those who didn't eat fruit and veg every day.

The researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden said their findings backed up the World Health Organisation's recommendations that we should all eat at least 400g of fruit and veg a day.

But, as we all know, it's not always that easy. Five portions is actually quite a lot and many nutritionists actually suggest we aim for more like eight portions, with five of those being vegetables. It can also be hard to tell what counts as a full portion and which vegetables count?

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Five a day: The facts

You can work out what a single portion of fruit is by eye. You need about a handful of small fruits to add up to one serving. For example, two kiwis, two satsumas or two plums and for even smaller fruits such as berries and cherries,  a portion is more like seven or eight.

For larger fruits such as mangoes and melons, half of the full fruit counts as a portion.

A portion of veg is around the size of your palm for uncooked veggies such as raw broccoli florets or carrots. Once cooked, a measure of three heaped tablespoons counts as a portion. For example peas.

Vegetables that don't count include potatoes, which are classed as starchy carbs. Yams and plantains also fit into the category. Onions and mushrooms do count, though.

Tinned, dried, frozen or fresh?

Fruit and veg are available in various states. Frozen veggies are thought to be even better than fresh as they retain many of their nutrients that fresh food loses in its journey from field to plate.

Tinned aren't as good as fresh or frozen but last longer and are cheaper which makes their nutrients good value for money. Both tinned and frozen should be eaten in the same portion sizes as fresh.

Take care with dried fruits as they shrink but still contain the same amount of sugar. One portion of dried fruit would be about one tablespoon of small fruits such as raisins or a handful of bigger fruits, such as banana slices.

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Beans and pulses

Beans, lentils and pulses all come under the five a day umbrella. Three heaped tablespoons of cooked beans counts as a portion. However, no matter how many varieties of bean or lentil you eat, they will only count as one every day.

Juice and smoothies

The craze for turning our fruit and veg to liquid seems to be here to stay but nutritionists recommend you don't drink more than one glass of fruit juice or a smoothie a day.

They're great if you're short on time and will count as one of your five-a-day but they aren't as good for you as eating the fruits whole, as they the juicing process breaks down much of the fibre.

Common foods that should carry a health warning: