What actually counts as our five-a-day?

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We all know what eating our ‘five a day’ means by now, whether that’s making the extra effort to get veg in our diets or making a joke about it as we chomp down on a bar of chocolate.

But if we think about it a bit harder, do we really know what it means?

Does eating five pieces of fruit count, for instance? What happens if we don’t eat five pieces of fruit or veg a day? Do smoothies count?

With the help of Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at Superfooduk.com, and from the NHS here are a few things we found out.

Fruit juice
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Your five a day should contain a little fruit, but mostly vegetables

“People don’t generally seem to have a problem eating fruit, and the five a day concept is confusing – with some thinking that the message translates into five portions of fruit per day,” Wilkinson explains.

“Fruit, while nutritionally good for us; does still contain natural sugar (fructose) so the ratio should be one portion of fruit to four portions of vegetables. If you eat more than five portions of vegetables in one day, do not exceed more than one to two portions of fruit.”

Eating five fruit and vegetables a day isn’t just about fibre intake

Fibre supports our digestion and helps maintain a healthy gut, but fruit and veg is also a great source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

Vegetables cooking
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It doesn’t have to be raw to count

It can be in soups, pasta dishes and any cooked foods, and can be frozen or canned too. Be careful about dried fruits though – while a 30g portion of it counts, avoid having it as a snack (as opposed to part of a meal) as it might hurt your teeth.

Nutritionists and food researchers have said for some time that ‘five a day’ is really a minimum

“It’s really more like between seven and 10 portions per day we should be having,” says Wilkinson.

“So if people are not even meeting five portions, we really are a fruit and vegetable deprived nation!”

Fruit sliced
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Potatoes don’t count as one of your five

While they’re a starchy food and a great source of energy, fibre, B vitamins and potassium, we generally use them in place of other sources of starch such as pasta, bread and rice – which means they don’t count.

Not eating our five a day could have some pretty dire consequences

“Not eating enough fresh fruit and veg can cause significant health consequences, such as mineral and vitamin deficiencies, digestive and weight problems, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels,” Wilkinson warns.

Don’t go too crazy on the fruit juice

While many fruit juice cartons say a portion is one of your five a day, the NHS recommends we limit fruit and vegetable juices (or smoothies) to just 150ml a day.

What do you do to make sure you eat a minimum of five fruit and vegetables a day? Tweet us at @YahooStyleUK.

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