Five portions of fruit and vegetables is now not enough 

  • Published: 08 November 2014,
  • The Say Team

“Five helpings of fruit and vegetables a day may not be enough” new research claims.


On Tuesday morning, ironically April Fool’s day, papers were dominated by the headline that ‘five a day’ should now be ‘seven a day’. Some media, including The Telegraph and Metro, went as far as recommending ten portions of fruit and vegetables a day.


The claim comes from research carried out by the University College London (UCL), which investigated the dietary habits of 65,000 people from England between 2001 and 2013. It reported the following findings.


Eating seven portions or fruit and vegetables can:

–       Reduce a person’s overall risk of death by 42% (over those who just have one portion)

–       Reduce a person’s risk of dying of heart disease by 31%

–       Reduce a person’s risk of dying of cancer by 25%.


A college scoffed in disgust at this new advice, asking how anyone can be expected to eat that many portions a day, and what is a portion size anyway?! Later that day I sent her to the NHS Choices webpage which explains exactly what constitutes a portion of fruit or vegetables:


–       7 cherry tomatoes

–       2 plums

–       14 cherries

–       Seven strawberries

–       Half a grape fruit

–       Three sticks of celery


We were both surprised at how big some of these portions actually were, I always thought I was easily eating the recommended five portions a day, but those examples made me re-think. Is this latest advice obviously unachievable and therefore at risk of losing credibility? The Telegraph agreed, saying “Messing with the sacred cows of health advice is dangerous: we run the risk of undermining the strength of such messages.”


The Department of Health recommends a minimum of five portions a day, therefore the seven a day message, is not conflicting, but arguably supports their message.


“When it comes to fruit and vegetables, as long as you watch your calorie and sugar intake it is very much the case of “the more the merrier.  NHS Choices


Research has found that most British people fail to meet their recommended five portions a day, averaging on around 3.5. Therefore I agree that priming people with a higher number will hopefully push the average consumption upwards, if five-a-day is longer be seen as a ‘good day’ but a ‘standard day’ in the public’s eye.


My view, to the naysayers, is this – how can any research that highlights the benefits of, and the need for, healthy eating, and encourages people to potentially swap a mid-afternoon snack from a biscuit to a healthy piece of fruit, be a negative thing?

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