Friday, 4 April 2014

Seven Portions of Fruit & Vegetables a Day

This week the British public were surprisingly informed to drop the "5 a day" rule and follow the new recommendation of "7 a day" or even "10 a day" 80 gram portions of fruit and vegetables. The latter is the recommendation of doctors at the University of Liverpool in an accompanying editorial to the recently  published research study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health conducted by University College London. Several of my work colleagues couldn't believe that this was at all possible, most of them complaining that they couldn't even follow the "5 a day" rule!

This increase in the advised daily consumption of fruit and vegetables has been suggested by an analysis of lifestyle data from more than 65,000 adults aged at least 35 between 2001 and 2008 which discovered that eating at least seven daily portions of fruit and veggies resulted in a 40% reduced risk of death overall, with a 30% reduced risk of heart disease and a 25% reduced risk of death by cancer.

This is good news for vegetarians and vegans!!

However, the study also revealed that eating tinned and frozen fruit increased the risk of premature death by 17 per cent probably because the added sugar cancelled out the positive effect of the fruit itself. Although I'm aware that sugar is added to tins of fruit, I've never seen sugar in my frozen fruit, have you?

In addition, the research study suggested that vegetables are much more effective in preventing an early death than fruit. Two to three daily portions of vegetables resulted in a 19 per cent lower risk of death among those studied, compared with 10 per cent for the equivalent amount of fruit.

But how easy is it to eat at least 560 grams of vegetables a day? It doesn't seem that daunting to a long term veggie like myself since I've always thought I must be eating the recommended amount for years. But even I had to question - what does 7 portions of fruit and veggies really look like?

Click HERE to see a list of portion sizes put together by the NHS. I've selected a few from the list as an example and REMEMBER, potatoes are not counted  :

Fruit :
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 handfuls of blueberries
  • 1 large slice of pineapple
  • 1 slice of melon
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of cooked rhubarb
  • 9 strawberries
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 heaped tablespoon dried fruit (30 g reconstituted weight)
Vegetables :
  • 5 spears asparagus
  • 3 heaped tablespoons cooked beans
  • 3 baby whole beetroot
  • 3 heaped tablespoons cooked diced butternut squash
  • 2 handfuls sliced cabbage
  • 3 heaped tablespoons sliced fresh carrots
  • 8 florets of cauliflower
  • 4 heaped tablespoons collard greens
  • 2" piece of cucumber
  • 1 medium onion
  • a dessert bowl of salad leaves
  • 3 heaped tablespoons peas
  • half a fresh pepper
  • 1 cob sweetcorn
  • 1 large sweet potato
Further advice includes :
  • Beans and pulses count as a maximum of one portion a day regardless of how much you eat because, while pulses contain fibre, they don’t give the same mixture of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as fruit and vegetables.
  • Smoothies can only count as a maximum of two portions, however much you drink. For a single smoothie to qualify as being two portions, it must contain either at least 80 g of one variety of whole fruit and/or vegetable and at least 150 ml of a different variety of 100% fruit and/or vegetable juice, or a minimum of 80 g of one variety of whole fruit and/or vegetable and at least 80 g of another variety of whole fruit and/or vegetable.
  • 1 medium 150 ml glass of unsweetened 100% vegetable juice can count as a portion. Juices can only count as a maximum of one portion, however much you drink.
  • The 7 a day should be split into 5 of vegetables and 2 of fruit.

Yesterday I ate :
  • 1 banana
  • 2 mandarin oranges
  • 1 small bunch grapes
  • 1 handful raisins
  • 3 large florets cauliflower
  • 3 large tablespoons collard greens
  • 3 large tablespoons cooked carrots
  • Onion gravy made with 1 onion
  • Bean & Nut Burger containing: peanuts, onion, carrot, garlic, haricot beans, celery & tahini (peanuts and tahini don't count)

I enjoyed between 8 and 10 portions but I snacked on fruit at work and didn't eat lunch so if I had prepared a large salad for the middle of the day, I would have consumed well over 10 portions. AND I did eat more than 2 portions of fruit, perhaps I will start taking carrot and cucumber sticks to work instead.

Clearly, in order to eat this amount of fruit and vegetables, they need to be the major component of the meal. So pile up your plate with different coloured vegetables and you will soon start to feel the benefit!

Do you eat the recommended daily allowance of fruit and vegetables? If not, are you going to take the advice on board and change how you eat?

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This article has been shared at The Hearth & Soul HopFat TuesdayGluten-Free WednesdaysAllergy-Free WednesdaysWhole Food Fridays


  1. Beautiful photos, Vicky. I think if we commit to eating the fruits and veggies first before the treats, we'd have no problem getting them all in. ;-)


    1. Thank you SHirley! The first two were taken in Canada and the others at our local Farm Shop! I totally agree about putting the veggies & fruit first but is there any space left for the treats?

  2. Hi Vicky,

    I'm interested to know where you can find collard greens in the UK? I've never seen them here!


    1. Hi Catherine, collard greens is actually another name for spring cabbage.

  3. Very useful post vicky. Lovely. Thanks for sharing with Hearth and Soul blog hop.

  4. Hi Vicky,
    I love this post! I was really pleased to read more about the new research - and also to have it finally clarified that potatoes are not included! (Let's just say there have been many attempts to convince me that they are!!) Although I do eat meat, I'm so into my fruit and vegetables that I really don't find it hard to eat at least 7 portions a day. I've never heard of sugar being included in frozen fruit - and I honestly thought canned fruit packed in juice was okay - but I guess it's best to have fresh wherever possible anyway :-) Thank you for sharing this really informative and interesting post with us at The Hearth and Soul Hop. I'll be pinning and sharing it!

    1. I don't know why I missed your comment April but thank you for your thoughts. I don't think they add sugar to frozen fruit over here and I think canned fruit in juice is fine - they're probably referring to the syrup varieties. It's always nice to have a post to share over at The Hearth and Soul Blog Hop.

  5. Absolutely great news for vegetarians and vegans, I would go for a 7 a day (5 of veggies and 2 of fruit…). Veggies and fruits are all yummy! I bet we eat more of these than people who aren’t vegans or vegetarians. I love potatoes…sad they aren’t counted though and how interesting that the smoothies can only count as a max. of 2 portions! You ate very well that day…the veggies are very easy to use since they are so good in any vegan dishes!

    1. I know so many people who don't eat fruit and vegetables, I'm so glad I do! I don't eat many potatoes, just occasionally, they definitely raise my blood sugar levels. I think when you've eaten a healthy diet for a long time you become so sensitive to certain foods.

  6. And finally they get realistic! People need loads of veggies to stay healthy. I think if people have trouble with ating it, the best thing is to make a heavily loaded veggie tomato sauce. You can just put anything on it. I'm happy here there are lots of kebab places that serve huge cheap salads in here (as cheap as eating out can be in Belgium...). That is one of my favorit ones eating out, along with chinese (again, loads of veggies, when we order a discount menu for 2 we get food for 3, glad to bring something home!)

    1. I totally agree! I'm always astounded when I watch cookery programmes and they serve a piece of meat with the tiniest portion of vegetables - maybe 3 or 4 peas and a little sauce! My husband and I are always astounded how many vegetables we get through in the week! Our shopping basket is totally different from other people in the queue at the check-out!

      I totally agree if people made a sauce from the vegetables, they will get a good portion of their daily needs.

      Thank you for your input, it's always good to know people are eating their portions of fruit and vegetables.