Are you eating your 5-a-day? And is that enough anyway?!

OK, so I think most of us would agree that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is good for us! Most of us have had it drummed into us for years that we need to be eating at least 5 portions a day. But are we actually doing this? And is 5 portions a day enough anyway?!

The UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed that on average adults are only consuming 4.1 portions per day! Only around 15% of women and 13% of men achieve the goal of consuming the daily recommended 5 portions. What about you? How many portions do you think you are consuming a day?

The 5-a-day campaign was launched by the Government in 2003. It was in response to the World Health Organisation’s recommendations that adults should consume at least 400g of fruit and vegetables a day (with the idea that one portion is 80g). Since then further research has suggested that consuming 7, or even 10, portions a day is even more beneficial. One study found that those consuming 7 portions of fresh fruits and vegetables had a reduced risk of 42% of dying early (vegetables had a greater impact than fruits). This was in comparison to a 29% lower risk for those only eating between 3 and 5 servings. Another study indicated that eating up to 10 portions could significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and premature death. In other words, 5 is good but 10 is better!

Let’s have a look at just a few of the reasons why vegetables are so important.

· They are high in fibre which helps to lower cholesterol, may reduce risk of heart disease and aids bowel health.

· Vegetables, such as onions, garlics and leeks, are good sources of prebiotics that ‘feed’ your good gut bacteria.

· They are a good source of vitamins and minerals (including potassium, folate and vitamin C), as well as other phytochemicals (such as beta-carotene, lycopene and resveratrol).

· They are low in fat and calories.

· Green leafy vegetables are loaded with magnesium which helps balance cortisol (a stress hormone) and keep blood pressure low.

· They help hydrate the skin (which helps prevent wrinkles! Yes please!!) and protect it from sun damage.

· Vegetables are important for bone health providing calcium, silica, magnesium and other minerals.

Often when we think about eating healthily or going on a ‘diet’ we think of restricting or limiting ourselves. I love encouraging you to eat more vegetables because it is all about adding and abundance! I hope you are so busy eating an amazing array of all different colours and types of vegetables that you don’t even think about reaching for the biscuit tin! Forget soggy cabbage and boiled-to-death broccoli! Vegetables do not have to be boring or tasteless. There are so many types and thousands of ways to prepare them. Tell me I’m not the only person who thinks vegetables are beautiful?!

Here are some more handy tips for getting more vegetables into your diet everyday…

· Aim for half your plate to be made up of vegetables (and some fruit)

· Add greens (such as kale, spinach or avocado) into a breakfast smoothie.

· Add a bowl of side salad to lunch or dinner

· Cut up some veggie dippers (carrot, cucumber, radishes, celery, baby corn) as a snack

· Sneak some extra veg into main dishes that you already love, such as cottage pie, lasagne or curry.

· Experiment with veggie noodles (such as carrot, courgette or butternut) — you’ll need a spiralizer for this!

· Add herbs (these count as vegetables too!) into any pasta, rice or grain dish.

· Add pureed onions, carrots, peppers or squash into a basic tomato sauce.

· Try making cauliflower rice! (Just Google it!)

So let’s get peeling, chopping, grating, slicing, dicing, steaming, roasting, mashing, spiralizing, juicing and munching on as many vegetables as we can!

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