Fruit and Veggies
Eating more fruit and vegetables could significantly reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including, high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. It has been estimated that diet is likely to contribute to the development of one-third of all cancers, and that eating more fruits and vegetables is the second most important cancer prevention strategy, after stopping smoking.
There is evidence to show that for every portion of fruits and vegetables eaten there is greater protection against strokes and some cancers. Other health benefits found have included a delay in the development of cataracts, reducing the symptoms of asthma, improving bowel function and better management of diabetes. Including more fruits and vegetables in the diet reduces the overall calorie density, which helps us to maintain a healthier weight.
Why are fruits and vegetables so beneficial?
Fruits and vegetables not only contain lots of vitamins and minerals, and important fibre, they also contain a wide range of plant nutrients or phytochemicals, such as flavonoids and phytoestrogens. Some of these phytochemicals act as antioxidants, which may reduce damage to cell DNA and cell membranes. Other phytochemicals are thought to influence the activation of carcinogens (cancer causing agents), or increase the level of protective liver enzymes. The phytochemicals and plant nutrients act together to provide us with the protective benefits of fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin and mineral supplements do not contain the range of phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables, and so are unlikely to provide us with the additional benefits that eating fruits and vegetables do.
What counts as a fruit and vegetable portion?
Fresh, frozen, canned, juiced or dried fruits and vegetables all count in the diet. Potatoes and similar starchy foods, such as sweet potatoes are carbohydrate
foods are included in the bread and cereals food group. These foods cannot
be counted as a daily portion of vegetables. You should aim to eat a minimum
of five portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day.
Quick guide to fruit and vegetable portions
One portion of fresh fruit is:
One medium fruit, such as one apple, banana, pear, orange, nectarine or peach.
Small-sized fruit: for example; two plums, two naartjies, three apricots, two kiwi fruit, seven strawberries, 14 cherries, six lychees (roughly what you can hold in your hand)
Large fruit: half a grapefruit, one slice of pawpaw, one slice of melon, one large slice of pineapple, two slices of mango.
Dried fruit: One tablespoon of raisins, currants, sultanas or mixed fruit, three prunes or three apricots.
Canned fruit: Roughly the same quantity of fruit that you would eat as a fresh portion: two pear or peach halves, six apricot halves, eight segments of canned grapefruit. Fruit canned in fruit juice is a healthier option.
Juice: One medium glass (150ml) of 100% fruit juice. Juice only counts as one portion a day, no matter how much you drink
One portion of vegetables is:
Cooked vegetables: Three heaped tablespoons of cooked (e.g. steamed, boiled, microwaved) vegetables such as courgettes, carrots, broccoli.
Salad vegetables: 1 cup salad
Canned and frozen vegetables: Roughly the same quantity as you would eat as a fresh portion. For example, three heaped tablespoons of canned or frozen carrots, peas or sweetcorn.
What about portion sizes for children?
These portion sizes are for adults. Children should be encouraged to eat five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day, but the portion sizes will be smaller – especially for young children. An easy measure of a portion is the amount that fits into the child’s hand. Children under five will learn to eat fruit and vegetables by copying their parents or other children when they are eating together.
Do fruit and vegetables included in a composite meal, count?
Composite dishes that contain several different fruits or vegetables, e.g. vegetable soups, ready-meals, pasta sauces and puddings can contribute to your 5 a day. However, many of these foods are high in added salt, sugar or fat. It is unlikely that a ready-meal will contain more than a single portion of vegetables. In order to increase your intake, serve vegetables to accompany ready-meals.