Should you be eating SEVEN-a-day? As it’s claimed five daily portions of fruit and veg aren’t enough, what do our experts say…
NO says Rose Prince
As a child, my mother knew that if I was to eat my greens, there had to be an incentive — even if it was the threat my hair would never curl.
She would never have simply barked ‘Just do it,’ as the health campaigners did this week when they insisted we should all up our intake of fruit and vegetables from five-a-day to seven.
Their diktat may be logical. After all, it can come as no surprise that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables will make us live longer.
But for all the virtue behind this new recommendation, it is totally unrealistic. After all, most people in this country do not eat five-a-day as it is. So, if we’re not meeting this target, how can we expect to leap up to seven all at once?
Setting such a high target may have the effect of making those who know they can’t manage five-a-day give up altogether.
BUT WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION? AND ARE SOME HEALTHIER THAN OTHERS?
The new advice does not take into account the root cause of why most shoppers don’t pick healthy foods: they are more expensive.
To buy fresh fruit and veg for a family of four costs almost £1,500 more per year than more convenient options. In these straitened times, a can of peaches in syrup can seem a better choice than four fresh peaches.
And chips are vegetables, too — aren’t they? Most shoppers have good intentions, especially if they’re shopping for a young family.
But on arrival at the supermarket till, such virtuous objectives tend to evaporate. The gas bill or grapes and gooseberries? It’s not hard to see why we’re in the state we’re in.
For good incentives to work there needs to be more than bossy decrees. Why haven’t we considered offering those on low incomes food vouchers for fruit and veg, as they do in the U.S.?
And before you shout ‘Austerity!’, let me tell you there are big advantages for the public purse in all this. Obesity levels in U.S. pre-school children have dropped — paying dividends by lowering medical bills.
Other imaginative initiatives could involve subsidising the business rates of greengrocers or offering free fruit in schools and workplaces.
If you want us to eat our greens, you need to dangle a carrot.
YES says Karol Sikora
Standing in the supermarket queue, I glanced into the trolley of the person in front of me. Overflowing with ready-meals and junk food, there was barely a vegetable or piece of fruit to be seen.
I wish I could say I was surprised, but sadly, as a cancer specialist, I see such poor diets all too often.
For many of my patients, it takes a life-threatening illness to start eating more of the fruit and vegetables that are vital for a long and healthy life.
That’s why I welcome the latest research that shows seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day cuts the risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.
It proves what I’ve always known: the World Health Organisation’s recommended five-a-day is woefully inadequate.
It was always arbitrary, based on no particular science other than the basic truth that fruit and vegetables are good for you.
Now, thank goodness, we have demonstrable proof that eating more is even better.
VEGETABLE PORTIONS: EAT TOMATOES TO PROTECT AGAINST CANCER AND ONIONS TO REDUCE BLOOD PRESSURE
Fruit and vegetables are nature’s way of keeping you healthy and they provide a far better guarantee of reaching a ripe old age than taking pills such as statins, which are so widely prescribed.
Plants contain cancer-preventing compounds that help mop up the dangerous free radicals we accumulate in our cells as we get older, causing DNA damage.
The simple truth is that when it comes to fruit and vegetables, you can’t have too many. That’s why I tell my cancer patients to cram as much in as they can.
I follow my own advice too, eating a minimum of seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day, from blueberries with my breakfast to broccoli with dinner.
In a generation, Britain has changed from a country in which meat was a luxury to one in which fatty dinners and fast food are the norm.
The stress of modern living means we’re not prepared to take time preparing food any more, so instead of chopping vegetables, we stick a heavily processed dish in the microwave.
Tragically, such conveniences are killing us.
And while too many believe that the answer to a healthy life lies in a packet of pills, the secret is actually in your garden, on the super- market shelves and behind your fridge door: fruit and vegetables.
PROCESSED FOODS: FRUIT ICE LOLLIES AND VEGETABLE CURRIES DO COUNT, BUT ONLY EAT THEM AS A TREAT
How frozen or tinned can be better than fresh