Sorry everyone: five won’t cut it any more. According to a new study, living the healthiest life possible means consuming 10 daily portions of fruit and veg. Such is the nutritional power conferred by the fruit bowl and veg box, in fact, that 10 a day could save 7.8 million people a year from an early death.
Researchers at Imperial College London’s school of public health set out to find how much fruit and vegetables is needed to gain the maximum protection against disease and premature death. “Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better,” said lead author Dr Dagfinn Aune.
Analysing the results from 95 different studies involving a total of about 2 million people, the researchers found that eating 800 g of fruit or veg, or 10 portions, a day was associated with reducing the risk of heart disease by almost a quarter (24 per cent), stroke by a third (33 per cent), cardiovascular disease and premature death by about the same amount (28 per cent and 31 per cent respectively), and the risk of all cancers by 13 per cent.
Aune explained that these antioxidant-rich foods may reduce damage to DNA that leads to increased risk of cancer, and have been shown to cut cholesterol, lower blood pressure and boost the health of our immune systems and blood vessels.
The good news about these fantastic foods follows less good news about an awful one: hidden sugar. There is so much in today’s processed food that children and young people are eating the equivalent of five jam doughnuts or 20 choc-chip biscuits a day – an astonishing 73.2 g, more than double the maximum safe level of 30 g.
The calculations were made by campaign group the Obesity Health Alliance, which is calling for urgent action to encourage food companies to cut back on the amount of sugar they load into the products such as breakfast cereal. Public Health England has said it wants manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar they use in their food by a fifth by 2020.
One good idea put forward by the British Medical Association that would help address both issues would be for the government to plough the proceeds of a sugar tax into making fruit and veg cheaper. Then eating 10 portions a day would not only make you healthier but also save you from bankruptcy.