How much fruit and vegetables should I eat?

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A recent study has suggested that we should significantly increase the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat from five a day to at least seven. In fact other studies have recommended 11 a day to prevent cancer.
Ref; Oyebode O, Gordon-Dseagu V, Walker A, Mindell J. Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer, and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. J Epidemiol Community Health Published Online First: [31 March 2014] doi:10.1136/jech-2013-203500
This study shows that eating vegetables is better for us than eating fruit (probably because fruit has far more sugar in it) and that eating tinned fruit seems to be positively bad for us (again, probably because it is often in a syrup). Also the study found no benefit from drinking fruit juice, and so this would be the same for commercially bought smoothies.  This study also suggested eating no more than 3 pieces of fruit a day and the rest of your portions to be vegetables.  Importantly, you should eat them, not drink them.
So how do you eat your seven-a-day?
The Functional medicine model of nutritional research recommends you to eat a “rainbow”.  The key message is variety. Apparently we eat only 11 foods on a regular basis and often that’s habit and lack of time in a busy life to think about what you are putting in your body as fuel.
How do you eat a rainbow?

1) Add Blue and Purple to your breakfast
Blue and purple foods get their colouring from a group of flavonoids called anthocyanins. They are particularly high in blackberries, and blueberries,. There is evidence that anthocyanins may improve memory and cognitive function in people as they get older. They are also really important in fighting cancer and reducing heart disease.  Just add some fresh or frozen blackberries or blueberries to your cereal or porridge in the morning to give a lovely splash of colour and taste.
If you really want to be healthy you could drink some beetroot juice which is great for the liver.
2) Add Orange and Yellow to your snack
Fruit and vegetables with yellow or orange in them are rich in carotenoids. Eg orange peppers and carrots. The type of carotenoid you find in carrots can be converted to retinol, an active form of vitamin A. As vitamin A is important for healthy eyesight, this may explain why carrots are supposed to help you see in the dark. Vitamin A also plays an important role in bone growth and regulating our immune system. As well as carrots you will also find carotenoids in sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and butternut squash.
Raw carrots with hummous will give a healthy energy boost midmorning to stop the cravings for cakes and biscuits with your midmorning tea and coffee.

3) Add Red to your lunch
Another class of carotenoids that produces the colour red are called the lycopenes. Lycopenes are rich in red tomatoes and especially cooked tomatoes which actually boosts the levels of lycopene. The reason is that heat helps break down the plant’s thick cell walls, making the nutrient more available.   So fresh tomato soup or roasted tomatoes, sundried tomatoes or just plain fresh tomatoes are really good for your immune system, eyesight and skin as it protects you from the damage caused by the sun.
4) Add White to your afternoon snack
A banana is a great stop gap until dinner.  It also contains magnesium and potassium, calming down the adrenals from the stress of the day.  Try eating with some nuts and seeds to give you a boost of energy, also good for minerals and protein.

5) Add Green to your dinner
Add “leafy greens” to your evening meal ideally steaming them for 8-10 mins and , include spinach, chard, lettuce and kale, which are a good sources of minerals such as magnesium, manganese and potassium. These are vital for preventing high blood pressure, recovery from exercise and reducing muscle cramp!  It doesn’t take long also to do a stirfry , mixing in your greens with all the colours!
Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and sprouts are members of the brassica family contain sulphur and organosulphur compounds. Sulphur is essential for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant.  Glutathione protects your brain from Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline in later life.  Well worth eating that extra sprout!!

So by adding in an extra apple after one of your meals and a bowl of salad with your lunch, you have your 7 a day.  Dare I say you will see the difference!!
Further advice
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/5aday/documents/downloads/5aday_portion_guide.pdf

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