In a report that is sure to make wary parents and kids groan with frustration, health experts warn that eating 5 portions of fruit a day is not enough after all.
Everyone from schools to the NHS and even the government have literally drummed the 5 a day mantra into our heads for the last few years and now we hear that we need to eat even more greens if we hope to see our grand kids.
The research carried out by experts at the University College London over a period of 8 years, revealed that eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, including salads, was linked to living a longer life and could also lower the chance of death from heart disease, stroke and cancer.
They also said that eating at least seven portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day was linked to a 42% lower risk of death from all causes, a 25% lower risk of cancer and 31% lower risk of heart disease or stroke.
The study led by Dr Oyinlola Oyebode from the department of epidemiology and public health at UCL, also had some surprising findings in store.
Eating more vegetables could provide you more immunity against diseases than eating fruits. Also, for those of us who’ve been cheating by eating canned fruit and veg, the study reveals that this could be doing more harm than good as those who consumed canned fruits and vegetables had a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.
“Most canned fruit contains high sugar levels and cheaper varieties are packed in syrup rather than fruit juice,” explains Dr Oyebode. “The negative health impacts of the sugar may well outweigh any benefits. Another possibility is that there are confounding factors that we could not control for, such as poor access to fresh groceries among people who have pre-existing health conditions, hectic lifestyles or who live in deprived areas.”
Oyebode says that a different approach is necessary if we are to hit targets achieved by countries like Australia who advice citizens to go for 2+5, meaning 2 portions of fruits and 5 portions of vegetables a day.
Speaking to the Guardian, she said that the UK should emulate the Australian example.
“I think it makes a lot of sense,” she said. “It is aiming for more and the balance is two fruit and five veg. From our study it looks like vegetables are better than fruit. But I don’t feel very strongly that the guidelines should be changed because the majority of people know they should eat five a day and only 25% manage that.”
“Anything that could increase the accessibility and affordability of fruit and vegetables would be very helpful, such as working with corner shops to make sure they stock them,” she said.
“Petrol stations could also offer fruit and vegetables and maybe the Healthy Start scheme – which gives families on less than £16,000 vouchers for fruit and vegetables – could be extended.”