We all know the importance of hitting our 5-a-day, or even 7-a-day, but a UK health survey study actually showed that in 2017, less than a third of people in the UK actually hit this amount.
Need some extra encouragement to fill up on more fruit and veg? These health benefits should do the trick.
Ruth Tongue, nutritionist at FOGA (opens in new tab) shares her expert advice on why you need to make the most of what the earth has to offer…
Five a day health benefits
Eating your five a day reduces your risk of cancer and other serious diseases
‘Improved heart health, reduced risk of many cancers and an improved chance of maintaining a healthy weight, are just some of the benefits of eating your 5-a-day,’ says Ruth. However the benefits don’t just end there. ‘Fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, which are highly nutritious active compounds within plants. One brilliant group of phytonutrients are carotenoids, which can be found in most orange, yellow or red coloured fruit and vegetables including carrots, peppers and sweet potatoes.’
Ruth explains that these not only have protective effects against cancers, but also contain high levels of melanin, the pigment that helps to protect our skin against sun damage.
‘In addition, studies have found that diets high in carotenoids have positive effects on the texture, clarity, colour, strength, and elasticity of skin!’
So it’s a no brainer, really.
Eating your five a day gives you a natural mood boost
‘As if having glowing skin and energy wasn’t enough of a motivator, research has also shown that eating just one extra portion of fruit and vegetables each day can boost mental wellbeing by the same amount as walking for an additional ten minutes a day,’ says Ruth. She explains that some studies suggest that deficiencies in nutrients such as pantothenic acid and vitamin B6, could be the cause of depression in those who do not consume enough plant foods.
Eating your five a day can help you manage your weight
They might be low calorie but their high fibre content means fruit and veg is great at keeping you full. Ruth adds that some studies have even shown that ‘the incredible phytochemicals found in fruit and vegetables may even help to fight off obesity, due to their effect on fat cells in the body.’
Eating your five a day can have gut boosting benefits
‘There are trillions of fruits and vegetables which are a great source of fibre to help maintain a healthy gut and prevent constipation and other digestion problems,’ explains Ruth. By boosting your gut microbiome diversity (the microbe population living in our intestine) by eating a range of fruit and veg, research has shown that people are often happier with better immune systems, less likely to suffer from gastric issues, skin complaints and even sleep better!
Eating your five a day gives you an energy boost
‘Although they are significantly low in calories and a great convenience snack, fruit and veg are also a high source of carbohydrate,’ says Ruth. Whilst many people try to avoid carbohydrates, it’s actually your body’s primary energy source. Ruth adds: ‘The fructose and glucose in fruits and vegetables are all natural, and do not require the work of digestive enzymes to break them down. Therefore, they are a much quicker and healthier way to give your body energy, rather than reaching for a “healthy” protein bar.’
Lucy Gornall is the former Health & Fitness editor at Future and a personal trainer specializing in pre and post-natal exercise.
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