I thought I’d let the hysteria dust settle on the latest health panic before coming back with something a bit more measured, so here goes. At the start of April there was a load of hoo-haa after a nutrition study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health and various headlines in the wider press followed, screaming “7 a day fruit and vegetables is the minimum!” / “now you need 10 a day” / “canned fruit is going to hasten your demise” and so on.
First things first. Confounding factors during the study may have been responsible for the effects on life expectancy, rather than the foods themselves – major influencers on general health such as smoking, social class, levels of education and so on. These factors were unfortunately not taken into account (controlled for) in the study design.
I’d love to say take the results with a nice big pinch of salt, but that might not be good for your blood pressure either…
Anyway, back to it. Even if this study had been less flawed, it still wouldn’t negate the advice about 5-a-day being a good number to consume. The official advice/recommendation of 5 portions was always described as a suggested minimum and not an absolute figure, so we absolutely don’t need to throw that all out of the window. Seven a day was being mooted as an ‘ideal’ number way, way back in the day, it isn’t new.
If you’d like to read a more complex analysis of the recent study, there’s more information on the NHS website.
While I’m at it, any amount of fruit and veg is helpful really. One a day is far better than none. If you can’t stretch to five, please don’t give up completely and end up going for zero instead.
Most of all, though, don’t panic. The sensible rules still apply:
- Try to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables
- You can count one juice or smoothie per day (ideally unsweetened)
- Frozen fruit or veg is still good for you
- Canned fruit is not the enemy (if it’s in juice)
- You can count one portion of pulses per day (lentils, chick peas, kidney beans etc)
- You can count one small portion of dried fruit per day
- Don’t include potatoes in your count
If you’d like to include more fruit and vegetables in your daily diet without spending too much, here’s a concise article about easy ways to do this on a budget. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by the idea that a healthy diet is completely unaffordable, so try not to get into that mindset – there’s plenty that’s still affordable, especially if you stay away from pre-prepared foods and expensive imports.
I’d also recommend buying seasonal foods at the market, when they’re plentiful and the price comes down. Have a look at my seasonal foods calendar for some month-by-month inspiration – there’s always something fresh and delicious to buy.
And last but not least, growing your own food can save you a lot of money and help to keep you healthy (even if it’s just a few herbs on the windowsill).
Do you have any other tips to help people get cheap fruit and vegetables into their diet?