A common misconception is that eating just two or three of your recommended five-a-day in the UK is acceptable because you’re almost there. Right? False!
WHO Says 5 A Day?
The World Health Organization published a report on a study group of diet, nutrition, and the prevention of chronic diseases (WHO, 1990). This specified upper and lower limits for nutrient intakes, as well as addressing activity levels, lifestyle, and health. The lower limit suggested for fruit and vegetables was 400 g/day; set judgementally rather than from specific evidence. One portion of fruit and veg is 80 g, hence 400 g equals your 5 A Day. There is no upper limit for fruit and veg intake. Your 5 A Day is a minimum. If you can get more – why not!? Higher fruit, vegetable, and legume intake (375 g-500 g) has been associated with lower risks of non-cardiovascular mortality, total mortality in one study (Miller et al., 2017) and all-cause mortality including cardiovascular in another (Wang et al., 2014).
What Counts as Your 5-A-Day?
Virtually all fruit and vegetables are one of your 5 A Day; be they fresh, canned, or frozen (NHS). Frozen fruit and veg may even retain more of its nutrients as the freezing process helps retain nutritious vitamins and minerals. Getting at least 5 A Day might be easier than you think. Some examples are below:
- Two small kiwis
- A medium apple or orange
- Large slice of pineapple
- Two broccoli spears
- Three heaped tablespoons of veg e.g. carrots or peas
- Three sticks of celery
If you have canned fruit or veg, go for those with no added sugar or salt. High sugar and salt intakes have been associated with adverse health effects like obesity and high blood pressure. 80 g of beans and pulses (lentils, baked beans, kidney beans etc) count too, although only as one of your 5 A Day, no matter how many portions you have. Despite being rich in fibre, they do not contain as many nutrients as other fruit and veg.
Small amounts of dried fruit (30 g, like sultanas and dates) and fruit/veg juices or smoothies (150 ml – a small glass). These should be consumed in small amounts due to the high sugar content that can be harmful to your teeth amongst other dangers (BDA).
5 A Day foods help to bulk out your plate with nutrient-dense, often lower-calorie alternatives to what you may choose currently. and the fibres within can help slow down gastric emptying in the digestive process, increase satiety (‘fullness’), and reducing postprandial blood glucose thanks to their classification as low-glycemic foods.
Known also as ‘blood sugar’, this is the ‘spike’ in blood glucose levels after a meal which triggers an insulin response. Low-GI foods (high-fibre) reduces slows glucose absorption and reduces such responses (McArdle, Katch, and Katch, 2014).
High-GI foods, like sugary treats and low-fibre choices, give you more of a blood sugar spike and an excessive release of insulin. A large spike will drop quickly and make you hungry again. You could add vegetables and pulses to stews, fill your plate with more salad, and make healthier swaps by switching your sweets from a piece of fruit.
So there you are, always be sure to attain a minimum 5-a-day strategy if you are aiming to train, perform and recover to the best of your ability. It may be worth mentioning that the fast pace of lifestyles, balancing multiple demands, training, travel and exercise can and does pose extra stress on youth athletes when looking to attain their minimum 5-a-day intake. YSN® developed PROTEEN® for exactly this reason - to ensure that nutritional deficiencies are eliminated. And, if whole food sources cant be bought, purchased or prior prepared, a single scoop will provide upto 100% of the unique and advanced nutrient needs of developing athletes for all top level sports.
- World Health Organization. (1990). Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: Report of a WHO study group (Technical report series; 797). World Health Organization.
- Miller, V. et al. (2017). Fruit, vegetable, and legume intake, and cardiovascular disease and deaths in 18 countries (PURE): a prospective cohort study. Lancet. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32253-5.
- Wang, X. et al. (2014). Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: Systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. British Medical Journal, 349, 5472.
- McArdle, W., Katch, F., & Katch, Victor L. (2014). Exercise physiology: Nutrition, energy and human performance (Eighth edition; International ed.).
Author Credit: Liam Oliver - Nutrition Student at British Diving