A new study done by the Imperial College London have found research that proves that eating 10 portions of fruit and veg a day could significantly reduce a person's risk of heart disease and cancer. While eating the recommended five a day still helps reduce disease risk, the study found that the highest benefits are seen when people consume 10 portions in a day, or what equates to 800g of fruit and vegetables.
A daily intake of two and a half portions was associated with a 16% reduced risk of heart disease, a 4% lower risk of cancer and a 15% reduction tin the risk of premature death. Compare that to 10 portions of fruit and veg and they found it was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% lower risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduction in the risk of dying prematurely.
The authors estimate that if everyone on the plated ate 10 portions of fruit and veg a day then 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented world wide.
Which is all well and good, of course it is. We have been given the opportunity to make good health choices and actually given a chance at lengthening our lives but seriously, how realistic is it for the average person to find the time and money to eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables every single day?
We go out for dinner and order a pizza which, if you're like me and enjoy a simple margarita some with no veg at all (not sure the tomato counts in this instance). So what do I do? If the restaurant has the option then perhaps I order three side portions of different vegetables, which cost at least £3 a go? That comes to an extra £10 spent on my dinner, assuming that I've got room for it all after a pizza.
What about lunch at your desk in work? A sand which with a lonely piece of lettuce in it? That won't cut the mustard, not if you've got to squeeze 800g of nutrients into your body so you buy a couple of fruit salads as well? That probably comes to about £8 in a London supermarket which most of us can't afford to splash out at lunch time. And then there is the risk of eating too much sugar...
That same problem arises at breakfast. Any nutritionist worth their salt will tell you that starting your day with too much sugar, albeit naturally occurring sugars from fruit, can cause weight gain or energy crashes throughout the day, if not more serious conditions and diseases. We should limit our fruit intake we say.... but what? Have spinach with breakfast? Not likely.
And snacking on veg is hard too. If you're organised perhaps you can peel and chop a carrot and pop it into a doggy back before work but that's about as convenient as it get's. Most veg tastes disgusting cold and carrying around a soggy broccoli in your bag sounds pretty minging.
Even looking at my diet, which I consider to be fairly flipping healthy most days, I come into problems. Look at what I eat on a really, really good day when I'm working from home, have a full fridge and the time and inclination to cook:
Breakfast. Museli with coconut yoghurt, raspberries and blueberries.
Lunch: Maybe an egg or two with chicken, bread and avocado.
Dinner: Perhaps a homemade bolognese with courgette, spinach, kale and peas.
That's fairly good I'd say and doable because that's what I had for breakfast on Monday. On Monday when I was at home for most the day and had the time to do it. And that's still only seven pieces. Even with ALL that food and goodness I've still only got up to seven pieces.
So now let's look at a busy, shitty, stressful, NORMAL day when I'm out and about and working shall we?
Breakfast: Museli with no fruit because I've run out and it's raining and even if it wasn't I can't afford to buy a box of raspberries for £2.
Lunch: A handful of nuts, whatever cereal bar I can find in my handbag, perhaps some gluten free crackers and maybe some cold chicken if I have been really organised, I probably haven't been though so might need to pop in to the supermarket and buy an apple or a banana. Not both though cause of the sugar remember!
Dinner: A burger with chips because it's Thursday and it's cheap and that's what all my friends are doing. It came with a gherkin but I flipping hate gherkins so maybe I'll just have the bit of lettuce that's gone soggy next to the meet.
That's my life some days, lots of days, and I barely even squeezed one proper portion into it. So what am I supposed to do? What I have just described is a lot of people's lives, we're busy and we're broke and we're confused and no one is doing anything to actually help us.
Although I love what good intentions I have and that we are all being encouraged to adopt these intentions, I can't help but think that realistically there is not a lot that we can do with information like this. Of course we want to do what we can to ensure a happy and healthy life, of course if we have the chance we will grab the opportunity to slash our risk of cancer, but I truly believe that this is something that is too hard for us to do on our own.
Fruit and veg is very expensive and supermarkets aren't offering enough in the way of reasonably priced, properly nutritious lunch options for us. Restaurants too are bad, most places in London will charge you about £5 for a side plate and even that is just one portion of veg. It's great that we do have access to fruit but the sugar thing is something that we need to take into consideration wherever possible.
I am grateful that I was brought up knowing that I should eat five-a-day, it's something that I have always kept in the back of my mind when making food choices and probably has helped me to be healthier in my life so far, we need to know the importance of fruit and veg and how good it is for our insides, but I do feel that studies like this would be much better off landing on the government's desks rather than in our newspapers.
We're trying, most of us are really trying to be healthy, but we're not being given the help that we need to do it properly. School canteens, supermarkets, restaurants, they're the ones that need to see this, without their help I don't see a way that we can fit in our ten a day and prevent the 7.8 million premature deaths each year.