Vitamins and Minerals – Are You Meeting Your 5-a-day?

What does 5-a-day mean?

“5-a-day” refers to the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables that we should aim to eat each day. Currently only 27% of adults in the UK achieve this 5-a-day recommendation [1]. The portions that count towards your 5-a-day include:

  • 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables;
  • 30g of dried fruit;
  • 150ml of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie;
  • 80g of beans and pulses.

However, beans and pulses, and drinks only count for one portion each day.

Why is it important to meet our 5-a-day?

There are a number of reasons why it is important to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables are one of our main sources of vitamins and minerals in our diet.

Kale, carrots and red peppers are all good sources of Vitamin A in our diet, a vitamin used for things like helping our immune system and vision. Vitamin B, used to help the body make energy from food and for brain function, can be found in green leafy vegetables and fruits like bananas and oranges. Citrus fruits, strawberries and broccoli contain Vitamin C, which helps to protect our bodies cells and maintain healthy skin. Vitamin D and calcium, used to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy, can both be found in spinach, white beans and kale. Iron, an important part of making red blood cells, can be found in kidney beans, dried fruits and chickpeas. We should aim to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables to ensure that we get all of these vitamins and minerals.

Additionally, fruit and vegetables are a great source of fibre, a nutrient that helps us to feel more satisfied after a meal and promotes gut health (you can read our blog on fibre for more information on this topic). They have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.

5-a-day myths

Many things may stop, or put people off eating their 5-a-day, but these factors can be easily debunked:

1.       “Fruit is full of sugar, it might make me put on weight” – fruit contains natural sugars, an important part of a diet as they contribute to our carbohydrate intake, which help to give us energy. Natural sugars are also a healthier alternative to refined sugars, which you can read more about on our carbohydrates blog.

2.       “Fruit and vegetables are too expensive” – frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables count as a portion towards your 5-a-day and tend to be cheaper than their fresh counterparts. You could also try visiting your local market where fruit and vegetables are usually cheaper than in supermarkets.

3.       “Frozen and tinned vegetables aren’t as good for you as fresh vegetables” – frozen and tinned vegetables are often frozen, or canned, soon after they are picked meaning that they may retain nutrients even better than fresh vegetables.

Top Tips for 5-a-day

1.       Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals that you need.

2.       Try shopping at your local market for a cheaper way to reach your 5-a-day.

3.       Don’t be afraid to eat frozen or tinned vegetables, they contain the same nutrients.

4.       Add fruit and vegetables to meals that your normally eat, like adding carrots into spaghetti bolognese or beans into soups.

5.       Swap sugary snacks for a piece of fruit, for natural rather than refined sugars.

References

[1] https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/are-we-achieving-5-a-day.html#:~:text=The%20latest%20information%20suggests%20that,5%2DA%2DDay%20recommendation.

Article written by Libby Grimshaw (nutrition intern) and reviewed by Caroline Hill (Dietitian)

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