In the UK, the NHS have for many years promoted their “5-a-day” message when it comes to the recommended consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables needed to maintain optimum health and help prevent disease. Earlier this year, a study showed the 10 is better than 5 in reducing many types of disease, including cancer. However, more recently a study showed that 3 sources can be just as good.

2 in 3 adults fail to eat 3 portions a day

If you struggle to eat the recommended 5-a-day you are not alone.

A study by Imperial College London showed that two thirds of adults don’t manage to eat even three portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day.

The need for convenience has unfortunately taken over in the home, and the workplace. With everyone living busier lives, the mindset of eating a balanced diet has been replaced with processed foods lacking in key nutrients and fibre.

Scientists suggest that even 200g, being 2.5 portions of a regular 80g portion, could result in a reduced risk of key killer diseases, including:

  • heart disease – reduced by 16%
  • stroke – reduced by 18%
  • cardiovascular disease – reduced by 13%
  • cancer – reduced by 4%

On average, eating 2.5 portions of fruit and vegetables as part of a daily lifestyle choice, could lower your risk of disease by 15%.

Would 10 portions be better?

A study earlier this year by the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, showed that eating up to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, could further reduce the risk of diseases, such as heart disease and cancers.

The study showed that by eating approximately 800g of fruit and vegetables per day, risks were lowered:

  • heart disease – risk reduced by 24%
  • stroke – risk reduced by 33%
  • cardiovascular disease – risk reduced by 28%
  • cancer – risk reduced by 13%

On average, this particular study suggested that eating 10-a-day could lower your risk of disease by 31%.

Mixed messages – 3 a day is fine

A recent Canadian study, published in the Lancet medical journal, investigated the health of 135,000 people worldwide, to see the effect of eating more or less fruit and vegetables. Participants were age 35-70 across 18 different countries.

This study showed that eating a “moderate consumption”, i.e. three or four servings was sufficient to maintain optimum health, and was more affordable.

“Our findings indicate that optimal health benefits can be achieved with a more modest level of consumption, an approach that is likely to be much more affordable.”¬†Researcher Dr Andrew Mente,

The researchers concluded for this study that a higher intake than three to four portions, eaten daily, did not necessarily affect mortality rates.

However, they did find that the most benefits were gained when the recommended three or four portions amount were eaten raw, rather than being cooked.

They also suggested that by increasing the recommended portion size from 80g to 125g, could make it easier for people to obtain the right level of nutrition; 80g X 5 portions is 400g, compared to 125g X 3 portions is 375g – a small reduction overall, but more practical.

“This is good news, because it is much more feasible to achieve three to four servings than it is to achieve more than five servings a day.” Andrew Mente

Add variety for maximum benefit

If you are not managing to eat three to four portions per day then this is the first step.

Adding variety to the fruit and vegetables you consume on a daily basis is also best, as different foods provide different nutrients.

Foods that are green, yellow and orange are reported to reduce the risk of cancer.

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, as well as apples, pears, cabbage and broccoli are amongst some foods that can reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease.

Eating a mixed diet will give an all-round balance of nutrients and make your dinner plate more interesting.

Reducing the risk of bowel cancer

A balanced diet containing fresh fruit and vegetables can help:

  • Reduce your cholesterol levels
  • Reduce your blood pressure
  • Improve your immune system
  • Reduce DNA damage that can cause cancer

Eating a balanced diet, containing plenty of fibre, that can be obtained from fruit and vegetables, can help to reduce the risk of bowel cancer by ensuring your digestive system remains healthy.

Also, obesity is a key factor that increases the risk of bowel cancer, as well as other chronic diseases, so eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruit can help maintain healthy weight levels for overall general good health.

Working with a specialist that can accurately diagnose any signs of bowel cancer you will give you peace of mind and enable you to promptly move forward with any necessary treatment.