Seven-a-day: Our reporter tackles new recommended fruit and vegetable consumption
08:00 04 May 2014
For the best part of three decades the developed world has lived with the mantra we should be eating five fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
And the good news is that a study by University College London, published at the beginning of April, showed people who consume a higher amount of “fruit and veg” have lower risk of death from cancer and heart disease.
The academics said, however, that “five-a-day” was not enough. We should all be eating “seven-a-day”. It certainly came as a shock to me.
And before you snigger into your green tea, around two-thirds of adults in England fail to hit even the five a day target by consuming five 80g portions of fruit and veg every 24 hours.
Mark Ansell, acting director of public health for Havering Council, believes people should be encouraged to eat more fruit and veg.
“We should all try to eat more fruit and veg,” he said. “There are simple ways you can get more into your diet, try sprinkling berries on your morning cereal or porridge, dipping carrot or celery sticks in hummus or enjoying a delicious fruit smoothie.”
So I thought I’d try to be super good and attempt seven a day for an entire week. Before starting my diary of how eating ‘green’ went for me, it is important to put some perspective on matters.
According to the study, seven portions of fruit and veg cut the risk of death by 42 per cent, while five-a-day cuts the risk by 29 per cent.
I have to say that I did rush out and buy a bag of Pink Lady apples, grapes and bananas. This was the easy part.
With the “seven-a-day” routine even this array of fruit would still leave me well short of hitting the target.
On top of that a long Easter weekend lay ahead, with the temptations of those chocolate eggs and a roast with all the trimmings.
My task looked pretty daunting and, after all, Seven Kings is not renowned for its proliferation of Los Angeles style juice bars!
And as 80g is equal to two small satsumas and one apple or banana, then I was going to have to eat seven times that daily.
Each day I was left scrabbling around the house for a new variety of fruit to consume, just to provide variety in my diet.
And try as I might the fruit and veg I did find I often came nowhere near the seven 80g portions a day, which has been recommended by the World Health Organisation as well as UCL.
One dish recommended to me – Vietnamese Soup – contained broccoli, onions, bean sprouts and cabbage - delicious once I had tackled the surprisingly tricky instructions.
Although in my speed to cook dinner I failed to weigh the exact portion of vegetables going into each of my expectant family member’s bowls – I am sure it took care of half the seven portions of fruit or veg for that day.
As the week reached its climax I went to a classy café in central London and ordered a wake-up smoothie, costing £3.50, containing carrot, apples, ginger and spinach. The drink tasted surprisingly good, but not nearly as good as the cheaper alternative of homemade Vietnamese soup I had concocted a few nights before.
Kitchen aid mixers – or blenders as they are more commonly known – can cost anything from £50 to prices running into the hundreds. Yet they are an essential part of making your seven a day diet a bit of fun.
Vegetables and fruit can be mixed in them – even a spoonful of honey – to make a delicious sloppy mixture for breakfast, a snack, or even supper.
If you take this route the seven portions suddenly becomes achievable. And thank goodness that we don’t live in Japan where they recommend 17 a day. That would really have left me stumped.