Fruit & veg

Surprise, surprise! Eating more fruit and veg is good for you. It can minimise the risk of disease and prevent millions of premature deaths.

That’s the message from a new report from Imperial College London today, which claims a staggering 7.8 million deaths could be prevented if we all ate 10 portions a day – amounting to almost a kilo of fruit and veg.

The research, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, analysed 95 studies on fruit and vegetable intake, which covered about two million people worldwide. It found that eating 10 portions could reduce the risk of heart disease by 24%, a stroke by 33%, cardiovascular disease by 28% and cancer by 13%.

This isn’t the first time a report has suggested upping the recommendations to 10 a day. A 12-year study by UCL found the exact same thing in 2014. But, with almost two-thirds of Brits struggling to meet the current recommended 5 a day guidance, it nonetheless dominated the headlines once again today.

Despite its best intentions, however, it’s hard to believe this study will make any difference to consumer habits. Even more so, when it also said the risk of premature death could be minimised by 15% after just two-and-a-half portions a day. Surely the sceptics (and unhealthier eaters) among us will take that as a win?

Aside from the fact that most Brits probably won’t change their consumption habits, it also raises the question of whether or not consuming this amount of fruit and veg is either sensible or realistic. Especially if consumers choose to eat mainly fruit to rack up their 10 a day numbers. Can you imagine the sugar levels?

Even if consumers mix up fruit with veg, reaching the magical 10-portion mark would still be a big challenge, especially over a sustained period.

By our quick calculations, you would need to consume one glass of juice and one banana for breakfast. For lunch, one cereal bowl full of lettuce, a two-inch slice of cucumber, one big tomato and three celery sticks. As an afternoon snack, 14 cherries. Finally for dinner, four tablespoons of kale, three tablespoons of carrots, and a sweet potato.

Balanced diet

To put it mildly, that’s a whole lot of eating. And according to Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide, fruit and veg only represents a third of your recommended food intake for the day – so prepare to eat a lot more to get a balanced diet.

Eating 10 a day wouldn’t be cheap, either. Our sample daily menu would cost about £7 in the major mults. Multiply that by a whole week, and you’re talking £50 for just a third of your groceries. Somehow, I don’t think many consumers will stand for that.

Even the chief nutritionist at PHE thinks consumers adopting more than five portions a day is unlikely.

“While consuming more than five portions of fruit and vegetables a day may be desirable, two-thirds of adults currently don’t consume the recommended minimum of 5 a day. Adding pressure to consume more fruit and vegetables creates an unrealistic expectation,” says Alison Tedstone.

The danger with this kind of story is that rather than encouraging people to eat more healthily, it might actually put them off.