We’re all off the hook. Eating 5 a day – the recommended intake of fruit & veg – is a waste of time and money. Three is enough, according to a new report out this week.
So that’s that then, right? Problem solved. We can carry on as we were. Er, not quite. As a nation, we’re eating more fruit & veg, inspired by lower prices and the growth of flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, as well as greater variety, choice and availability. But it’s not as if obesity is going away. If we eat more fruit & veg it might not make us any more healthy per se, but it effectively replaces other foodstuffs that would be used to fill us up instead. Foodstuffs that are likely more calorific. In any case, the all-important 11 to 18-year-old age group is not even hitting 3 a day, managing 2.8 on average (adults manage 3.5).
The government has been working hard to make consumers hit its 5 a day targets. In fact, it was so desperate, it even considered including toppings from pizza in its calculations at one stage. But one cannot imagine it will tear up its targets. It didn’t alter its advice a few months ago when a report suggested we needed to up our fruit & veg consumption to 10 a day. (Another study in 2011 recommended eight.)
Trouble is, all these conflicting numbers just add to the confusion. There was yet another report out this week telling us fat is good, while there have been many reports suggesting sugar (even from fruit) is bad. And while PHE England has stuck to its guns with its 5 a day guidelines on fruit & veg, it hasn’t exactly helped to clear up the confusion, with other revisions to its Eatwell plate including a contradictory recommendation to limit consumption of juices and smoothies, to almost halve dairy consumption (to 8%) despite the obvious health benefits of milk vs sugary drinks, and to cut sugar consumption to just 5% – a target not unlike 10-a-day.
In this new three-a-day report, there was some interesting stuff about the benefits of raw fruit and veg versus cooked. But that insight was lost amid the frankly unhelpful portion findings. What a waste.