Nutritional choices can be complex and contradictory. One piece of nutritional advice that most people have heard of is the “5 a day” guideline. Following a recommendation from the World Health Organisation, there has been widespread encouragement for the public to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. It is a mantra promoted by the NHS, American healthcare initiatives and across most of mainland Europe. But why do you need to eat your 5 a day?
Vegetables and fruits are very useful for keeping your calorie consumption low. The fibre content ensures that your 5 a day will help you to feel fuller for longer. Replacing processed snacks for fruits and vegetables is an easy and tasty way to ramp up your nutritional gains while slashing your calorie intake.
Plus filling up on fruit and vegetables means you are less likely to choose high-calorie choices because of hunger pangs and cravings. In fact, studies show that those who regularly meet the 5 a day requirement are far more likely to maintain a healthy level of body fat. This, in turn, has a huge effect on your overall health levels, making you far less likely to suffer from issues such as strokes, heart disease and diabetes.
Put it into practice: Keep a lunchbox of chopped peppers, carrots and tender stem broccoli at work to snack on during the day. If you want, make a healthy dip of natural yoghurt, lemon and mint to give your snack some extra zing.
If you have a sweet tooth, it can seem impossible to stay on the nutritional straight and narrow.
Replacing processed sweetness with fruit will help to eliminate sugar spikes and crashes during the day. This is also due to the fibre content of fruits and vegetables, which help to regulate blood sugar.
It will also make your treats more satisfying AND lower in calories. This makes it far easier to make healthy choices a natural part of your everyday life.
Put it into practice: add a banana to your overnight oats to make a thick sweet breakfast. Or, for an after-dinner treat, blend natural yoghurt with red berries and freeze to create a healthy ice cream alternative.
Fruits and vegetables are vitamin and mineral powerhouses. Eating plenty of them is one of the easiest ways to ensure you are giving your body all the nutrients it needs to function well. The World Health Organisation suggests that the recommended 5 a day will provide you with most of your essential vitamins and minerals. For example, citrus fruits are packed with immune-boosting vitamins C, while blueberries provide you with vitamin K.
Put it into practice: If you struggle to get your 5 a day, start the day off right with a fresh juice packed with nutrients. Blitz carrots, orange and ginger together to make a drink that will make you feel that your immune system is invincible. Or, go for a sweet superfood special with kale, blueberries and pears.
Filling up on your 5 a day not only brings a lot of benefits into your body, it also helps to flush out potentially harmful free radicals, caused by the oxidisation of cells. This natural detox process is essential for warding off issues like cancer, heart disease and even dementia. So if you’re ever tempted to go on a highly restrictive detox plan, you may actually need to add more to your diet to see the benefits.
Put it into practice: Blueberries, cranberries and goji berries are some of the most potent sources of antioxidants. You can eat the blueberries and goji berries as a snack on the go. To include the cranberries, which are a little bitter on their own, make a delicious compote by stewing them together with apples for sweetness.
Fruit and vegetables are brilliant at keeping your digestive system healthy. This is particularly important if you eat a diet that contains a lot of meat protein, which can be much slower to digest. For example, on average fruits and vegetables are fully digested within 12 hours. A steak, on the other hand, will take around 3 days.
Put it into practice: Chopped apples with peanut butter make a satisfying and beneficial snack. Roasted carrots and swede help to make dinners filling, and can also be blended into savoury sauces and soups.