5 a Day... or 10 a Day?

05/08/2014 13:01 BST | Updated 03/10/2014 10:59 BST

5-a-day? Or 7? Or 10?! Just what is the magic number when it comes to fruit and veg?

Five-a-day has been the mantra for years - though did you know that very few people manage it? However, recent research showed that people who manage to do even better than this and eat at least 7 and ideally 10 portions a day of fruit and veg had a 25-33% less chance of early death from cancer, heart disease and other causes.

So, just when we were all packing our plates with yet more green and leafy veg, we hear a new study say "hang on, just 5 is ok after all".

This latest study reviewed over 800,000 people in 16 studies and found no reduction in overall mortality from eating more than 5 portions per day.

So, what are we to believe?

Well, this study confirmed what we have known for a long time... that eating 5-a-day does reduce your risk of serious health problems, especially heart disease. So, we really must pull our socks up and try to make that magic number! But should we try for more? Well, actually, if you read the study properly, it showed that higher consumption of fruit and vegetables was associated with lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease (heart and blood vessel disease including strokes and heart attacks). The risk of cardiovascular mortality was decreased by 4% for each serving a day of fruit and veg. However, eating more than 5-a-day fruit and veg may not further reduce the risk of dying from cancer. Of course, though, some common forms of cancer are strongly affected by other non-diet factors such as smoking or sunburn, when eating a ton of vegetables is unlikely to make much difference at all!

Aiming high with our fruit and veg intake potentially has numerous other health benefits:

• They are a far better way to fill up than the calorie dense processed food that I believe is the biggest driver behind the obesity epidemic and lacking in many of the essential nutrients we need. Studies show that filling up with a salad before a main course (not one drenched in high cal dressing, of course) is likely to reduce our calorie intake overall which is good for the waistline.

• Getting our sugar fix mainly from fruit rather than cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks will reduce the blood sugar swings that have us feeling hungry and craving more sugar.

• The fibre that we will be eating has huge health benefits - but also keeps us feeling full for longer, a great tool for weight loss.

• We will be getting a heap of vitamins and minerals, anti-oxidants and other essentials that help us keep healthy.

• We will feel great without the chemicals, preservatives, high salt and sugar that are hidden in most preserved food.

No doubt there will be a new study, with a different slant on the whole thing coming along shortly, just to confuse us.

If it helps, I, for one, will be eating my 5-a-day for sure, but aiming for 7 or even 10 wherever possible!

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