Do we really need our 5-a-day?

Written by Lifestyle

Everybody knows about the 5-a-day rule, it’s the first thing we’re taught after our abc’s and 123’s. But do we take it seriously enough? Teachers weren’t just rabbiting on about rabbit food unnecessarily; although it sounds like a childish catch phrase, students need to pay more attention to it.

We’ve all heard a friend declare they haven’t had any fruit or vegetables in a few days, or been guilty of it ourselves. But it’s not a funny quirk of student life; fruit and vegetables are a vital part of our diet. The Health Survey for England 2017 found that only 23% of 16-24 year olds eat five or more a day, lower than any other adult age group. This may be a particular problem for students, who are renowned for our hectic ‘party’ lifestyles, and the fact it is our first time in control of our food shop. But once you’ve got past the initial excitement of being able to buy as many doughnuts as you want, it’s about time you turn to the fresh counter.

The benefits of having five-a-day are undeniable. The 5 A Day campaign is based on advice from the World Health Organization, which recommends eating at least 400g a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. This is because fruit and vegetables are where we get so many important vitamins, minerals and fibre from. They also fill us up without the loaded calories found in most over foods, so it makes maintaining a healthier lifestyle easier. When I’m hungover, all I want to eat is a fresh orange or some pineapple. If that’s what my body wants after a night fuelled with toxins, I think that’s saying something about the reinvigorating quality of fruit.

It may not seem like it’s feasible to have five-a-day. But you’ll be surprised how many things count. It’s not just fresh items, frozen and dried are also included. But you should be aware of portion size; whilst you need 80g of fresh, canned and frozen varieties, you only need 30g of dried, and 150 ml of fresh fruit juice. However, you should be wary of fruit juice- even homemade- because the crushing of fruit and veg releases its sugars, meaning these drinks have very high sugar content. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, 80g of beans and pulses are included in your five-a-day; although they only count once, no matter how many you eat, because they don’t contain as many nutrients. Besides, there is such a large variety of fruit and vegetables out there, even the pickiest eater is bound to find a few they like.

Having your five a-day is also not as expensive as people assume. Fruit is normally cheaper from independent sellers like Grainger Market and the stalls in the centre of town. This is especially true for berries; for example the usual price for blueberries is 2 punnets for £1 from the fruit stalls. But this isn’t always the case; multipacks in shops can be more economical, plus watch out for reduced prices. If you’re near an Aldi, make use of their super 6, every week they choose 6 items of fruit and vegetables to put on special offer. This helps with variety too, I know I’m guilty of sticking to the same small handful of items!

Just because we’re ‘adults’ now does not mean we don’t need to be told what to do sometimes. Have your five-a-day! You’ll thank me for it.

Last modified: 29th May 2020

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