Shifnal Chiropractic Clinic

01952 460 947

Is 5-a-day enough?


There are 3 possible answers to the question of whether 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day is enough.  Yes, No and Maybe.  Unfortunately, it looks like the true answer is…all of those.

First let me say that we define a portion of fruit or vegetables as 80g, which is roughly equivalent to a medium size banana, a couple of satsumas, or a handful or peas.  It’s not that much, but it’s thought most people don’t manage to get 5 portions in every day.  So let’s look at whether they should make the effort, and whether they should actually be aiming for more.

No, it’s not enough – aim for more!: well, it’s true that the more fruit and veg you eat the lower your chances are of developing various diseases such as cardiovascular disease or colorectal cancer.  Also, it is well established in the research that you need to get as much variety in your selections as possible – eating 5 apples a day, every day, is simply not going to cut it.  Eating 10 a day still isn’t going to work.

Yes, it is enough: For any change in a population’s choices, the target has to be achievable otherwise everyone just gives up without trying.  If you look at 5 portions as being 1 portion for breakfast, 2 for lunch and 2 for dinner, it suddenly doesn’t look quite so hard.  While more portions may give greater benefit, it’s no good publishing advice that no-one will follow, and more-than-currently-eating is better than leaving it all as-is!

Maybe – we just don’t know!: Researchers and scientists generally are good at the “erm…maybe?” answer.  While this is not helpful for advice and guidelines, and certainly doesn’t generate headlines like a definite answer would, more often than not it is the fairest representation of the truth.  These issues are so incredibly complex that there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.  Even before we think about the benefits of fruit over vegetables, the relative benefits of different varieties, organic or not organic, how the nutrients from these foods interact with nutrients from other foods we are eating, how they have been grown and stored; before we get around to the fabulously complicated being that is the human body and how it works; before we even try to work out a threshold for between “enough” and “not enough” and whether more is always better, the question of whether 5 portions a day is enough produces the simple counter-question “enough for what?”.  Are we trying to lower heart disease rates? Cancer rates? Dementia? Diabetes? Improve longevity? Improve quality of life?  Or are we trying to claim that there is some magical combination of nutrients that will guarantee a happy, healthy and long life free of all disease indefinitely?

The truth is, pushing any one factor in diet-planning is not a good idea.  Whether that is cutting out carbohydrates, eliminating certain types of fat, pushing for more fruit and veg or saying we should all be living on chia seeds and quinoa, it’s neither achievable or advisable.  Yes, the bulk of your diet should be made up from as wide a variety of fruit and veg as you can possibly manage.  Yes, choosing wholegrain over refined carbohydrates, avoiding sugar and salt, reducing your intake of red meat while boosting your intake of oily fish is always going to be good.  But balance is what it is all about.

Back to the original question: Is 5 portions of fruit a day enough? If you are only eating 3 currently, it’s excellent advice to push your intake up to 5.  If you are happily munching 8-10 portions a day, you certainly shouldn’t cut back to 5.  But there are just too many variables involved to have a definitive “right” number of portions each day.


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