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Eat More Fruit and Vegetables by Harry Mather, Vegan Views 65 (Summer 1994)

"Five A Day" started in North America where increasing evidence shows that people who eat more fruit and vegetables are less likely to suffer from heart disease and cancer.

The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum 400 grams (1 lb.) of fruit and veg. per day (not including potatoes) which translates roughly into 5 portions a day.

The idea spread to Australia and has now been launched in Britain's TV Channel 4 "Food File" programme as The Great Fruit and Veg Challenge asking people to TAKE 5 for the sake of their health. Five volunteers took up the challenge publicly and all agreed they felt much better after including five-a-day in their diet.

How It Works

Vegetables and fruit contain many micronutrients, that is substances that are there only in minute quantities but which are essential for the healthy functioning of the body. These include vitamins and minerals, some of which contain substances known as anti-oxidants. The most valuable are beta-carotene, (which the body converts to vitamin A), vitamin C, and vitamin E.

What do they do? Well the normal cell activity of the body produces free radicals: that is molecules that have lost one electron. These deficient molecules will try to take an electron from another molecule and may start a chain reaction that can disturb the body's chemical balance and damage cells. Anti-oxidants will donate electrons for free radicals to take up and check the spreading of free radicals. Free radicals, by the way, can also be created by cigarette smoke and some chemicals.

Britons eat much less of fruit and vegetables than other European countries and have higher rates of heart disease and some cancers. There is a lower incidence of these diseases in the Southern parts of Europe where fruit and fresh vegetables grow more easily and form a greater part of the diet. Their popular diet is also more orientated to pastas and pulses with a lower consumption of flesh foods and fats.

Fruit and Veg. also provide fibre and are low in fat and calories, so choosing them and cutting down on fatty, sugary foods will be beneficial to health in many ways.

So How Much Do We Need?

Beta-Carotene Too much vitamin A can pose problems but taking Beta-carotene is safe in any quantity. Optimum level is 10-12 milligrams a day.
Vitamin C is not made in the body so it is important to have a regular intake of this vitamin. Raw fruit and veg. are the best source as much vitamin C is lost while cooking or preserving. Optimum level is 150 milligrams a day.
Vitamin E is also available in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Optimum level is 40-50 milligrams a day.

What is a portion?

Roughly 75 grams or 3 oz. That is equal to a smallish apple, banana, orange, tomato, a large plum, 3 tablespoons of peas or sweetcorn, a side-serving of cabbage or broccoli, or 6 fluid ounces (200 ml) of fruit juice.

Suggested menu

Breakfast include a glass of orange juice or 1/2 a grapefruit.
Mid morning snack on a banana.
Lunch include a salad with several vegetables.
Mid afternoon snack on an apple.
Evening include two portions of vegetables (such as carrots and peas).

Where To Find Them!

Beta-Carotene Carrots, Spinach, Red peppers, Spring Greens, Cabbage, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Apricots, Mango, Sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C Green peppers, Strawberries, Oranges, Grapefruit, Cabbage, Peas, Tomato Juice, Kiwi Fruit, Fresh parsley, Pineapple.
Vitamin E Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Peanuts, Avocados, Spinach, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Sesame seeds, Blackberries, Watercress.

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Cross-reference: Nutrition and Health