How Many Portions Of Fruit & Vegetables Should I Eat Every Day?
How many portions of fruit and vegetables should I eat every day? This simple question has several conflicting answers, depending on which source one selects for the answer. The most common response is, without question, 5 portions a day. For so long, this catchy phrase (1 of your 5 a day) has been the go-to rule of thumb for dietary fruit and vegetable intake. Originally conceptualized in 1988 as part of a campaign in California, the aim of the slogan was to kickstart healthy eating by offering consumers an instantly understandable rule of thumb to help achieve the goal of 400g of plant intake each day, made up of 5 x 80g servings.
While one cannot argue the success of the campaign, two major talking points arise from this today: The first is that considerably more education is needed around how and why to increase one's fruit and vegetable intake, as only 27% of Irish consumers eat the recommended 5 portions per day. The second is to increase 5 to a minimum of 7 and an ideal number of 9. We will examine the reasons for this increase below.
5 A Day Is Not Enough
While a total of 5 portions per day may have been a step forward in 1988, we must look at more recent recommendations to come to an updated figure to base our fruit and vegetable intake upon. Below are 3 main sources examined with their respective recommendations looked at in detail:
Irish Healthy Eating Guidelines
The "Healthy Food For Life" Initiative, launched by the Irish department of health in December 2016, recommends 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The guide offers simple but effective advice to, "Base your meals on these and enjoy a variety of colours. More is better." Further advice states that individuals should "Fill half your plate with vegetables, salads or fruit"
Canada's Food Guide
Released in January 2020, Canada's Food Guide caused quite the stir both domestically and worldwide, as it touted plant based eating as the healthy dietary pattern to follow. It also placed plant protein and meat protein on the same level, and almost completely eliminated dairy from its recommendations. Numerically the guide states that 7-10 portions of fruit and veg is optimal. The guide leads with this simplistic rule of thumb: "Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often."
Dr Greger's daily dozen
Detailed in his 2018 book "How Not To Die" Dr. Michael Greger conceptualised the "Daily Dozen". The Daily Dozen is, as the name suggests, 12 items to consume/partake in daily. It is in fact comprised of 10 food groups (beans, grains, berries, fruit etc.), a beverages category, and exercise as the final item. Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D are also included, as supplementation for both are necessary on a plant-based diet. Consumption of all 12 items almost guarantees optimal intake of all essential macro, micro, and phytonutrients in sufficient quantities to maintain a healthy body and avoid common chronic western dietary & lifestyle disease
7 A Day As The Minimum
Based on the information above, it is safe to assume that 7 portions of fruit and vegetables should be consumed every day as a minimum starting point. While there may be disagreement on the maximum or upward limit, the common thread that binds these various sources is that we are not eating adequate amounts of plants each day. While the next statement may be obvious given the ethos of this website, Canada's move to place plant and animal proteins on the same level & correctly promote plant based eating as the healthiest dietary pattern is something that Ireland could greatly benefit from emulating.