- Potatoes count towards our 5 a day guideline – they don’t. Along with cassava, plantain and yam, they are classed as carbohydrate foods. Sweet potatoes do count, however, as they are rich in betacarotene
- Raw is better than cooked – not always. While some nutrients, like Vitamin C, are damaged by heat, others like the lycopene found in tomatoes actually gets released and made more bioavailable when cooked
- Organic isn’t worth the extra cost – while organic foods are not completely free from some toxins, they do contain up to 40% more antioxidants
- Baked beans don’t count – they do, but only as one portion regardless of how many you eat. However, remember that baked beans are high in both salt and sugar. Similarly, chickpeas, kidney beans and other pulses also count as one portion but are lower in antioxidant properties than other vegetables
- Eating 5 apples counts as 5 a day – your 5 a day minimum needs to be a variety of 5 different fruits and vegetables. Aim for a variety of different colours as a guideline
- Ready meals don’t count – they can, if the ingredients are there to start with and the nutrients haven’t been damaged by preservation and heating. However, remember that these options are usually high in salt, sugar and fat – eat them in moderation.
- Dietary supplements count – most supplements are made from synthetic ingredients and cannot replace real food. Even natural, high-quality supplements like the multivitamin and mineral I use and recommend should be used as an additional source of nutrients, not to replace fruit and vegetable intake.
The benefits of fruits and vegetables have long been recognised, and the introduction of the ‘5 a day’ campaign in 2001 was designed to break down the World Health Organization (WHO) 1991 recommendation of a 400g daily fruit and vegetable intake into practical portions.
The nutrients in fruits and vegetables are essential for our bodies, but what exactly does a portion look like and how many of us are reaching the 5 a day target?
Five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could be made up of:
- Two broccoli spears, one medium tomato, three heaped tablespoons of peas, one slice of melon and one pear
- Three sticks of celery, eight cherry tomatoes, four heaped tablespoons of spinach, three prunes and one banana
While this sounds simple enough when broken down like this, the Health of Britain – Perspectives on Nutrition independent study found that 88% of us are failing to meet the 5 a day guideline, and 12% are not even managing one portion daily.
How is this possible? There are various elements contributing to this situation, from the focus on marketing junk food to the availability of convenience meals, to the decline of the family meals around the dinner table. Meals have become something that are often squeezed into an already too busy schedule, and when stress is high and time is short it’s all too easy to grab a fast food meal lacking the benefits of fruits and vegetables.
So, given the current situation for many people, asking whether 5 a day is enough may seem a slightly irrelevant question. If people are not achieving 5, what would be the point of raising the guideline to 6 (the guideline for Denmark), 10 (the French guideline), or even 17 (the staggering guideline for Japan)?
The fact is that while the 400g / 5 a day guideline is useful as a benchmark (albeit a low benchmark – remember the 5 a day guideline was always meant to be the minimum, not the optimal intake), the exact requirements for each person vary considerably depending on their age, gender, physical activity, stress levels, overall diet and many other factors.
What should you do then?
- Aim for a minimum of 5 fruits and vegetable portions each day
- Choose as wide a variety of fruits and vegetables as possible – 5 of any fruit or vegetable will not be as effective as a range of 5 different varieties
- Use a natural multivitamin and mineral to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake – not to replace the need for fresh fruits and vegetables
- Consider supplementing a natural dehydrated fruit and vegetable supplement if you, or perhaps your children, regularly do not meet the guideline
For more personalised advice, contact me.
Lead By Example – your children will love eating the same foods as you, so make sure you are practicing what you preach. It is many times harder to get a child to eat a food that you yourself will not eat.
I’ve spent this past weekend in London at the CAMExpo 2010, a dedicated complementary healthcare event.
The event featured discussions, lectures, workshops and stalls. It was a great opportunity to connect with people within the CAM industry and learn and refresh my knowledge, as well as re-affiriming my belief in the huge power of nutrition.
One lecture I attended was led by Alison Peacham of the ION, on Children’s Health – The Power of Nutrition. I wanted to attend this lecture as a nutritionist and as a mum, and I’m very happy to share my notes from that lecture here with you.
Choosing a Sports Energy Drink can be pretty confusing. There are so many options – Isotonic Sports Drinks, sports drinks with electrolytes, endurance sports drinks, and countless others.
But which are the best options? And what should you take into consideration when choosing a Sports Energy Drink?
Here’s my list of things to consider:
- Low GI – most Sports Energy Drinks are high GI – this means that give you a quick burst of energy followed by a slump which reduces your performance.
- Fructose based – most products are glucose based. Fructose is fruit sugar, much healthier for you, and low GI
- Rich in mineral salts – a vital role of a sports Energy Drink is for it to provide mineral salts to replace those lost as you exercise.
- Medium Chain Triglycerides – these, commonly referred to as MCTs, are fats composed of medium-chain fatty acids. They are easily absorbed as fuel during endurance events but are not likely to deposit as body fat.
- Proof – if the product is as good as it claims to be, there will probably be clinical studies to prove that. Look for studies that show the product increases maximum oxygen consumption (VO2Max), time to exhaustion and aerobic performance.
- Biochemicals – the energy drink should contain biochemicals, but it’s easy to not understand why – the role of biochemicals in your sports drink is to help the body clear itself of lactic acid, which is produced during physical exertion and reduces muscle performance.
There are lots of things to consider when choosing a sports drink, and the ingredients of the product you use can affect your training results, so make sure you are choosing the best product available. I personally use and recommend EmPact,which meets all of the above criteria and tastes great, and you can try it at a great discount price – with a 100% money back guarantee – here.
What Are Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids?
Omega 3’s are found in all animals, including seafood. They are named ‘essential’ because the body cannot manufacture them and they are necessary for good health – this means they must be provided through diet or supplementation.
There are 3 commercial sources of Omega 3’s:
- Fish oil
- Plant (flax seed, etc)
- Krill oil
Fish oil is the most popular source of Omega 3, and plant sources are generally chosen by vegetarians or vegans as well as people who may have concerns about the toxicity of other sources.
It is worth noting that Omega 3’s in the form that your body requires (EPA/DHA) is only found in animals, including seafood – not in plant sources. Plant sources provide Omega 3 in the form of ALA, which has to be converted into EPA/DHA by the body. While this can be done, it requires energy and nutrients, so is not ideal.
By the way, if you only want to consider plant sources of Omega 3 for your own reasons, I’d suggest you take a look at sacha inchi oil which seems to be a better option than flax seed oil due to the lingans that that contains and which can interfere with hormone balance.
Krill oil is a recent addition to the options of Omega 3 sources. Krill is a small, shrimp-like crustacean that feeds on phytoplankton before being eaten by whales, fish, penguins and even squid. Krill oil marketers claim that it is a superior product because the fatty acid is attached to a phospholipid, while fish oil fatty acids are attached to a triglyceride – this is supposedly a benefit because it means that the fatty acid can reach the intestines more rapidly.
However, Omega 3 products are required to support a wide range of body systems over a sustained period, and so at this time there is no evidence to validate that the speed of entry makes any difference to the health benefits already documented as being achieved through supplementing a fish oil supplement.
The majority of research demonstrating a long list of health benefits is based on EPA/DHA Omega 3’s obtained from fish oil supplements in the triglyceride form, and so this is my recommended source of Omega 3. You can order my recommended and personally used Omega 3 supplement at a great discount – and with a 100% money back guarantee – here.