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Fruits & Vegetables: Why we need them and intake guidelines.


Fruits and vegetables contain dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals like polyphenols which play a role in human health. Therefore I believe they should be present in the diet.


For this reason I also think the carnivore diet is stupid.


The government guidelines for what contributes towards fruit & veg intake are all different and seemingly made up based on philosophy rather than nutrient content.


In the UK the jam is: eat 5 servings of fruit and veg per day, 80g is roughly a serving. Apparently white potatoes don’t count and beans can count as 1 serving only.


My thoughts are are follows:


All potatoes count as a portion (white and sweet) but let’s be reasonable regarding french fries and other deep fried potato based foods. I don’t think Tyrell’s root veg crisps are a serving.


Legumes count but again, within reason. Using only legumes for your 5 servings a day may not be ideal.


Ketchup is not a serving, I don’t care how much is on the plate. But, if you make homemade pasta sauce with a tin of tomatoes and perhaps some other veg too this can be a serving.


1 pickle on a burger is not a serving.


A glass of fruit or veg juice is a serving but this shouldn’t be used as a crutch as the fibre count is lower than that of the whole version.


Other common points of concern:

Cooking veg is okay, it doesn’t kill the good stuff. The microwave is also okay. Cooking tends to make foods more digestible which is useful.


Organic is not clearly the winner. The research on this is very spotty right now. If you can afford to buy organic and want to this is your decision to make. It’s not cool to shame others for buying non organic.


There are no clear links that eating certain fruits or vegetables or colours of fruit and veg can prevent or cure diseases. The biggest reach we can really make at this time is that eating a variety (which is usually synonymous with a high fibre diet) may reduce the risk of the developing chronic diseases.


At this time I don’t think we can clearly say X fruit reduces risk of cancer either.


Fruit and veg contain phytochemicals which are bioactive non-nutrient plant compounds. They vary in amount from plant to plant so eating a variety of fruit and veg seems to be a wise option.


It was thought that if we isolated certain phytochemicals and gave them to people via supplementation this would have further positive effects, perhaps more powerful than eating fruit & veg.


However it doesn’t look like this is the case as when taken alone the phytochemicals/ antioxidants seem to get inconsistent results and in some cases had a detrimental effect.


We don’t know why this is yet but it looks like sticking to real fruits and veg (where possible) over supplements is more helpful for human health.


Refs:

https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/4/3/384S/4591619

https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/3/4/506/4591497