The role of fresh fruit and vegetables in our diet cannot be underestimated. They are literally nutritional powerhouses packed with a huge array of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and water that our bodies need to work well, regenerate healthy tissues and protect us from disease.
Regular fruit and vegetable intake is known to reduce the risk of developing colorectal, stomach, lung and breast cancer as well as a wide range of other serious health conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia.
Variety - the spice of life
Different fruits and vegetables have differing qualities. Blackberries, strawberries and citrus fruits, for example are rich in vitamin C; onions, apples and grapes contain cholesterol-reducing flavonoids; and brightly coloured foods like tomatoes and carrots are high in the antioxidant beta-carotene which can reduce cancer-related free radicals.
The take-home message is simple - eating at least five portions of a mix of different fruit and vegetables on a daily basis will help ensure you get the full range of benefits and stay on target for better health.
Boosting your fruits and vegetables
Here are some practical ways of enjoying fruits and vegetables as part of your daily diet:
• Add tomatoes to scrambled eggs in the morning and serve with a glass of 50% diluted fresh orange juice. Congratulations, you've already had two of your five a day
• If you're in a rush in the morning, adding a chopped banana to your cereal or some berries to your porridge is a simple way to start the day off right
• Invest in a fruit/vegetable blender and enjoy experimenting with amazingly delicious fruit smoothies
• If you take packed lunches to work, add some lettuce or tomato to your usual sandwich. You might also want to nibble on some cucumber, carrot or celery
• If you're cooking, add vegetables to your favourite dishes. It is easy (and very tasty) to add carrot and an extra tin of tomatoes to a Bolognese sauce or to add peas to mashed potato
• Salads make a tasty side dish for most meals and combined with some ham or chicken can make a delicious meal in themselves
• You can add as many vegetables as you like to a soup, so throw anything you can think of in there
• Don't forget about dessert. A fruit salad (ideally with no added sugar - you can used tinned fruit in its own juice, but avoid varieties packed in syrup) after your main meal is a great way of topping up your intake
• When snacking throughout the day, swap the chocolate or biscuits for a banana or an apple. Keeping a fruit bowl with fresh pieces of fruit at work will help with this, while you can help all the family by keeping a fruit bowl at home too
• Swap fizzy, sugary drinks for 50% diluted fruit juice for some healthy refreshment
• When you're on the move, add a box of dried fruit to your bag or case. It's an easy snack and full of fibre to keep you feeling full.
If you're stuck in a rut, try deciding to eat a new fruit or vegetable each week. Variety really is the spice of life and you may just discover some new favourites!