It’s been drilled into most of us to ensure we eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day; it’s a World Health Organisation campaign that’s pretty much renowned in various countries across the world. For many of us, combining the best exercise machines to lose weight and lots of fruits and veggies can help with maintaining a healthy weight.
So, I thought, why not try and up this to 10 portions of fruit and veg a day? After all, there’s been an abundance of research into the benefits of eating more than the previously recommended 5-a-day, with studies (opens in new tab) finding that 10 portions could help prevent millions of premature deaths.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that incorporating an abundance of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet is a sure fire way of helping to maintain and/or improve health.
Harvard Health (opens in new tab) quoted a study which found that those who ate five portions of fruit and veg compared to those who ate just two, had a 13% lower risk of death from any cause.
Studies (opens in new tab) have also revealed how higher intakes of fruits and vegetables resulted in lower chances of developing cardiovascular disease as well as a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.
Essentially, fruits and vegetables contain a myriad of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, which our body needs to survive and stay healthy.
Personally I am a huge fruit and veg lover, aiming to include them whenever I can into my meals and snacks.
But, I’m not sure if I hit 10 portions every day. So, I took on the challenge and aimed to eat 10 portions of fruit and veg every day for one month. This is what happened…
1. I got a better understand of portion sizes
When I was a kid, mum used to always tell me that 20 grapes equaled one portion. I have no idea where she discovered this, but it stuck in my head and to this day, I always make sure when I’m eating grapes, that I have 20. Now, doing this challenge, I found myself doing the same thing; ensuring I was eating exact portions rather than just assuming that a few tomatoes would suffice and count as a portion.
The UK’s NHS (opens in new tab) makes it super clear on its website as to what constitutes as one of your 5-a–day.
- 3oz/80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables
- 1oz /30g of dried fruit such as raisins
When it comes to fruit juice, 5.07 fl oz/150ml is the amount you want to be aiming for, however, fruit juice and smoothies only count once a day, no matter how much you have. The same goes for beans and pulses, of which 3oz/80g counts towards your 5-a-day.
2. I snacked less
The beauty of vegetables (not so much fruit though FYI due to higher sugar content), is that they’re relatively low calorie. I scanned the calorie counts on some of my vegetable packets and found that a 2.2oz/63g portion of spinach contains a measly 18 calories, 3oz/80g of carrots contains 32 calories, and one-quarter of a large cucumber racks up a teeny 14 calories.
So, although it felt like I was eating more as my meals were packed full of veggies, I was consuming less in terms of calories. The basic rule of weight loss is calories in vs calories out. There are some other elements that do come into play but generally if you’re taking in less than you burn, you will lose weight over time.
In saying this, weight loss could mean losing muscle and doesn’t necessarily just mean fat loss.
Filling up on low-calorie foods can often mean you’re not so hungry for higher calorie, less nutrient dense foods, so voila, slowly, the unwanted weight will start to go. But remember, consistency is king; don’t think that one week of a higher fruit and vegetable count will suddenly leave you a 14lbs lighter.
3. I was always at the grocery store
Plowing my way through so much fruit and veg and lacking endless space in my fridge (sorry but champagne takes priority) meant constant trips to the shop to stock up.
I also stocked up on frozen fruit (great for smoothies) and tinned vegetables (great for lazy days).
As for the cost; well, it didn’t set me back too much however I spent between $6/£5 every three to four days.
4. It made me a little more adventurous
I tend to stick to the same fruits and vegetables day to day; spinach for my salads, kale at dinner, yams, tomatoes, bananas, and peppers through the rest of the week.
But I figured I’d branch out a little and started experimenting with different greens, I bought an overpriced passion fruit and I even explored purple broccoli.
There’s actually a lot of ‘fun’ fruit and veg out there so if you’re stuck in a rut and getting a bit bored of the same old stuff, have a look around some different stores.
5. Vegetables make a great snack
A quarter of Americans admit to snacking several times during the day, according to the 2020 Food & Health Survey (opens in new tab).
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have grown up with fruit being a healthy snack option; perhaps an apple or a banana.
However, vegetables also make a great snack choice. I was enjoying more veggie-based snacks as a means of ensuring I hit my newfound 10-a-day target. Carrot, cucumber and celery sticks, sweet potato with peanut butter (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!), cherry tomatoes and even roasted beetroot slices make a far healthier version of those veggie crisps you can buy in the supermarket.
6. Olives, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, and baked beans all count
Who knew? Turns out that olives - a favorite pre-dinner snack of mine - count towards your 5-a-day. As do baked beans, which are pulses (80g once a day count towards the 5-a-day target). Plus, baked beans come in a tomato-based sauce; another healthy addition, as long as the salt and added sugar count remains low.
Chickpeas, a staple of hummus contribute towards the fruit and veg count too, although as my research discovered, only one form of pulse counts a day. So eating baked beans for brekky and chickpeas with lunch will not count as two.
7. My stomach was more bloated after the fruit
As a gut health fanatic, I try to limit my fruit as I find that (especially when eaten alone) it tends to make me a little, erm, gassy.
So upping my fruit and veg intake didn’t really do me any favors there.
I did find though that vegetables weren’t too impactful on my bloating issues, especially if I made sure they were cooked and eaten slowly.
After all, the more food gets broken down in your mouth, the less work needs to be done by the rest of the digestive system.
So, this challenge has further reinstated to me that fruit isn’t my best mate but vegetables are A-ok.
One more thing I do need to mention is how eating this much fruit and veg makes you need the toilet.
Fruits and vegetables are filled with fiber, the roughage that helps us ‘go’. So it was only natural that I’d end up visiting the bathroom a little more than usual. But, this isn’t a bad thing. One thing I will flag though; be sure to increase your fluid intake if you’re increasing your fiber. The two go hand in hand and water can help keep food (and fiber) flowing nicely through the digestive system.
Want to read more stories like this one? Find out what happened when we drank apple cider vinegar for 30 days.
Lucy is a freelance journalist specializing in health, fitness and lifestyle. She was previously the Health and Fitness Editor across various women's magazines, including Woman&Home, Woman and Woman’s Own as well as Editor of Feel Good You. She has also previously written for titles including Now, Look, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Red and The Sun.
She lives and breathes all things fitness; working out every morning with a mix of running, weights, boxing and long walks. Lucy is a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios. Plus, she's pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to many classes of champagne and tequila on the rocks whilst out with her friends.
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