Recommended 5-a-day now becomes 10-a-day

Why we might need to up our intake again

Emma Thornton

23 March 2017

Why have the recommendations change?

Most of us have just got to terms with the fact that we need to be eating 5 portions of fruit and veg per day (when I say ‘most’ this is being generous, as it’s estimated up to ¾ of us don’t even meet that), but now a new study has been published saying we need to up that to 10! 10? However will we cope? 

First, let me begin by explaining exactly why the recommendations have changed.

Well, this is all based on the results of a recent study, a meta-analysis to be exact, conducted by researchers at the Imperial College London. A meta-analysis is a large study which basically collates the data from a number of smaller studies (95 studies in this case) in an attempt to come to a more reliable conclusion. 

From the meta-analysis it was concluded that ‘increasing the portions of fruit and vegetables consumed each day could significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer’.

But, what exactly should we be taking from this advice?

What are the results of this new research really saying?

So, there’s no denying that fruit and vegetables are good for you, and I’m a big believer in eating the colours of the rainbow – a wide variety of different fruit and vegetables each day means you are more likely to be getting a wider range of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – variety really is key.

But, just how much should we be eating – is 800g, almost one kilogram of fruit and vegetables daily, really necessary? Well let’s delve a little deeper into the results from this new study and find out.

80g of fruit or vegetables is classed as a portion. Now, the study concluded that an intake of 200g per day – that’s just 2 ½ portions, was associated with a 16% reduced risk of heart disease, a 4% lower risk of cancer and a 15% reduction in the risk of premature death – definitely not to be scoffed at!

However, interestingly 800g per day, so 4 times this amount, didn’t perhaps see such a dramatic increase in the reduced risk as one might expect.

Consuming 10 portions daily as opposed to 2 ½  saw an 8% increase in the reduced risk of heart disease at 24%, a 13% reduced risk of cancer (compared to 4%) and a 31% reduced risk of dying prematurely compared to 15%. It also saw a 33% lower risk of stroke. 

So, what’s achievable and realistic?

So, from the results of this study, there’s no doubt that 10 portions of fruit and veg offer the maximum benefit, (with special mentions to certain varieties including apples and pears, citrus fruits, salad, green and yellow vegetables and cruciferous veg including broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower).

But, actually, it becomes apparent from the results that even consuming as little as just over 2 portions per day can significantly reduce the risk of a number of risk factors, and from there on as you up the portions, you gradually have a reduction in the risk of disease.

So, there is no denying that eating as many as 10 portions of fruit and veggies would be beneficial for our health, but I just wonder how achievable this really is – especially as research suggests up to 3 in 4 of us are struggling to hit 5 as it is!

10 portions is definitely an impressive target and yes, it’s always worth aiming high, but in reality, it might take us a little while to get there. Better education and understanding is required first.

Does everyone really know what constitutes ‘a portion’ of fruit and vegetable to start with? Well it’s 80g, but even then, this can be hard to visualize, so let me help to explain.

Some examples of 80g portions include: 5 spears of asparagus, 3 heaped tablespoons of beans, peas or sweetcorn, a 5cm piece of cucumber, 1 medium banana or apple or 2 small satsumas. And guess what, a small sweet potato counts as two! Great baked with a tasty topping for lunch, or as a side with dinner.

Plus, did you also know that all the common, everyday tomato products count too, so 4 sundried tomatoes, 7 cherry tomatoes, 150ml of tomato juice, 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree or 2 whole tinned plum tomatoes can all count towards your daily intake. Probably forgot about those, right?

Your fruit and vegetable juices count too, then, not forgetting all your tinned and frozen vegetables, so there’s something else to add to the list.  

So, perhaps some of those examples are reassuring – we may even be hitting more than we originally realised.

This suddenly makes those 10 portions a little less daunting, right? Or at least the 5 for now – my opinion is that we should really concentrate on working together in order to successfully hitting the 5 portions per day first, before reaching for 10 – we will get there though!

Aune, D, Giovannucci, E and Boffetta, P. Et al. (2017) Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality – a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol, DOI:


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  • Tara's photo avatar
    Tara — 12.01.2018 09:00
    70+ yrs old, suffered from Emotional Neglect (CEN) & abuse as a child, therefore, showing you challenges to get my inner life & physical health in balance as early circumstances affect adult life. My starting point in this comment, expressing awareness of everyone`s challenges. Throughout life used Vogel herbs (for food flavouring) and tinctures,( Enchiacea, devils claw, menopause support etc etc) PLUS acidophilus , & Vit B12,(recommended for plant based diets, forks & knives) personally no prescription drugs, (as at age 17 was addicted to a prescription medication for migraine), moved to a plant based diet, lost 2 stone, you get your quota of FRUIT & VEG. I hear & empathize with the various comments e.g. ARFID = Avoidance Restrictive Food intake, selective eating condition, where the consumption of certain food`s limited based on the appearance, smell, taste, texture, presentation, and or past negative experience and IBS and various other physical disorders, (I had similar challenges), however, when getting my diet in balance (as it is a gradual process), the various organs seem to work in balance and fruit and veg, plus natural Alfred Vogel tinctures & herbs, saved my life together with meditation.


    • Emma's photo avatar
      Emma — 12.01.2018 10:27
      Hi Tara, thank you sharing your moving experience. I sincerely hope you will continue to benefit from a healthy and nourishing diet and lifestyle, with some help from our herbs and the information and blogs throughout our website.


  • Eunice's photo avatar
    Eunice — 06.11.2017 11:23
    I cant eat alot of fruit or veg because of ibs and acid reflux mainly bowel problems. So i only eat veg and fruit that agrees with me, blueberries with breakfast few grapes and banana, lettace is ok. Tiny bit lemon in warm water first thing. Most days. Brogglie carrots peas spuds. Not every day. So what else can i take or do with ibs. I take good Probiotic 14.


    • Emma's photo avatar
      Emma — 06.11.2017 12:15
      Hi Eunice, there are a few things here; it may be worth supporting the stomach with some Centaurium, as well as the gut with some probiotics, as you are already doing. Next, it might be worth keeping a food diary to help identify any potential food triggers – FODMAPs may be one to watch for example, as you mention the different fruits and vegetables. If you are still having problems, it may also be worth looking into making an appointment with a nutritional therapist. They can help make you a personalised treatment. is a good resource which may be useful.


  • Sarah's photo avatar
    Sarah — 05.08.2017 19:59
    I have something called ARFID and cannot eat any fruit or vegetables. I'm aware of how unhealthy this is but other than tomato puree or tomato juice from spaghetti and sausage I'm not sure how else I can get fruit or veg into my diet. I've started by putting tiny bits of onion in lasagne and working up but if you have any advice I would love to hear from you. I have thought about smoothies and soup but aware the taste would probably be too much at first unless I introduced 1 fruit at a time


    • Emma's photo avatar
      Emma — 07.08.2017 09:29
      Hi Sarah, thank you for your question. If you haven’t already, it might be worth considering a type of talking therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), this may be useful in some cases of ARFID. I think some of the steps you are making sound really positive. As you say, start small, and perhaps start with vegetables which aren’t so strong tasting, for example potatoes or onion, or those that have a sweetness which might be more palatable, for example, sweet potato, petit pois or carrots. As you say, I think chopping the vegetables very finely, or even grating them, and adding them in amongst other foods could work, or blending them up. You could also try milk based smoothies and try gradually adding small amounts of certain fruit at once, for example banana or some berries. You could start with a larger proportion of milk to only a little fruit (blitz up very well) and then gradually increase the proportion of fruit. I hope this helps!


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