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Forget five-a-day, six-a-day or seven-a-day... are we overdosing on healthy eating advice? Being sensible about healthy eating rather than a rigid code, is the best way to live well, argues Rachael Misstear.

Byline: Rachael Misstear

GIVING our children a healthy and balanced diet isn't as simple as it sounds, with many foods laced with hidden sugars, salt and fat.

The endless updates on the daily recommended guidelines might be enough to send the most diligent of health fanatics into a spin.

However there has been one mantra that most have come to acknowledge, if not abide by, over the last decade or so, it is the trusted 'five-a-day'. A heathy balance of five portions of fruits and vegetables to help us stave of illness and boost our immunity.

Simple, right? Well, it was until April, when we told we might want to look to our fruit bowls and shopping baskets for an extra two portions.

Headlines of "seven a day fruit and veg 'saves lives'" reported BBC News, while The Daily Telegraph said "10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day" is best.

The reports were prompted by the results of a UK-based study that used information on more than 65,000 randomly selected adults who were participating in the Health Survey for England.

The ongoing health survey looks at health and lifestyle factors such as fruit and vegetable consumption. The researchers followed up participants for an average of 7.7 years after their initial participation.

So as we frantically peeled our bananas to scatter on our children's cereal, and jammed dried apricots and apples into their lunch boxes, we mentally ticked off the numbers to reach the targets being drummed into to us.

As a parent it is a double pressure. There's no diet more sacred than the one of a child. It is our responsibility to ensure their nutrition, and feeding our kids well is the first opportunity to set them up for a healthy future. It's easy to feel like failure if they refuse to eat their broccoli (cue the mental note that we are one short of the five, or is it seven-a-day?).

So the news that scientists now believe five portions might be enough for optimum benefits will no doubt come as a relief to hordes of conscientious parents, who have been slicing celery to serve with hummus to their off-spring.

A new and even bigger study carried out by Chinese and American researchers says five will do. The two teams have agreed on one main issue: eating more fruit and vegetables than most of us currently do is a healthy thing to do. The evidence suggests that it lowers the risk of dying from heart disease or cancer.

But the more dicult issue is to gure out how much is enough in order to formulate guidelines for peoplewho may not particularly enjoy eating their greens, as well as those who complain they are expensive.

But the more difficult issue is to figure out how much is enough in order to formulate guidelines for peoplewho may not particularly enjoy eating their greens, as well as those who complain they are expensive.

I'm determined not to go crosseyed over any conict these studies i'm determined not to go crosseyed over any conflict these studies may suggest. may suggest.

What is abundantly clear is that fruit and vegetables are good for us. ere is no doubt that swapping a biscuit for an orange or an apple for elevenses will be innitely healthier for everyone.

Focussing what is going into our bodies, as opposed to how much, is probably the best way to keep things straight. We know saturated fats are bad for us, we're starting to understand that sugar is equally destructive, but eating fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, looking especially at deaths as a result of cardiovascular disease and cancer. e higher a person's intake of fruit and vegetables, the greater the protective eects seemed to be.

It's biology, or is it chemistry. I refuse to make it about maths.

So once we resolve to feed our children well, there is, of course, the dental issue we have to contend with as parents, and as their mouths are awash with fruit sugars and citric acid, we then have to lure them to water to rinse away the potential damage.


Is it time to ignore the research and let common sense take over when it comes to the diet of your family?

Chris Berry
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 31, 2014
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