Forget five—make it seven a day?

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By Robert Harland

What’s Cooking?

Monday, May 26, 2014


FOR good health, experts tell us we need to eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Even with the best will in the world, it can be hard to squeeze those five portions in. And I seriously doubt many Filipinos get close to that. I've often noticed the absence of vegetables at dinners and buffets here.

Now comes news from scientists that five a day may not be enough. They suggest we should be aiming for seven portions a day, and mostly vegetables at that.

This latest news will no doubt raise a few groans from those who religiously try to have the required number of servings a day.

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The seven-a-day recommendations comes from a study carried out by experts at University College London, who analyzed the eating habits of 65,000 people, revealed through eight years of the Health Survey for England, and matched them with causes of death.

The clear finding was that eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, including salads, was linked to living a longer life generally and in particular, to a lower chance of death from heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Eating at least seven portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day was linked to a 42 percent lower risk of death from all causes. It was also associated with a 25 percent lower risk of cancer and 31 percent lower risk of heart disease or stroke. Vegetables seemed to have significantly more protection against disease than eating fruits, they say.

Seven a day is a tall order for many of us especially for busy professionals, who sometimes only have time to grab a quick bite at McDo between meetings or sales calls.

Help is, however, at hand. An easy way to boost your intake of vegetables and enjoy doing it is to eat plenty of soup made primarily with vegetables.

But canned soups, which contain high levels of salt, sugars and additives, should be avoided. There is no substitute for healthy and hearty vegetable soups made at home.

Marie Murphy, a nutrition scientist with the prestigious British Nutrition Foundation in London, told me that soup is a really great way of getting a number of fruit and vegetables into our daily diet.

"However, it is worth considering that variety is very important when trying to meet fruit and vegetable recommendations," she said.

"Fruits like berries and citrus contain lots of important vitamins and minerals (and these aren't traditionally found in soups). Another point to consider is that some of the benefit of fruits and vegetables come from the fact that they displace other less healthy foods in the diet – for example, eating an apple instead of a donut or filling up our plates with vegetables instead of fries.

"It's a good idea to spread our fruit and vegetable intake over the day to help avoid reaching for the less healthy alternatives," she added.

But she warned us to be careful of the amount of salt into our soups. This can be relatively high in soups or in stocks that are used to make soup. She recommends checking he label – a food is considered high in salt if it has more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium). So it’s a good idea to make your own stocks if you can.

Why not try cooking up a batch of your own? You'd be surprised at just how quick, easy and cheap it is to make a variety of soups to suit all tastes, while, at the same time, getting a good dose of life-giving vegetables.

Next week, I'll give you some delicious vegetables soup recipes.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 26, 2014.

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