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Up your fruit and veg

A study has found 7 or more servings of fruit and veg a day reduces your risk of dying by 42 percent … compared with eating less than 1 serving.

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The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, looked at the eating habits of more than 65,000 people. It also found that eating 7 or more servings reduces the specific risks of death by cancer or heart disease by 25 percent and 31 percent respectively. Vegetables had the strongest protective effect.

The researchers found no evidence of significant benefit from fruit juice. Our Ministry of Health suggests only 1 serving of fruit or vegetable juice counts towards your 5+ a day – juicing reduces the fibre levels and boosts the sugar content. (A serving is a handful of fruit or vegetables. It varies by the size of your hand – and so an adult eats a larger serving than a child.)

These findings support Australia’s “Go for 2+5” guidelines, which recommend eating 2 servings of fruit and 5 of vegetables. So should we be changing our 5+ A Day message?

Paula Dudley, General Manager of New Zealand’s 5+ A Day Charitable Trust, says 5 servings is the starting point that people need to build on: “5+A Day is in-line with our Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization recommendations. A few countries tried to introduce “10 a day” and quickly changed it again as it was seen as unachievable. 5+ A Day is realistic and within reach for people. What this study reinforces is the positive effects that eating more fruit and vegetables have on our health and wellbeing – the more the merrier, especially when it comes to vegetables,” says Dudley.

What’s clear is Kiwis need to up their game. A December 2013 survey commissioned by the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust found that only just over a third (36 percent) of New Zealanders eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

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