Dietitian Lucy Jones identifies that low fruit and vegetable consumption is causing an increased risk of conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. However, she believes increasing consumption can be straightforward with a simple 150ml glass of 100% fruit juice, which counts as one of your 5 a day.

Photo: PA

Photo: PA

  • In 2017, the World Health Organization estimated 3.9 million deaths worldwide were attributable to inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Increasing individual fruit and vegetable consumption to up to 7-8 portions/day could reduce the total worldwide burden of disease by nearly 2%
  • High fruit and vegetable consumption has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD), and stroke.

New research from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey reveals that 80% of adults and 90% of children do not meet their 5 a day in the UK. In fact, a decade of research into our eating habits has revealed that fruit and vegetable intake has remained low and unchanged. Consumption of fruit and vegetables has a direct impact on life expectancy, but 25 years after the World Health Organisation introduced its 5 a day recommendation, intake has not increased.

Leading Consultant Dietitian Lucy Jones warns: “It is concerning to see that despite efforts from a variety of organisations, plus numerous healthy eating trends, aiming to increase fruit and vegetable consumption it still remains at an all-time low. The cost this could have to public health could be huge, as low fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to increased risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. We need to address the barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption and look to find ways to improve messages around consumption.”

Whilst health educators have been incredibly successful at spreading the 5 A Day message, evidence suggests that they have been unsuccessful at translating this into behavioural change. Interestingly, even though we are all aware that we must achieve at least 5 A Day, we are simply just not – so why is this?

Consumer research has identified six key challenges to fruit and vegetable consumption:

  • They take effort to prepare
  • They can be messy because they create waste or leave hands feeling sticky
  • Their short shelf life requires frequent shopping
  • They are bulky and heavy to transport
  • They are often more expensive than less healthy foods
  • Many consumers don’t know how to add more of them in to their diets

Professor David Benton from Swansea University commented: “Believing we can do something increases the chance of success, while lack of belief increases the odds of failure. To increase the nation’s fruit and vegetable consumption, we must alter this mindset and address the challenges to consumption”

Dietitian Lucy Jones’ top tips to increase fruit and vegetable consumption:

  1. If you have freezer space stock up on frozen fruit and vegetables. These are packed full of vitamins and minerals as they are frozen fresh and keep for much longer. They are also really easy to prepare as they come pre-cut!
  2. Have a small 150ml glass of 100% fruit juice with your breakfast. It counts as one of your 5 A Day and the vitamin C helps to increase the absorption of plant-based iron from breakfast cereals and porridge.
  3. Remember tinned fruit and vegetables also count towards your 5 a day. Switch tinned fruit in syrup for tinned fruit in juice to reduce added sugar’!
  4. Why not try ‘Meat-free Mondays’ and go vegetarian for a day a week – this will encourage you to add more vegetables to your plate!
  5. If you don’t really like fruit and vegetables, try and find at least five that you like and can eat most day. Variety is the key, but some is definitely better than none!

To make matters worse, we now live in an era where we are constantly bombarded with conflicting guidance on what we should and should not consume, from the carnivore diet which recommends eating only meat with little to no fruit and vegetables to the keto diet which demonises a number of fruit and vegetables for their ‘high’ carbohydrate content. These fad diets are often further pushed and given credibility by ill-informed social influencers. There’s no wonder people are confused about what constitutes a healthy diet.

Consultant Dietitian Lucy Jones comments: “Any dietitian or nutritionist will tell you that fruit and vegetables should be a huge part of a healthy balanced diet.  They are generally low in calories with a high nutritional reward, containing a wealth of nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.”

Office for Health Economics Economist, Grace Hampson also adds: “The health benefits of increased fruit and veg consumption could lead to improvements in quality of life, a reduced burden on the NHS, and benefits to the wider economy. Research is needed to explore these potential impacts in the UK.

Top 5 surprising benefits of 100% fruit juice

  1.       It is part of a heart healthy diet. 100% fruit juice contains potassium, which helps maintain normal blood pressure. Research published in Journal of Nutritional Science showed that consumption of pomegranate juice for 4 weeks resulted in a reduction in blood pressure.
  2.       It can help boost overall fruit and vegetable consumption; not only does a glass of 100% fruit juice count as one of your 5 a day, but data from the National Diet and Nutrition survey has shown that fruit juice drinkers were 42% more likely to achieve their 5 a day..
  3.       It can be part of a weight loss diet; research published in Nutrition found that, when consumed within a calorie restricted diet, drinking fruit juice resulted in weight loss, greater body fat and waist circumference reduction and better preservation of lean body mass, compared to a calorie matched control drink.
  4.       It can be enjoyed safely by diabetics; A study published in Journal of Nutritional Science found that consumption of 100% fruit juice does not significantly raise blood sugar and is not associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, Diabetes UK recommends that 150ml of 100% fruit juice can be part of a diabetic diet.
  5.       It is simply fruit that has been juiced, so the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients from the whole fruit are also present in the juice. 100% orange juice provides essential nutrients and vitamins including potassium (which is needed for the maintenance of normal blood pressure), folate (a B vitamin needed to make DNA and other genetic material), and vitamin C (helps with iron absorption and in the production of collagen for healthy skin).

In 2017, the World Health Organization estimated 3.9 million deaths worldwide were attributable to inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption. However, there is something that can be done to address this. Research reveals that risk of mortality decreases with each portion of fruit or vegetables consumed. Could one portion of fruit or veg, really be the difference between life or death?

Lucy Jones says: “At a time when the UK population are hugely under indexing on their 5 A Day, we need to do all that we can to encourage higher fruit and vegetable consumption. A really simple way to do this is to include a small 150ml glass of fruit juice to your diet. It counts as one portion of fruit and has a number of surprising benefits, too!”

Professor David Benton says, “Adding a single portion of 100% fruit juice to your diet everyday could have such a positive impact on consumption and could reduce the risk of death from all causes by 3.9%.”

Despite the common misconceptions surrounding fruit juice, Public Health England recognises 150ml of 100% fruit juice as one of your 5 A Day, to be consumed alongside whole fruit and vegetables.

What’s more? It provides a simple solution to the aforementioned barriers:

  • Fruit juice takes no effort to prepare
  • There is no mess
  • It can be purchased in bulk and stored at home
  • It is inexpensive
  • It is simple to add to our diet