One of a number of problems with government guidelines on health and nutrition is the 5-a-day guidance we’ve had for a long time now. Seemingly, all this has done is convince people that if they eat 5 portions of fruit or vegetables per day they will be healthy.

I know enough people who force down 5 then go and attack fast food. I know enough people who feel it is a chore to eat this many, but, do anyway to feel less guilty about their diet. I will however concede that 5 is better than 0.

50-60 years ago when farming was less intense and everything was organic we didn’t have this problem. With the introduction of synthetic fertilisers and more intense farming methods we have gradually caused a depletion of organic matter from our soil and we are losing the mineral density in what we are growing our food. The crops we then farm contain far less nutrients than what you’d have found decades ago. Variety and breeding of crops will also play a part in this. With the pursuit of profits in mind (or perhaps just breaking even if you are a small holding), selective breeding of crops has been focused on producing high yield and durable plants that look good.

Hopefully we will see a change in the advice the government is giving us. If you do a quick internet search there are plenty of articles even on the NHS site to change it to at least 7, some articles 10. I think we should be suggesting along the lines of 7-12 for non-athletic people. Where you get it from shouldn’t change neither, eat the rainbow is a good phrase you may have heard before, eat a variety of colours to ensure you get a full spectrum of micro-nutrients (found in plants and some grains). Shortening the farm to fork journey is best practice too. Picking the plant at peak ripeness is better and this can only be done if you buy local (or grow your own).

What I tell my clients is that to support their training, to ensure adequate recovery time, and that they get the best out of each session they should be aiming for at least 12 portions, but go as high as possible. The micronutrients in fruit and vegetables will make a massive difference the way you feel not only your athletic performance. You don’t need a scientific study to prove this either, why not try it for a month, increasing gradually each week and see how you feel? Ensure you still eat a balanced diet with healthy protein and fats but switch to getting your carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables.

If you’re trying to lose weight, or on a low carbohydrate diet such as keto, then you might consider simply eating vegetables and going as leafy as possible. It’s entirely possible to get enough nutrients, without overdoing it with the carbs.

You might be concerned that you’ll never get that much in? It’s not as hard as it sounds and with some careful preparation it is easily achievable. Using blenders, soup makers and juicers, you’ll be able to increase you micro-nutrient intake easily and effectively.

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