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Five ways to up your five a day


One in five Brits consume at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily, the highest intake in Europe. But what are the easiest ways to increase consumption for those still missing out?

Britain is leading the way when it comes to eating the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables, according to an online survey of 29,000 respondents by Nielsen.

It shows that 22% of UK consumers consume at least five portions a day, compared to an average of 8% across Europe.

Eating 400g of fruit and vegetables a day can help lower the risk of health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity and some cancers, the British Dietetic Association says.

However the British government's 5 a day campaign has only been partially successful, particularly among lower income groups, former chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson recently said.

And only one in ten children are receiving their recommended "five-a-day", a report last year suggested.

But there are some easy ways to get more in to a diet with minimum effort.

Add fruit to breakfast dishes

Breakfast needn't be bland, especially if you add fruit to the mix.

"Chop an apple or pear onto your muesli or add blueberries to porridge for a boost of vitamin C and beta carotene," says nutritionist Helen Ford.

Boost your intake:

Beetroot and feta soup

Serve a beetroot and feta soup

Create a pumpkin and lentil stew

Magic up a mango smoothie

Or for breakfast on the go, you could try drinking a berry-rich smoothie, which is rich in immune boosting antioxidants.

"It is best to make the smoothie pulpy, as chewing does increase digestive juices and aids the process of digestion and absorption of nutrients," says Ms Ford.

Adding fruit peel and pith to the smoothie can also help lower cholesterol, says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, as the pith contains higher levels of pectin which can help feed beneficial bacteria.

But if you want to avoid bloating, it is wise to eat fruit well before dinner.

"Fruit is best eaten approximately one hour before a meal because the fruit contains simple sugars that require no digestion," says Ms Ford.

"Other foods, such as foods rich in fat, protein and starch, will stay in the stomach for a longer period of time because they require more digestion.

"So if you eat fruit after a meal, the fruit sugar will stay for too long in the stomach and ferment and cause bloating and flatulence."

Make a snack using leftover vegetables

Wholesome foods such as dried figs and nuts are good snacking options to get you through the day, says Ms Ford.

Paratha Try making parathas with lovage or carom seeds and wholemeal flour

Or you could try making your own Indian flatbread or paratha out of leftover vegetable juices, suggests Chef Anjum Anand.

"Instead of adding water to a dough, you can just use the water from the vegetables and all the different colours really come out in the paratha when you bake it," says Ms Anand.

"You can eat it with butter, soft cheese or even pickles on the side.

"It's a great way for a lot of Indian mums to get veggies into their dough... and it doesn't smell of curry."

Swap a sandwich for soup

Watercress soup is an ideal lunch option explains Ms Ford as it is rich in iron and magnesium.

Why five a day?

Dr Mosely

Listen to Dr Michael Mosley investigating the history and science behind 5 a Day, on Radio 4's You and Yours.

But if you do prefer a classic sandwich, simply add a serving of dark green leaves such as spinach or watercress to a hummus spread.

To make soup feel like more of a meal, you could always try adding different meats or beans to a vegetable base like in this chunky chorizo soup.

"Hearty soups that have their veg stocks built into their base are a bit of a specialty of ours," says chef Matthew Pennington of the Ethicurean restaurant.

Soup is easy to tailor as long as you use the same ratios in the base, says Mr Pennington.

"For a soup to serve four to six people, the base is always 500g onion, 250g carrots and 250g celeriac or celery.

"The peeled and cubed veg can all be combined in a large pan and covered well with water.

Watercress and pea soup Watercress soup is perfect for a spring and works well served hot or chilled

"Bring to the boil and simmer until the veg is all tender.

"Season with salt and cider vinegar then blend till smooth and pass through a sieve if you want something even smoother," explains Mr Pennington.

Make a fruit crumble or compote

Stewing fruit slowly with spices instead of using sugar is also a good way to enhance the flavour of a dessert or compote.

"I love poached pears and peaches in a bit of water with star anise and cinnamon," says Ms Anand.

"Once poached, I take the fruit out and drizzle a bit of Greek yoghurt on the side and add some saffron."

Star anise is a very versatile spice and combines well with all sorts of fruit, says Ms Anand, while mint adds freshness to a fruit salad or compote.

Rhubarb crumble

Experiment adding spices to crumbles

"Saffron also works beautifully with fruits such as mango and orange."

Baked rhubarb has also been found to contain high levels of polyphenols - chemicals found that protect the cells in the body from free-radical damage.

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University found that slow-cooked or stewed forced rhubarb has a higher polyphenol content than in its raw state.

So for a nutritious dessert or snack with a high Vitamin C content, you could try making a rhubarb crumble or a compote with baked rhubarb, ginger and orange juice.

"Stewed apples and blackberries work well with a good sprinkle of cinnamon," says Ms Ford.

"It's a healthy, delicious dessert packed full of vitamins."

Vary your fruit and veg

One of the best ways to make the most out of your five a day is to eat a rainbow of different fruit and vegetables, explains Dr Glenville.

"It's really important to have variety in your diet and to experiment with different dishes," says Ms Anand.

"Even if you eat a greater variety of fruit and veg prepared in a less healthy way, I think it's better than going to your preferred veg all the time.

"For instance, I love to eat coconut, which is often perceived as being unhealthy but it's actually very good for our skin and hair."

Ms Anand recommends cooking coconut flesh in milk and then adding it to pastry, which she shallow fries until it's crisp and light.

"For me the more varied your diet, the healthier you are."

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