The National Health Survey 2020-21 data was released recently, and we’re not the healthiest bunch. We like our fruit, but we’re not big vegetable fans!
Fruits and vegetables contain important micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients like antioxidants. These nutrients support every system in the body, from energy production to immune support and everything in between. They are the ingredients for neurotransmitters and hormones and the fuel for other processes in the body.
How many serves do I need?
The recommended number of serves for fruit and vegetables varies at each stage of life as our nutritional needs change. They are also different for males and females at certain times. Generally, adults should aim for two servings of fruit and five serves of vegetables per day, and children should aim for 1-1.5 servings of fruit and 2.5-4.5 servings of vegetables per day.
Currently, the majority of Australians don’t meet their daily requirements. Only 6.1% of adults and 8.5% of children eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables! Low consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, frequent illnesses, acne and irritability. A diet like this can also be associated with weight gain as fruits and vegetables are replaced with foods that are lower in nutrient value but higher in sugar, fats, salt and overall energy intake.
What is a serve of fruits and vegetables?
A serve of fruit is:
1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear.
2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
1 cup of diced fruit.
A serve of vegetables is:
½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (preferably with no added salt)
1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables.
How can I increase my intake of fruits and vegetables?
You can increase your fruit and vegetable intake by trying to include vegetables with every meal and having fruit when you have a snack. Consider including spinach in a smoothie at breakfast or with scrambled eggs, a salad or soup at lunch, carrot sticks for a snack and a stir fry for dinner.
There are many different fruits and vegetables you can try to keep your meals interesting with variety. Try a new fruit or vegetable each week, or even just one you haven’t had for a while.
Aim for 30 different fruits, vegetables and herbs per week to support your gut microbiome – this is the body’s powerhouse where food is broken down into nutrients needed for the body, the immune system lives, and the majority of neurotransmitters like serotonin are created.
Fruits and vegetables that are in season often taste better. They are more affordable due to the decreased transportation required, so aim for fruits and vegetables that are in season. These are more nutritious too because they’re fresher!
Find your local farmer’s market. You will often find some gems, like the purple carrots at my local market! Alternatively, if there’s no market near you, order a mixed box of fruit and vegetables from a local supplier to try something new.
If you’d like more information on keeping vegetables for longer, check out this article.