Diet :: UK failing to eat 5 a day

Nearly two thirds of people across the UK are failing to eat the recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables – according to research released today.

The Cancer Research UK survey of over 4,000 UK men and women showed that only 34 per cent of people said they were eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.

The regional comparison of diets highlights a patchwork of eating habits. Higher proportions of people in the south, East Anglia and Wales are eating five or more a day, compared to the midlands, the north, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The breakdown shows the UK’s south-west region had the highest proportion of people eating five or more fruit and vegetables a day with 46 per cent reaching the target compared to 27 per cent in areas in the north and the midlands. The figure is even lower in Northern Ireland with only 17 per cent getting their five a day.

About one quarter of all cancer deaths are thought to be caused by unhealthy diets and obesity2. Diet affects the risk of many cancers including cancer of the stomach, bowel, mouth and the foodpipe.

A healthy diet reduces the risk of cancer as well as protecting against other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity. A healthy diet contains at least five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, is based on starchy foods such as rice, wholegrain breads and cereals and is low is fat, sugar and salt.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “This lack of fruit and vegetables in the majority of diets across the UK is worrying. We know that the food we eat has a big influence on our health. We should all be eating more fruit and veg.”

Cancer Research UK and the charity Weight Concern have joined forces to develop a weight loss programme called the Ten Top Tips. These 10 simple and easy to follow tips have been designed to fit into daily life and are based on the best scientific evidence. One of the tips is to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day using a range of advice to help hit the target, such as having a glass of unsweetened fruit juice.

Charlene Shoneye, Weight Concern’s specialist dietitian, said: “These results are a cause for concern. We know that eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of cancers, aid weight loss and help prevent obesity but we are still not eating enough.

“Practical ideas like the Ten Tops Tips programme can help you to incorporate healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine. For example, take a piece of fruit to work so that you have it with you for a snack. And remember that your fruit or vegetable portions can be fresh, frozen, dried or canned so it needn’t be expensive.”

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