On Wednesday I referred to the suggestion made in research from University College London that the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables that we are supposed to be eating every day should be raised to seven. It’s fairly obvious that eating more fruit and vegetables is going to make you healthier, but just how did Britain settle on the fairly arbitrary number of five? And what do other countries do instead?

In Denmark there is a recommendation of six portions per day, while the French advise ten. The United States shares our advice for five, but also push a “fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables” agenda, which doesn’t entirely take into account the size of the plate. Their northern neighbours in Canada suggest somewhere between 5 and 10 is ideal, while Australia suggest 2 of fruit and 5 of vegetables. All of which means that many countries are already on board with the at least seven ideal.

Japan has everybody beat, however, with a recommendation of a whopping 13 portions of vegetables and 4 of fruit every day. Just how do they manage this given the sheer quantity of food that would encompass? Simple, their portion is not the same as ours. As little as 50g constitutes a Japanese portion (while one in Spain is potentially twice as big as ours).

So, yes, our recommendations are still going to be less than most other countries, but that is because, due to both climate and culture, there is less abundance of fruit and vegetables in Britain and less appetite for them. The important thing with such targets is, as I stated on Wednesday, to be realistic. The five portions suggested by the NHS comes from the World Health Organisation‘s statement that at least 400g of fruit and veg should be consumed daily for a reasonably healthy diet.

It’s always worth remembering, of course, that the recommendation is for “at least five portions”, that doesn’t mean you can’t have more as well!

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