Why does the campaign recommend 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day?

Vegetables and fruit provide essential vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytochemicals (secondary plant substances). Five servings of vegetables and fruit a day (600 grams) supply the body with these important substances.

Vegetables and fruit are low in calories and fat, and are easy to digest. A varied diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit contributes a great deal to good health and well-being.

How much is 1 Portion?

One portion or serving is equal to about a handful of vegetables or fruit. This approximate amount works automatically for each person.

One children’s portion is equal to 70 grams of vegetables or 100 grams of fruit (=410 grams/day); One adult portion is equal to 120 grams of vegetables or fruit (=600 grams/day). This amount relates to ready-to-eat vegetables and fruit (prepared, peeled, etc.).

How and when the portions are eaten during the day is not as important as the diversity of vegetable and fruit varieties. Because each and every vegetable and fruit contain other substances that are good for the body. The more colourful, the better!

What counts in «5 a Day»?

All vegetables and fruits are included, whether fresh, cooked or frozen. However, potatoes, cassava and pulses are not counted among vegetables in the programme, due to their high proportion of starch and especially being in the high carbohydrate food group.

Mushrooms occupy a special position in «5 a Day». Botanically speaking, they are neither animal nor plant and they theoretically cannot be classified as vegetables or fruit. Due to their low calorie content and high vitamin content, mushrooms can be affiliated with the vegetable group in «5 a Day».

Herbs and garlic are excluded since they are mainly used as spices/condiments and cannot be consumed as one portion (120 grams).

What are the health benefits if «5 a Day» is followed?

Vegetables and fruit play an important role in a healthy, balanced diet and can reduce the risk of disease due to their high nutrient content.

It has also been proven that high vegetable and fruit consumption significantly reduces the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (about 7-21%) and stroke (about 25%).

Vegetables and fruit even have a protective effect against the risk of cancer. This protective effect is evident in mouth, throat, larynx, oesophagus and stomach cancer. There is a protective effect as well against nasal cavity, lung, colon, uterine and ovarian cancer. The more vegetables and fruit eaten, the more the cancer risk is reduced.

Vegetables and fruit have no direct influence on type 2 diabetes risk. Vegetables and fruit seem to have a positive influence on body weight maintenance. However, because obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, vegetables and fruit have an indirect influence.

Which is better: Raw or cooked vegetables?

Both ways of preparing vegetables have their place in a balanced and healthy diet. It is true that various heat-sensitive vitamins in vegetables are partially destroyed by cooking; such as vitamin C and folic acid. Nevertheless, vitamin C requirements can be met without any problem, if enough raw vegetables and fruit are eaten in addition to those which are cooked.

Sometimes the best way to unlock valuable phyto-nutrients (plant substances) is to steam or cook vegetables. Beta-carotene in carrots or the lycopene in tomatoes becomes more available and useful for our organisms if these vegetables are cooked. Cooked vegetables are also easier to digest, because cooking helps food fibres to become more elastic.

Raw vegetables have the advantage of stimulating the appetite – within an instant, the sight of food makes ones mouth water, along with the crisp, fresh sound of chewing. Raw food as a salad or as an appetizer makes food last longer and helps people against gulping down food too quickly.

Enjoying raw vegetables also means advantages for good dental health and digestion. «5 a Day» recommends three portions of vegetables and three portions of fruit daily; while eating at least one raw portion.

Does fruit juice count, too?

One of the five portions may be replaced by a glass of fruit juice or a smoothie (adults: 2 dl/ children 1.5 dl). When manufacturing fruit juice, some vitamins are lost in processing and many dietary fibres and phyto-nutrients are left behind in the filter. Processed fruit juice has less nutrient value than fresh-pressed juice. However, what is important when drinking juice, is to drink different juices and not always the same. Sometimes, fruit nectar or juice drinks have added sugar, and even added flavour.

Can dried fruit also be counted in «5 a Day»?

Dried fruit also counts in «5 a Day». Every day, one portion can be replaced by a handful of dried fruit. The serving size depends on the drying process; but the amount is usually between 20-30 grams. As a snack between meals or as a sweet addition to a dish of muesli, one portion is taken care of in the blink of an eye.
N.B.: In conserving dried fruit, water is extracted from it. Dietary fibres and minerals are still important elements of dried fruit. The sugar concentration is increased in dried fruit; thus, making it a real energy boosting food and only eating it as one portion per day.

Can frozen vegetables be added in?

Frozen vegetables are harvested, immediately blanched, heated briefly with water and steam and then quickly frozen. Therefore, frozen produce is very often still vibrant and crisp as fresh fruit and vegetables, and can be stored for a long time before being eaten. For example, fresh green beans already lose 80 percent of their vitamin C when stored in the refrigerator for seven days at +4°C. Frozen produce lose vitamin C at a slower rate: Even green beans which are frozen for a whole year still contain about 45 percent of their vitamin C.
The only thing that must be observed when purchasing frozen foods: The products should be natural and unseasoned, because vegetables with added butter and cream sauces mean unnecessary extra calories. Also, watch out for unnecessary added sweeteners or sugar in frozen fruit.

Generally, the quality of frozen vegetables is very close to the quality of fresh vegetables, and they are readily available.

Do canned vegetables and canned fruit count as a portion?

Yes. Vegetables and fruit are heated at a short time 120°C when canning. However, some valuable nutrients are lost in this process. In addition, many canned produce is heavily salted or sugared. Nevertheless, canned vegetables and canned fruit can replace a portion.


Do vegetables and fruit lose many vitamins when they are prepared the day before eating?

In principle, the fresher the food, the higher the vitamin levels. Many vitamins are heat, light and oxygen sensitive and each processing step means a loss in vitamins. Therefore, orange juice contains less vitamins than a fresh orange.

Hence, vegetables and fruit should be quickly processed, hermetically sealed, stored in a dark, cool place and for as short a time as possible.

What are vitamins?

Vitamins don’t provide energy to the body, but they do provide individual, important functions in the human metabolism. Vitamins are found in different concentrations in various foods. For example, fruit supplies especially vitamin C and folic acid; however, meat provides vitamins B1, B6 and B12.

13 vitamins play a role in the human diet. A distinction is made between water soluble and fat soluble vitamins. The body can synthesize vitamin D on its own, although this is not sufficient. Vitamins are required regularly and in sufficient quantities in nutrition.

Some vitamins are very sensitive to external influences such as heat, light and oxygen. That’s why fruit and vegetables should always be used fresh and gently cooked, in order to minimize the loss of vitamins.

What are minerals?

Minerals are nutrients which don’t supply energy, but are essential for many functions in the body. Unlike vitamins, minerals are not very sensitive to heat, light and oxygen. However, there can be a loss in minerals when food is prepared in water. Therefore, vegetables should rather be steamed instead of cooked in lots of water.

What are secondary plant substances (phytochemicals)?

Secondary plant substances (phytochemicals) are part of our daily diet. They are contained in fruit, vegetables, potatoes, pulses, nuts, whole grain products, as well as fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and give food from plants their colours. In plants, these serve as defences against predators or microbial attack and also act as growth regulators.
There are more than 10,000 different secondary plant substances (phytochemicals) – all with different tasks and other effects on the body. The best is to have as many as possible. Therefore, the more colourful and diverse the food that is eaten, the better.

What are dietary fibres?

Dietary fibres have a positive effect on the metabolism and the digestive organs. They affect stool consistency and regulate digestion. They also support health enhancing processes, such as lowering cholesterol and/or regulating blood sugar levels.