It’s been the rule of thumb for years that a healthy diet contains at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Not only can eating more fruit and vegetables help keep your calorie intake down in order to make weight management easier, it also ensures you get plenty of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are important for your health.

However, it now seems that we’ve been underestimating just how many portions of fruit and veg we should be eating. A new study by Imperial College London has suggested that eating ten portions a day could be more beneficial to our health.

Researchers found that increasing your fruit and vegetable intake each day could help to reduce the risk of serious illnesses, helping you to live a longer life. In fact, the team behind the study calculated that eating ten portions daily could mean premature deaths are reduced by around 7.8 million every year.

Certain fruits help ward off illnesses

Not only could eating more of all fruit and vegetables be beneficial, actually eating more of specific types might help to ward off specific illnesses, according to the study. Researchers suggest that green, yellow and cruciferous vegetables – such as broccoli – could help to lower people’s risk of cancer. Similarly, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, apples, salads and pears could all help lower the chances of heart disease and stroke.

According to the research team, even eating small amounts of these types of fruit and vegetables provided benefits, meaning you could slowly start to increase your intake and still get results without feeling like you were only living on greens.

What’s a portion?

The idea of eating ten portions a day may seem like a bit much, but it’s actually not as difficult as you might think. One portion equates to just 80g of fruit or vegetables, which is around the same amount as a small banana.

This means simply adding more variety of vegetables to individual meals rather than a large portion of one kind can help you get closer to ten-a-day. You can easily add vegetables to pasta sauces – whether you chop them up or blend them into the sauce itself – curries, casseroles and stews, and a number of other dishes without changing the flavour too much.

Similarly, eating fruit as a snack, having a piece with breakfast and eating it for dessert can all help increase your portions while also helping to keep your calorie count down. As fruit helps to balance your blood sugar levels, you’ll probably find that you need to reach for caffeinated drinks and sugary treats less and less.

What foods count as fruit and vegetables?

Not only do your usual fresh fruit and vegetables you usually pick up in the supermarket count towards your ten-a-day, frozen and tinned varieties – so long as they are in water rather than oil or syrup – also count. This makes it easier to ensure your kitchen is always stocked with tasty greens and provides easy ways for you to bulk up meals.

On top of this, pulses and beans also count as vegetables. Things like kidney beans, lentils, black beans and chickpeas all help increase your portion count and are great ways to add more flavour to meals.

As well as using them to create vegetarian or vegan meals, you can also add them to meat dishes to make them go a bit further and to include more vegetables. Lentils go great in things like shepherd’s pie, while chickpeas can be added to chicken curries.

Even if you don’t manage to eat ten portions of fruit and vegetables every day straight off the bat, these tips can help you slowly build up the number of portions you consume, which could have great health benefits in both the long and short term.