Recent media reports suggesting consumers require less than five portions of fruit and vegetables each day are misleading, creating confusion with consumers and are not in the interest of public well-being said the organisation 5+ A Day.

General Manager of The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust Paula Dudley said some global and New Zealand media reporting on a study published in the Lancet* have misinterpreted the information, suggesting fewer servings are enough.

“If you read the research carefully, it all comes down to portion size.   At 5+ A Day we recommend at least five or more servings of colourful fruit and vegetables as being beneficial for your health. This equates to roughly 400 g, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation and our Ministry of Health.  The research reported on in the article (the PURE study) in fact suggests eating the equivalent of 375-500 g, so this is actually recommending eating on average more than we do. It is certainly not the case that this debunks the principles behind 5+ A Day.”

Carolyn Lister Team Leader, Phytochemicals & Health at Plant & Food Research says it is easier for people to eat smaller portions of fresh fruit and vegetables, than bigger and less often.

“It is really important to eat a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, because they deliver different nutrients and phytochemicals important for health. For example, you might eat only 50 g of leafy greens, but that serve size may deliver more of a particular nutrient, such as vitamin C, than a larger serve of another fruit or vegetable. Therefore it makes sense to eat more portions, rather than just bigger,” said Lister.

Dudley said it is easiest to think of portions in terms of handfuls of food – everyone uses their own hand so a child’s serving is a lot smaller than an adult’s.

Sarah Hanrahan CEO of Nutrition Foundation said changing the density of the food we eat, allows us to lead a healthy lifestyle.

“Fruit and vegetables contain nutrients and phytochemicals (such as lycopene and anthocyanins) that have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and to boost the health of blood vessels and the immune system.  Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables may also lead to longer life expectancy, but also support you day to day in leading a healthy life,” said Hanrahan.

Awareness of the 5+ A Day message remains high with cut through to 87 per cent of all New Zealanders - equating to more than 4 million people.

“Compared to global statistics on fruit and vegetable consumption we rate among the highest in the world,” said Dudley.

View Lancet research here: