Womens Health

Are You Getting Your Five A Day?

According to the latest research published in the December 2010 edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, what you eat is really what you get.

Dietary Recommendations

If you eat the British government's dietary recommendations of five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, you can substantially improve your health. The research conducted by Oxford University's Dr Peter Scarborough shows that improving your diet like this reduces your chances of having a stroke or developing chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. These guidelines suggest that people should eat 440gm (1lb) of fruit and vegetables every day and just over 18gm (1/2oz) of fiber and no more than 6g of salt and 10% of saturated fat.

However, if you can reduce your consumption of salt even further to less than 3.5g a day and lower the saturated fat content of your diet to under 3% of your total energy (calorie) consumption, the research shows that you will be helping to optimize your health. Increasing your fiber content will help too, so it's worth looking to see how small changes can make a big difference.

Portion Size

Having large portions of undressed salads are fine, but having giant portions of junk food like pizza and fries is not so good. So to help you eat less, use a smaller plate! Research shows that if you put your food on a smaller plate, it looks like more and you'll eat less.

Switch to whole grains and reduce your fat. So if you want "mac and cheese" make it with whole-wheat macaroni and use low fat white cheese instead of the high fat yellow cheese. Serve it with a large undressed salad on the side, don't forget the smaller plate and you're already eating much healthier. Do these types of switches for all your meals and you'll soon look and feel better. Potatoes really count as carbs so choose other veggies for your 'five-a-day'. Choosing dark green, orange, and purple veggies will give you more minerals, vitamins and antioxidants too! And, remember the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" so add fresh or frozen fruit to your diet as well.

Schools Role

Changing your food choices will really help your children learn. Further research in the same Journal, also from Oxford University, shows that the way schools promote healthy eating has a major positive impact on elementary and junior high school students' food choices. This notion has come from the effect of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's campaign to change the way children eat lunch in school. In London's Greenwich school district, which banned junk food from school canteens, scores in both English and Science increased by over 6%! Children were also out sick less often and were calmer and more ready to learn. "The research results are fantastic, as it's the first time a proper study has been done into the positive effects of the Feed Me Better campaign...," said Oliver.

In America, as you can see in Jamie Oliver's T.V show Food Revolution, he tried to change the school lunch program in Huntington, West Virginia, said to be the unhealthiest town in America. Some of the problems he came across was people's unawareness on how to eat healthy as well as the huge size of the portions and people's addiction to junk food.

The US government dietary guidelines for Americans are currently being updated and should be available early in 2011.

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