Cancer fears as five-a-day message goes unheeded
MOST of us would find eating five biscuits a day or drinking five cups of tea or coffee no problem. But when it comes to getting fruit and vegetables into your diet, the task is a lot harder.
Research shows that more than two out of three Scots eat fewer than the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
And with so many failing to fit them into their diet, experts fear people are storing up health problems for the future, including cancer and heart disease.
The latest findings, by Cancer Research UK, questioned more than 4,000 people across the UK about their diet.
The survey found that only 31 per cent of Scots were eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
This compared to a UK average of 34 per cent and lags well behind regions such as south-west England, where 46 per cent of people ate five a day.
The area with the lowest intake was Northern Ireland, where only 17 per cent were eating five portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
The findings are worrying because experts believe around one in four cancer deaths is caused by an unhealthy diet and obesity.
Diet can affect several cancers including stomach, bowel, mouth and oesophagus.
Cancer Research UK said a healthy diet could help reduce the risk of cancer and protect against conditions including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
As well as five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, a healthy diet includes starchy foods such as rice, wholegrain breads and cereals. It should also be low in fat, sugar and salt.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "We know the food we eat has a big influence on our health. We should all be eating more fruit and vegetables."
The charity has joined forces with Weight Concern to encourage people to improve their diets and cut the risk of ill health.
Charlene Shoneye, Weight Concern's specialist dietitian, said the results of the survey were a cause for concern.
"We know a diet high in fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of cancers, aid weight loss and help prevent obesity, but we are still not eating enough," she said.
Bridget Aisbitt, a nutrition scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation, said eating enough fruit and vegetables was important for short-term and long-term health.
"In the short term, it provides us with fibre and a good source of vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin D," she said. "But in the long term it can also make a big difference.
"The five-a-day recommendation is based on a World Health Organisation report which showed that eating 400g of fruit and vegetables a day seemed to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes."
Figures show that obesity is increasing rapidly in the western world.
In Scotland around 65 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women are overweight.
Shona Robison, Holyrood's public health minister, said: "While we are disappointed that many are still not achieving five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, surveys such as this suggest that, following a steady increase in awareness of the five a day message, we are seeing an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption."
Ms Robison said the 2003 Scottish Health Survey showed that only 21 per cent of adults consumed five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
"The Scottish government is working to support people to make healthier choices - the Healthyliving Award helps food service outlets such as workplace canteens promote healthier foods," she said.
"And school meals, which are already healthier thanks to the Hungry for Success programme, are set to improve further when the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) Scotland Act is implemented next autumn."
• An investigation has been launched into an advert which claims Nutella chocolate spread is part of a balanced breakfast for children. The Advertising Standards Authority received around 20 objections to the TV commercial.
Which? criticised the advert for being "misleading" after it highlighted Nutella's milk, hazelnut and cocoa content but failed to mention the spread was high in sugar and fat.
SIMPLE WAYS TO HIT THE HEALTHY TARGET
EATING five portions of fruit and vegetables a day does not have to be a chore.
Nutrition experts say it also does not need to be expensive, with frozen vegetables counting as much as their fresh counterparts.
However, people are still struggling to eat enough fruit and vegetables to keep them healthy.
The government's '5 A Day' campaign offers some solutions for making fruit and vegetables part of the daily diet. For example, servings do not have to be eaten whole - different vegetables chopped up and used in stews, pasta sauces and stir fries all count towards the five-a-day quota.
Experts also suggest trying to replace sweet treats such as chocolate with sweet fruits like apples or dried fruit like apricots or raisins.
And smoothies can be a fun way of getting more fruit, although they only count as one portion because the way they are prepared means they contain less fibre.
Bridget Aisbitt, from the British Nutrition Foundation, said that frozen vegetables are good because they are cheap and can be kept in the freezer ready for use.
She added: "Also, the more variety you have in the fruit and vegetables you eat the better.
"As long as each portion is around 80g, it counts towards your intake."
The World Cancer Research Foundation said that a "rainbow" approach should be taken when choosing your diet.
Dr Greg Martin, from the charity, said eating different coloured fruit and vegetables ensured that a good mix of vitamins and minerals was consumed.
He explained: "We know that to get the maximum benefit from what you eat, you should make sure you have plenty of variety."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east