Get your 5-a-day! Research proves that fruit and vegetables can protect us from a range of illnesses, including heart disease, in fact some amazing research around vegan diets has shown dramatic changes in blood pressure, cholesterol and overall progression of heart disease. Your week 8 challenge is NOT to become Vegan but it is to work hard on getting your 5 a day! This for some may sound daunting but, in fact, it is easy to integrate fruit and vegetables into your diet, very similar to trying to drink 2 litres of water a day… Here in the UK, one person dies every three minutes from coronary heart disease, but research from Cambridge University has found that eating just one apple a day cuts your risk of premature death from heart disease by 20%. Add one orange and one banana and that increases to 50%. Most of us think only dairy products can help build bones, but dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale can also provide calcium, while onions stop the process that causes bones to weaken. A study carried out in Switzerland found just one gram of onion a day is enough to strengthen your skeleton. Eating two-and-a-half carrots a day has been shown to lower cholesterol by 11 per cent in three weeks in Scottish studies. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors in heart disease. A number of studies have shown that people who eat diets high in fruit and vegetables that contain vitamin B6 (such as bananas and avocados) find it easier to handle stress that those who did not, stress is another risk indicator in heart disease. WHAT IS A PORTION? VERY LARGE FRUIT: cantaloupe melons, watermelons, pineapple = 1 LARGE SLICE LARGE FRUIT: grapefruits, mangos, papayas = HALF A FRUIT MEDIUM FRUIT: apples, avocados, bananas, oranges, peaches, pears = A WHOLE FRUIT SMALL FRUIT: apricots, clementines, figs, kiwi fruit, passion fruit, plums, satsumas, tomatoes = 2 WHOLE FRUIT BERRY-TYPE FRUIT: blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, gooseberries, grapes, raspberries, strawberries = 1 CUP MIXED SALAD VEGETABLES: celery, cucumber, iceberg and other pale lettuces = 1 DESSERT BOWLFUL CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, swedes = 2 TBSP GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES: chard, dark green winter cabbage, kale, pak choi, rocket, romaine lettuce, spinach, watercress = 2 TBSP OTHER VEGETABLES: aubergines, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, onions, peas, peppers, squashes = 2 TBSP SPROUTING BEANS: alfalfa, bean sprouts = HALF A CUP BEANS AND PULSES: baked beans, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, soya beans = HALF A CUPFUL I don’t advocate the following to be included into your ‘5 a day’ because mainly of the excessive amounts of sugars in these. Stewed, Tinned, Mixed Fruit Dried Fruit Fruit JuiceFoods can be manipulated in a million ways to make them taste, look and crunch better. There are actual scientists hired to manipulate foods so that they will have a better “mouth feel.” While this does a lot to sell products, it denatures foods and renders them devoid of nourishment. Very few canned, boxed, or packaged food products are considered “real” food. The key to being healthy is that you should try to eat more whole, real foods and to eat them as close to their original state as possible.Finally, if you are getting your 5 a day, aim for 10!Five portions of fruit and veg a day is very good for you, but 10 is much better and could prevent up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide every year.