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Eat Your 5 a Day, Fact or Myth

Its been part of nutritional folklore for generations. When it comes to fruit and vegetable you need to "get your five a day" to make sure you get adequate vitamins and minerals. But how relevant is this mantra today, and is it the yardstick we should use for a healthy diet.

The sad truth is that todays fruit and veg is far lower in nutrients than it was just a few decades ago, and this trend is continuing year on year. The main culprit is soil depletion, a result of modern farming techniques where intensive agricultural methods have stripped ever more nutrients from the soil in which are food is grown. This is compounded by technologies to create larger, faster growing crops that create bigger yields for the farmers, but which have less ability to store nutrients.

A study conducted in the UK showed that in the 50 years between 1930 and 1980 across 20 common vegetables there was around a 20% reduction in calcium and iron and about 14% reduction in potassium. A study in the US showed even more dramatic declines in the 22 years between 1975 and 1997 with calcium levels falling 27% and iron levels by 37%

Recent studies showed that iron levels in cabbage were now only about 3% today of what they where in the 1940's and that you would have to eat 10 oranges today to get the same level of vitamin A as you would have in the 1940's.

So where does this leave us?

Well in 2014, nutritionists in the UK suggested that our new target was 11 portions of fruit and veg each and every day, and Japan went a little further recommending a whopping 25 portions a day.

Clearly this is beyond the reach of most of us, so what can we do:

  • There is no substitute for a good diet, so aim to eat as many portions of fruit and veg per day as you can.
  • Ideally take1-2 items of fruit on waking and immediately after training. This aligns it with natural levels of low liver glycogen levels.
  • Aim to eat 2 portions of low carbohydrate, high fibre, green leafy veg with each meal.
  • Supplement your diet with a high quality vitamin and mineral product. Even the highest quality products are comparatively low cost compared to most supplements and is probably one of the few classes of supplements you really ought to take.
  • Add a greens supplement to your diet. These are phyto chemicals (typically called phytonutrients) and comprise an ever growing list of biologically active compounds found exclusively in fruit and vegetables and play an essential role in health. Again, these are comparatively inexpensive and similarly fall into a small group of supplements you really ought to consider using.

Why are vitamins and minerals so important to us? Everything that happens in our bodies relies on chemical transactions, and vitamins and minerals are the catalysts that facilitate these transactions taking place. Without optimum levels of vitamins and minerals we cant train maximally, our recovery is sub standard, our brain functions at a lower level, we burn less fat, we build less muscle, and our health is poorer than it could be.

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