Here’s How to Have a Healthy Heart: 5-A-Day
by Lou-Ann Jordan Jan 1, 2024
In 2022, a global 5-A-Day campaign supported the World Health Organization’s (WHO) diet recommendations. The WHO advised that a daily intake of at least 400g of fruit and vegetables could lower one’s risk of severe health problems such as heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, and other non-communicable diseases.
This is essential information for the Caribbean because, although there’s abundant access to fresh fruit and vegetables, many of us may not be intentional about our consumption. However, the 5-A-Day campaign initiated in the US, UK, and parts of Europe and Asia highlighted the importance of having at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. What about you? Do you have your 5-A-Day?
At a time when most people are changing various aspects of their lives, now is as good a time as any to prioritise having a healthy heart. Start a 5-A-Day diet. As mentioned previously, there’s good reason to maintain such a plan. Yes, it protects against various diseases, but those are ‘resulting’ benefits. In addition to protection against some noncommunicable diseases, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) observed that doing so helps ensure you have a balanced diet in which you consume the vitamins and minerals your body needs for optimal functioning. Also, fruits and vegetables offer the dietary fibre you need for a healthy gut, preventing digestive issues. Another reason to have them is because they’re low-calorie foods, which can help you maintain a healthy heart once you avoid using oil to prepare them.
So, how do you get started on your 5-A-Day? First, you should know that yam, dasheen, potatoes, eddoes, and cassava (basically, any of your much-loved ground provisions) do not count. Those are starches. However, fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables do. Even when dried or juiced, they count. Additionally, you can have them as part of your meal or a dish.
Here’s a look at what counts toward your 5-A-Day
You may wonder what can be considered part of your 5-A-Day plan. First, you should know that 80g of fruit and vegetables counts toward one portion of your daily intake. You can have them fresh or opt for dried or canned portions. Regarding canned items, be sure they are in natural juices or water and devoid of added sugar or salt. Although many of us enjoy fruit or vegetable smoothies or juices and may consider them part of the 5-A-Day, limiting your consumption to 150ml daily is advised. These beverages release sugars that can cause tooth decay. Furthermore, it’s best to have them during meals and not as a stand-alone snack. Additionally, if you’re a lover of pulses, you’ll be happy to know that 80g is the recommended portion for the day. But note if you exceed that amount it’s only calculated as one.
Tip: You can have fruits, veggies, beans, lentils, and peas. Starches, though necessary to your diet, do not count as part of your 5-A-Day.
Now, how do you transfer this information into a meal plan? There are numerous ways to do so, but here’s a chart to guide you, and we’ve also added an example of a day’s meals with a 5-A-Day plan incorporated.
Breakfast: Start the day right with a bowl of wholegrain breakfast cereal, a sliced banana, and a glass of pure fruit juice.
Mid-morning snack: Raw veggies are your friend. Try a snack comprising carrots and celery sticks. You can also add cherry or sliced tomatoes, cucumber, and sweet peppers.
Lunch: A yummy fresh salad, with a small pack of raisins, dates, or dried peaches for dessert.
Mid-afternoon snack: Slices of watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, pear, or whatever fruit is in season are great options for quelling your afternoon munchies.
Dinner: Avoid large meals for dinner. Also, it’s best to have something that digests quickly. Have a light meal with steamed veggies on the side to bring the day to a close.
Changing one’s diet can be challenging, but the benefits are worth it. As you’re already contemplating various changes you can make, why not attempt this? This year, decide to nourish your body correctly. Try maintaining your 5-A-Day; your heart will thank you.
Sources: NHS, The Daily Mail and The Association of UK Dietitians.