5-A-Day plan for healthy living

5-A-Day plan for healthy living

The ‘5-A-Day Plan’ was founded in 1991 by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health, USA. But it is a plan that is essential for healthy living no matter which part of the world we live in.  Studies have shown that people who take five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and many other health problems.

You might wonder what exactly a “serving” means. An easy rule of thumb is that one serving should fit into the palm of your hand. For example, a medium-sized apple, banana or orange;  ½ cup of cooked or raw fruit or vegetables; 1 cup leafy greens or salad; 3/4 cup (6 ounces) juice; ½ cup dried fruit;  ½ cup cooked beans or peas — all these are considered to make one serving.

Why fruits and vegetables?
It is because fruits and vegetables are essential for promoting good health. They are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and disease-fighting phytochemicals. At the same time, they are low in fat, low in calories, high in fibre, and high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. Besides, fruits and vegetables are a natural source of energy and can also help control weight.

Perhaps it is best to start off by clarifying what exactly the terms ‘nutrient’, ‘phytochemical’ and‘antioxidant’ mean in this context. Nutrients are vitamins, minerals and natural substances contained in a wide variety of foods that are considered essential for maintaining a healthy body system. Phytochemicals are natural plant compounds that are said to provide a variety of health benefits. Many of the bright colours in fruits and vegetables come from phytochemicals. Antioxidants are plant substances that protect the body by neutralising unstable oxygen molecules which can damage cells and lead to poor health.  Incidentally, phytochemicals are usually related to colour.

The blue and purple group is said to improve one’s memory and beat the effects of aging. You can find it in blackberries, black currants, dried plums, purple grapes, raisins, purple cabbage and brinjals, among others. Green is good for protecting the eyes and keeping them healthy, building strong bones. You could ‘go green’ with green apples, green grapes, green pears, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, celery, coriander, mint, spinach, cabbage, squash, leeks, lettuce, green onion, okra, capsicum and cucumber. White is said to stand for general wellness and is good for the heart. This group includes onions, pears, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, kohlrabi, mushrooms, onions, parsnips,  turnips, radish and white corn.  The orange and yellow group is good for the heart, vision, lowering the risk of many kinds of cancer and building a healthy immune system.

Most orange and yellow fruits are powerful antioxidants apart from being rich in Vitamin C and phytochemicals . This group includes golden apples, gooseberries, apricots, yellow figs, grapefruit, lemon, mangoes, oranges, papayas, peaches, yellow pears, pineapples, tangerines, carrots, yellow peppers, pumpkin, sweet corn, sweet potatoes and yellow tomatoes. The red group helps keeps the heart healthy, helps memory and lowers the risk of cancer and diseases related to the urinary tract. This group includes red apples, cherries, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, water melon, beetroot, red peppers and tomatoes. 

Here are a few simple tips which will make it easy to follow the 5-a-day health plan.
 Make sure that you eat at least one fruit for breakfast and include a serving of fruit juice as well. Make sure to have a helping of salad with your main meals. Even a simple salad of cucumber, tomatoes and onions would do.

Eat seasonal fruits as snacks.
Have fruit salads and fruit-in-custard as desserts.
Include at least three vegetables in your daily meals. Soups made with vegetables are always welcome. The main point to remember is, try to “think colour” when planning a menu.

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