A selection of fruit and vegetables laid out on a table

Q & A: Fruit and Vegetables – how many should we be eating?

“I‘ve gone down with a couple of colds recently, and wonder if my immune system is below par. I follow a mainly plant-based diet and already eat plenty of fruit and vegetables but am never really sure how much is enough?”

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer answers.

It’s great that your diet contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, but sometimes, especially if germs are flying around, your body can become overwhelmed and succumb to a cold or worse – an infection.

I always tell people to try to eat around nine to ten portions daily. I know this sounds a lot but it is achievable, particularly if you prepare dishes that are vegetable-based. In terms of portion sizes, two small fruits such as plums equal one portion. Half a grapefruit, one slice of melon, two broccoli spears or four heaped tablespoons of kale or spinach (uncooked) also count as one portion.

Your immune system may be slightly compromised at the moment after the colds you have been having, so I suggest you add a glass of juice into your daily routine. While juicing does do away with some of the soluble fibre found in vegetables or fruit, you will still be getting lots of nutrients, particularly vitamin C and other antioxidants such as polyphenols, which really support the immune system.

If your diet is rich in pulses and beans, don’t forget that three heaped tablespoons of beans count as one portion as well. However many beans and pulses you eat at one meal this only counts as one portion, irrespective of how many you eat.

We can become over-concerned about our fruit and vegetable intake so I suggest you look at the colour variety on your plate rather than physically counting portion sizes. The more colours of the rainbow you eat, the more of these wonderful antioxidant nutrients you’ll be getting.

This year’s National Vegetarian Week runs from May 14th – 18th. To find out more visit their website.