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Ask the experts: Daily fruit intake

Q: How much fruit is OK to eat? I know I am supposed to have five plus a day fruit and veges, but is it OK to have four fruits and one vegetable? Should I worry about the sugar?

A: HFG nutritionist Claire Turnbull responds:

The World Health Organization recommends eating at least 400g of fruit and vegetables each day to help prevent major diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. This amount (400g) equates to roughly five servings of veges and fruit a day, which is where this suggestion comes from. Ideally you are aiming for this to be two servings of fruit and three-plus servings of vegetables.

A serving of veges or fruit is roughly what fits in the palm of your hand — so one medium-sized apple, one large kiwifruit, a handful of grapes or one large tomato, a handful of salad leaves or broccoli florets.

It is not ideal to have four servings of fruit and only one of veges as fruit is much higher in sugar than vegetables. Fruit has a combination of two natural types of sugar — fructose and glucose — the amount and proportion of each type of sugar varies depending on the type of fruit and how ripe the fruit is.

There are three key messages when it comes to fruit and sugar:

  1. For most people it is a good guide to aim to have two servings of fruit each day and focus on three-plus veges.
  2. It is ideal to eat your fruit whole rather than drink as juice.
  3. It can be helpful to spread your fruit throughout the day rather than having both servings at once.

On the vegetable front, at HFG we suggest that only one of your three-plus servings of veges comes from the starchy vege types (such as potato and kumara). For most people it is ideal that the bulk of your veges are the less starchy types — such as mushrooms, salad, capsicum, courgette, onion, broccoli, carrots.

And remember: when we say three-plus veges, this is a reminder that if you could get four, five or even six servings of veges in each day we would be thrilled — and so would your body.

First published: May 2013