This is our opportunity to answer some of the frequently asked (or thought about) questions about healthy eating and our work. Come back and check this section regularly for more updates, and if you have a question you'd like addressed just add it to the forum.


Why is it "5-A-Day" fruit and vegetables and not 4 or 6?
The "5-A-Day" recommendation has its origins in an initiative of the California Department of Health Services, which was funded in 1988. This program was then taken up as a nation-wide program in the USA in 1991 and eventually in the UK and other countries around the world. The recommendation to target a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables and fruit was based on a review of the scientific literature at the time. They decided that:

  • 5 servings represented a considerable increase in consumption, nearly doubling the 1987 estimated level of about 2.5 servings per day per person;
  • at least 5 servings provided health benefits by improving the quality of the overall diet for nutrients, such as folic acid, and possibly also by displacing less healthy foods;
  • although studies didn't specify how many servings were optimal, at least 5 servings allowed for a daily mix of items high in vitamin A and vitamin C, fibre, and plant-based foods, and therefore seemed likely to include choices associated with reduced cancer risk;
  • 5 servings was not seen as impossible to attain by consumers, and the number was consistent with other dietary recommendations; and
  • the number 5 was memorable and was a way of getting the message across.

So the simple answer is it was double the average in 1988 and it was "about right" and memorable.

Why is fruit juice only allowed as one portion of your 5-A-Day?
5-A-Day is based on the hypothesis that a diet rich in vegetables and fruit reduces the risk of cancer and other chronic disease. Vegetables and fruit are important sources of several essential nutrients, including vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and iron. Vegetables and fruit also provide dietary fibre. Fruit juices will contain nutrients such as vitamins, but they contain less fibre than whole fruits and vegetables. Fruit juice with the bits in have more fibre, but drinking too much juice can also increase your sugar consumption.


How much is a 5-A-Day portion?
For an adult the recommendation is 5 portions of fruit or vegetables per day, each portion being around 80g (400g total for a day). Every variety is different, but in general terms two or more pieces of small fruit (e.g two plums), or one piece of medium-sized fruit (e.g. an apple) or half of a large fruit (e.g half a grapefruit) count as one portion of fruit. For vegetable two broccoli spears or four heaped tablespoons of spinach, or a medium sized piece of salad vegetables (e.g. one medium tomato or a 5 cm piece of cucumber). As a general rule a portion is something that fits into your hand.