Every week seems to bring the latest health fad, the must-try diet, and the gizmo that promises to shed inches off your waistline. There's no denying that leading a healthy lifestyle is beneficial for many reasons, but it can often be hard to ensure the plan or diet you're following is one that truly has your best interests at heart.
However, with the UK Government and supermarkets countrywide backing it, few people can claim not to have heard about the '5 a day' fruit and vegetable plan. So, just how important is getting those five a day, and how can it really benefit you?
1. Give your hearing a boost If you're worried about hearing loss and having to wear hearing aids, or want to make sure you're giving your ears a helping hand when it comes to them doing their job properly, it's important to eat healthily.
Foods high in potassium and folic acid have beneficial properties for your hearing. That's because potassium is needed in order to ensure the amount of fluid that travels around your body (including your inner ear) is at the correct level. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, spinach, oranges, and apricots amongst others. Folic acid, meanwhile, is vital for keeping up your body's cell growth. The amount of folic acid in our bodies can drop significantly once we're over 50 so it's particularly important to include folic acid-rich foods in your diet in later years. Asparagus, spinach, and broccoli are good sources of folic acid.
2. Boost your body's defences Nobody likes a cold - all that endless nose blowing, the sore throat, and the achy head never made anyone feel on top of the world. So help your body help itself by ensuring it's stocked up with plenty of vitamin C. Research has shown that people with good vitamin C levels in their bodies have fewer sick days than those who don't - by 34% in fact. Blueberries, oranges and lemons, and raspberries are particularly high in vitamin C so stock up and fight off those colds.
3. Aid weight loss If you're trying to drop a dress size, shift post-baby weight, or simply slim down into that suit you wore two years ago, keeping your intake of fruit and veg up is a great way to significantly help with weight loss. This is because they're high in fibre, weigh a fair deal (which helps to bulk out your diet), and they aren't laced with calories. What's more, they're also low in fat - which is key to a diet that allows you to lose weight! Try bulking out your meals with carrots, peas, and cauliflower and you won't be piling on unwanted calories but you will be getting a meal that helps fill you up.
4. Reduce your risk of lung cancer Eating plenty of fruit and veg is a great way to help ensure you're best protected against illnesses such as lung cancer, but you need to make sure you're fighting on all fronts. That means, if you smoke, you need to stop. Then it's time to let the antioxidants in the fruit and vegetables get to work. They're great at coming down hard on cancer causing cells - even ones that have already started hanging out in your lungs. Apples, berries, and cruciferous veggies such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli have all been shown to help tackle cancerous cells.
5. Combat Stress Stress is responsible for so many health concerns, and it has a habit of getting in the way of a healthy, happy life. Too much stress can affect relationships, your mental health, and leave you feeling unable to cope. However, fruit and veg can help - especially if it's high in vitamin B6. Add dried prunes, bananas, cooked spinach, and avocados to your diet and stress can hide no more.
There's no denying that a diet rich in fruit and veg can have countless positive benefits. From mental health concerns like stress to physical ailments such as hearing loss, fruit and vegetables can help. What's more, it doesn't have to be hard to boost your intake. Slice a banana onto your morning bowl of cereal, have a handful of raisins as a snack, or swap that coffee for a fruit juice and you'll already be up three portions.