Examples of the amount of vegetables for an adult's portion are given below. Each portion size weighs approximately 80g.

 Vegetables, raw or cooked - 2 tablespoonfuls

 Salad including salads such as coleslaw - 1 dessert bowlful

 1 Medium fruit or 2 Small fruits and a glass (150ml) of fruit or vegetable juice also count as a portion. Frozen, canned or dried vegetables and fruit can also count towards the five a day.

 Potatoes and pasta foods such as spaghetti in tomato sauce count as a starchy foods not vegetables, so can't be counted as part of the five a day.

Children may need smaller portion sizes than those described here - but they should still aim for five portions every day.


 
Vegetables are one of the most naturally occurring low calorie foods. Most fresh vegetables contain less than 20 calories per portion, which is great for anyone trying to maintain their weight or lose weight. The added benefit is that vegetables are very filling foods and including them on a slimming diet can help to control appetite and prevent people feeling hungry. Vegetables are naturally low in fat too.

Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is considered to be the second most effective strategy for cancer prevention after reducing smoking.

Following guidance issued by the Department for Education and Skills, it is now compulsory for school lunches to include at least one item from the vegetables and fruit group on the daily menu.


 

 
Everyone knows that vegetables are good for you. All types of vegetables including cruciferous vegetables such as cabbages, cauliflower and spring greens are packed full of nutrition and form an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. A huge amount of science and research supports the message that everyone should eat plenty of vegetables. Back in the early '90s, the World Health Organisation issued its recommendation for adults to eat at least 400g (approximately 1lb) of vegetable and fruit every day. That's equivalent to five portions - around a third of the diet should consist of vegetables and fruit. Here are some good reasons why vegetables along with fruit should be eaten every day in the amounts recommended.

 They taste great and add different colours, flavours and textures to meals and snacks.

 Eating plenty can help to maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

 They're full of fibre, important for maintaining a healthy bowel and helping to reduce blood cholesterol levels.

 They're low in fat - eating plenty helps fill us up without piling on the calories helping to maintain a healthy weight.

 Different types of vegetables and fruit can count towards our five a day - helping to make our diet tasty and affordable.

 
Vegetables contain loads of different substances beneficial for health. These substances include the vitamins C and E and beta carotene and one of the B vitamins called folate (or folic acid). Vegetables are also high in fibre, particularly soluble fibre, but are also low in fat. Other substances known as phytonutrients are present in vegetables. Whilst the exact role of some of these phytonutrients is unclear, there is evidence that eating foods which contain them may help to maintain good health and prevent disease.
 



ANTIOXIDANTS

Antioxidants are the nutritional good guys. They help to prevent damage by free radicals. Free radicals can find their way into the body as end products of normal chemical reactions that take place in the body or from cigarette smoke or pollution. Anti-oxidants help to mop up free radicals, effectively counteracting the damage they could do. Anti-oxidants include the vitamins A, C, and E and the nutrient beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A once inside the body. Vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and spring greens are good sources of vitamin C and beta Carotene. Vegetables are also a rich source of a group of phytonutrients known as flavonoids, which also have anti-oxidant properties.

Anti-oxidants may be responsible for helping to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and some types of cancer. It seems that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the better the protection against these diseases. Its been estimated that eating five or more portions of vegetables and fruit every day could lead to a reduction of one-fifth of deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer.

VITAMIN C

In addition to its antioxidant properties Vitamin C is valuable in the diet because it helps to improve iron absorption. This means it can help to prevent iron deficiency anaemia. Vitamin C also has an important role in healing wounds.

FIBRE

Fibre is the part of food that does not get absorbed into the body and is only found in foods that grow in the ground such as vegetables, fruit and cereals. It has an important role in keeping the digestive system healthy. A diet containing adequate fibre can help to prevent constipation, diseases such as diverticulitis and some cancers such as bowel cancer. The other important benefit of fibre is that it helps to control blood cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. A normal blood cholesterol level can help to prevent heart disease. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is important for people with diabetes.

FOLATE OR FOLIC ACID

Folate (also known as folic acid) is one of the B vitamins. A good intake of this vitamin helps to prevent a type of anaemia. However, its most important role is that it helps to prevent birth defects in babies such as spina bifida. It is recommended that women eat plenty of folate rich foods including green leafy vegetables, not just during the early stages of their pregnancy, but also when planning to have a baby. Whilst eating leafy vegetables such as spring greens and cabbage is a good way to obtain folate, pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy, should also take an extra supplement of this vital vitamin.

 

 
Vegetables are packed full of important nutrients. However, care needs to be taken to ensure some of these valuable nutrients such as vitamins are not lost during storage and cooking.

To get the best, buy and use while fresh. Steaming, microwaving or boiling in as little water as possible will help to retain the vitamin content. Cook until just tender and serve at once. Using any cooking water for gravy, stocks or sauces means any losses are minimised.