Research released today by the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust puts Kiwis on the global map when it comes to awareness of the health benefits and consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Awareness of the 5+ A Day message, which encourages all Kiwis to eat five or more servings of colourful, fresh fruit and vegetables every day, remains high with cut through to 87 per cent of all New Zealanders - equating to more than 4 million people.
“Compared to global statistics on fruit and vegetable consumption we rate among the highest in the world,” says Paula Dudley, General Manager of 5+ A Day.
According to recent European Union statistics, less than 15 per cent of the total population aged over 15 consumed at least five servings a day, while one in three did not eat any fruit and vegetables every day. And the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study of more than 140,000 participants from 18 countries globally, found that mean fruit and vegetable intake was 3.76 servings per day. It concluded that the consumption of fruit and vegetables was low worldwide.
The latest 5+ A Day research, completed in June this year by Nielsen, found that 37 per cent of those surveyed consumed five or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Meanwhile, 59 per cent of New Zealanders reported eating at least four different types of fresh fruit and vegetables daily. The research involved 700 people aged 15-plus in key regions across New Zealand. And Dudley says the Ministry of Health’s regular surveying of a much larger sample size (of 17,000 adults, including parents of 4,000 children) suggests consumption of 5+ A Day is around 40 percent.
“Now it is time for some stretch goals – we need to keep awareness top of mind to move consumption even higher to 45 percent. This isn’t just a numbers game - there are huge health benefits for us all in doing so”, says Dudley.
The latest consumer data also indicated the positive impact of social media in spreading the 5+ A Day message.
“We are already very active in this space, and we are also investing in our social strategy to expand our influence with key health persuaders,” says Dudley.
High profile nutritionists and recipe book authors Julia and Libby Matthews are business-savvy sisters who run a healthy eating website and Facebook page with over 66,000 fans, and are 5+ A Day ambassadors. Julia Matthews says interest in food-related health on social media is huge.
“People are looking for inspiration to lead healthier lives and are turning to social media for information, recipes and evidence. We are thrilled to be working alongside 5+ A Day to help spread the good word,” says Matthews.
Dudley says they encourage people to think in terms of a serving being about a handful - roughly the equivalent of a banana, a pear or an apple, or a handful of salad greens. “Everyone uses their own hand, so a kid’s serving is a lot smaller than an adult’s.”
“Fresh is best; we let people know whenever possible to eat food that is in season for the best value and taste. And all fresh fruit and vegetables count towards your 5 + A Day,” she says.
People who consume extra fresh fruit and vegetables have also reported significant improvements to their psychological wellbeing and less stress, with boosts in vitality and motivation within a couple of weeks, said Dudley, citing the University of Otago study released earlier this year.
Fruit and vegetables contain nutrients and antioxidants and have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and to boost the health of blood vessels and the immune system.