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Why aren't potatoes in 'five a day' programme?

Q - We are all advised to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day but I believe potatoes are excluded. Why?

A - Potatoes are a very important component in the diet of the average Briton. The Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults (1990) showed approximately 125g potatoes prepared and cooked in various ways (excluding crisps and savoury snacks) were consumed by the average adult each day (about three-and-a-half boiled new potatoes, half a cup mashed or 20 large chips). In comparison, only 135g of other vegetables (about 10 rings of carrot, 12 long green beans and one small tomato) and 70g fruits (about a third of a cup of fruit salad or half a medium orange or half a granny smith apple) were consumed on a daily basis.

The World Health Organisation recommends an intake of 400g of fruits and vegetables each day, or five 80g portions. The British Dietetic Association and Department of Health promote this target with the 'five a day' programme. This target excludes potatoes.

Potatoes contribute valuable nutrients to the diet such as potassium, vitamin C and complex carbohydrates (starch). This starch is what excludes potatoes from the fruits and vegetables considered for this recommendation.

Instead, potatoes are included in the breads, cereals, rice, pasta, legumes and pulse daily intake guidance.

It is important to note that while in this recommendation potatoes are excluded, potatoes can and should be consumed as part of a healthy diet. In addition to this an increase in other vegetables and fruits is advised. An 80g portion of vegetables is two or three tablespoons of cooked vegetables or one large cereal bowl of salad vegetables.

Dr Amanda Patterson and Dr Sharon Croxford are lecturers in nutrition and dietetics at

Kings College London

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