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How healthy is healthy

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Roxanne Fisher investigates the different meanings of 'health' in the media and how it can affect your diet...

Most of us are aware of the government guidelines for eating for optimum health: each meal should be a balanced percentage of the five main food groups; snacks should be healthy; we should get our five-a-day at all costs, etc etc.

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Sounds easy enough, certainly advice the majority of us could benefit from, and probably, already follow to varying degrees. A balanced diet is always going to beat a quick-fix-fad hands down. What about those of us who want to go beyond the basics though? We're constantly bombarded with the latest health craze/scare and much of the expert advice is wildly contradictory.

Five-a-day tagine

One example that has made health headlines in recent years is the claim that we should be eating not five but eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day to prevent heart disease by up to 22%. The revelation has been met with varied reactions - some nutritionists even stepping out and saying the whole notion of a healthy diet needing to be heavy with fruit and veg is a myth.

So who and what do we believe if even our government guidelines on healthy eating are proposed to be inadequate?

Comments on the NHS health website highlight the confusion and dissatisfaction many people feel about the advice on offer. Conflicting professional guidance about fats , carbs and proteins seem to drive people further away from a sensible diet - what's the point in trying to eat well if no one can agree on what's healthy?

Even those eating a balanced diet are forced to question whether their habits are correct - for example are our portion sizes too large or small or should we be eating three times a day or having six smaller meals to aid digestion?

Pea soup

There is certainly not a one-size-fits all answer, but such varying advice can make the average person anxious about their daily consumption - let alone people who already struggle with weight issues or eating disorders.

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What have been your experiences of trying to follow a healthy lifestyle? Are there related issues you would particularly like to see discussed on the site?

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