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New app monitors your fruit and veggie intake

"We think this will be an effective tool to improve people’s diets for the long term."

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health food- various of fruit and vegetable
(Chatham172 via Shutterstock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

A smartphone app that monitors fruit and veg intake has been developed by British scientists.

It tells users whether they are eating the right portion sizes - as well as the right foods - to meet recommended health guidelines.

Many adults are aware of the 5-a-day message - but their understanding of how to get to it is low.

Project leader Professor Katherine Appleton, a psychologist at Bournemouth University, said: "Almost everyone knows they should eat five a day.

"But when we looked a little further, it was clear a lot of people did not know what counts towards the target.

"They did not know what a portion size is, and many did not realize that they needed to eat five different things."

She added: "Our studies also showed lower knowledge was associated with lower consumption of fruits and vegetables."

The current advice is to eat at least five servings a day. Most people manage about four.

The foods are rich in antioxidants which protect cells against damage from harmful free radicals.

They have been linked with a lower risk of dying from any cause, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

Figures from Public Health England have shown only a third of adults, and 12 percent of 11 to 18-year-olds, eat enough.

The free SMART-5-A-DAY app has been created specifically to help people understand portion sizes.

The app monitors portion intake to help people reach the RDA.

It shows how the amounts of fruits and vegetables that they eat contribute towards their daily target.

Users select the fruit or vegetable they have just eaten and are asked to enter how much of it they consumed.

The app will then tell them whether it made up a full or partial portion - and how much more they need. It also keeps a running total of their progress towards five a day.

Added Prof Appleton: "What is unique about this app is as well as tracking daily fruit and vegetable intake, it teaches people about portion size, so they get to the point where they know what they need to eat themselves.

"We think this will be an effective tool to improve people’s diets for the long term, rather than simply for the short period that they use the app."

A peer-reviewed study of an earlier prototype found it had benefits to users' eating habits and their understanding of what is required to reach the daily recommended intake.

The latest version incorporates several updates from feedback after the trial, which the researchers hope will lead to healthier diets.

SMART 5-A-DAY is available in the Google Play Store for Android phones.

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