Hunter residents are being asked to participate in new research that will examine whether the amount and type of fruit and vegetables make a difference to health and wellbeing.
A team of researchers from the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute will conduct the six-month study.
Professor Clare Collins, who is leading the project, said 80 people aged 18 and over were needed to participate in the study.
Professor Collins said participants would also benefit through receiving a fortnight's worth of free fruit and vegetables, dietary feedback and personalised nutrition coaching.
Australian dietary guidelines recommend that people should be eating two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables a day. However, 95 per cent of people don't meet this recommendation.
Fruit and vegetables are high in antioxidants, dietary fibre and contain many vitamins and minerals that are vital to optimising the way the body works.
"Everyone's heard of vitamins and minerals, but people are starting to hear more about phytonutrients," Professor Collins said.
"They're the things you need in tiny amounts that optimise all the body's functions from the brain to repairing your DNA so you don't get cancer, and also how your blood flows through your arteries and how your kidneys work."
She said people often overlook that fruit and vegetable consumption was "one of the best ways to prevent chronic disease".
"They're so underrated poor old fruit and veg. They don't have a marketing levy like potato chips and alcohol," she said.
Fruit and vegetables significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers, as well as giving people a "healthy glow".
"They contain all these polyphenol and carotenoid compounds that actually do appear in your skin."
These compounds also help with glucose metabolism, "which keep your blood sugars in the normal range".
"They help play a decluttering role in terms of cleaning up the mess we've made for ourselves, just simply by living and our DNA getting damaged over time."
This research will evaluate the effect of dietary patterns aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.
"What we're keen to explore in this study is whether some fruits and vegetables are better at improving diet quality and overall wellbeing," she said.
Those who participate will receive a comprehensive assessment of their diet, body composition and metabolism, along with personalised dietary consultations with an accredited practicing dietitian.
Participants will get to stand on a "fancy research grade body composition analyser that tells you how much muscle and body fat you have".
Email support will be given to help participants boost their vegetable and fruit intake.
The dietary consultations will give participants tools and strategies to overcome barriers to achieving the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables.
Video coaching will be used to increase flexibility for participants.
"People can make an appointment and do it before or after work or during the day if they're not working," Professor Collins said.
Participants will be asked to give blood and urine samples to help inform the research.
"They'll be given gift cards to compensate for the inconvenience when they have to come into the food lab to get processed and provide blood and urine," Professor Collins said.
"From the urine sample, we want to create a dietary fingerprint. We want to check what comes out in the urine [from fruit and vegetables]."
The study could help create a future in which people can be advised precisely what kind of fruit and vegetables are best for them, based on their makeup.
Participants will be helping researchers to validate techniques that would "take us one step closer to being able to make personalised prescriptions for diet".
"We're really interested in the urinary metabalome and the polyphenols that appear in your blood, as well as general biomarkers of cholesterol, glucose and markers like blood pressure and your health and wellbeing."
The Newcastle researchers will collaborate with Queen's University Belfast.
Participants must have access to broadband internet. Email Katherine Brain at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Those interested can first check their eligibility online.