are you eating enough vegetables?
Whatever diet you are on... paleo, vegan, vegetarian, nordic, LCHF or a typical Western diet there's no doubt that increasing your vegetable intake is something that will benefit you. The benefits for our cardiovascular system, immune system, brain health and weight are huge and we should be aiming at hitting at least 10 portions of different vegetables a day into our diet. Ten I hear you say, that’s impossible! But actually it’s much easier than you think, as I will outline later. Eating an abundant rainbow of vegetables really will leave you feeling so much better.
Why 10 portions?
A couple of years ago we were told to eat 5 a day (four vegetables and one fruit). However as more and more evidence is accumulated we have found that vegetables really do have the power to prevent and treat many diseases and so the advice has increased to 10 a day (8 vegetables and two fruit). Vegetables provide the broadest range of nutrients and phytochemicals, especially fibre and carotenes, of any food group. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and protein and the little fat they do contain is in the form of essential fatty acids.
Regular fruit consumption has also been shown to offer significant protection against many degenerative diseases. Fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, carotenes, flavonoids and polyphenols. However, since fruit also contains a fair amount of natural fruit sugars such as fructose, try and limit your intake to just two servings a day. Eating whole fruit rather than juice decreases the rate at which the sugar enters your bloodstream and so is preferable if you suffer diabetes, hypoglycaemia or gout.
One of the largest studies to date, carried out by scientists at Harvard, found that people who consume 8 or more servings of vegetables a day were 30% less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
What’s the best way to consume vegetables?
In their raw form vegetables contain many important phytochemicals and so it’s important to eat some of your vegetables raw. However some of the most beneficial carotenes such as lycopene and lutein are better absorbed from cooked foods. Overcooking vegetables results in a loss of nutrients and so light steaming, baking or quick stir-frying are the very best ways to consume vegetables. Try not to boil vegetables unless using them in soups or stews or you’ll lose many of the nutrients into the water.
How do I manage to consume 10 a day?
Once you get into the habit of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables then it becomes second nature and certainly not a chore. One of the easiest ways is to try and include some vegetables in your breakfast. I often have eggs and three portions of dark green leafy vegetables for breakfast. Or you could have some natural Greek yoghurt with a couple of portions of berries. Lunch is then a salad with at least five portions of different vegetables. In the winter I’ll make a warm salad, such as our winter salad bowl. Having then already consumed seven or eight portions, I don’t find it difficult to add another three or four for supper. There’s plenty of vegetable heavy recipes on our website so do have a browse if you need inspiration. Also there are plenty of vegetable recipe books. I particularly like one I bought myself for Christmas by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall aptly called “River Cottage, much more veg”.