The Superpowers Of Vegetables

their benefits, and how to get more into your diet

Dr Jess says: While we may consider vegetables to be the accompaniment to our meal, they are in fact powerful medicines that can help to reduce the risk of dying from many diseases1 and can help you to lose weight. 

While the government guidelines are that we should all be eating our ‘five a day,’ the recommended daily amount actually varies from country to country. We recommend that you aim to eat between five and ten portions per day. 

Vegetables are natural effective medicines. Vegetables are one of the most important medicines you can take each day. Increasing the amount that you eat is a simple change, which can positively impact the risks posed by many of the most dangerous lifestyle diseases we face. They are arguably more important for our health than many modern medications and drugs.

what is a ‘portion’ of vegetables?

Generally, a single portion is considered to be three or four heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables, or one onion or one sweet potato. If you are making a salad, a 5cm piece of cucumber, one medium tomato (or seven cherry tomatoes), half a pepper, or one-third of an avocado each count as a single portion. While you may prefer to juice your veggies, vegetable juice is only ever counted as one portion, no matter how many vegetables you’ve used in your juice, as most of the beneficial fibre is lost through juicing. 

Between five and ten portions each day can reduce your risk of dying early. It’s important to eat as many whole vegetables and fruit as you can. Try to eat more vegetables than you do fruit, as most fruit is high in sugar, which can be bad for your health. Many studies suggest that either half of your plate, or up to 13 portions2 of fruit and vegetables a day give you the greatest health benefit. It sounds like an awful lot if we are used to eating a ‘meat and two veg’ type diet, but there are so many exciting varieties of veggies out there that a simple stir fry or vegetarian meal can easily be created to accommodate a lot of those daily veggies!  

We would suggest that as many of those daily fruit and veg portions come from vegetables as possible (at least five per day) and that you try to ‘eat a rainbow;’  choosing a variety of vegetables of different colours, from brown mushrooms to yellow peppers, to red cabbage and earthy green kale, for example, to give you the widest range of beneficial phytochemicals (plant nutrients), for maximum health benefits.3

what are the health benefits?

You reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer. Increasing the number of vegetables that you consume reduces your risk of many of the top deadly diseases,  including heart disease and cancer. A diet rich in varied veggies, also reduces the risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and cataracts. It also helps your brain to work better and your body to age better.1,3

Vegetables reduce inflammation. Inflammation occurs with the production of inflammatory chemicals by your immune system, which in the longer term, can contribute to disease. These inflammatory chemicals are produced for a short time when we need to heal, but sometimes this reaction can become faulty, causing us to produce these chemicals in large amounts over a long period of time. This is known as chronic inflammation and is a major factor in many diseases, including autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease and joint pain. Regularly eating a variety of vegetables can play a big role in reducing inflammation.4

Eating plenty of vegetables can help you lose weight. When dieting, people who eat large amounts of vegetables lose more weight and feel less hungry.5 Regularly eating more servings of vegetables is also shown to be an important factor in maintaining a healthy weight.6

Eat organic, for more nutrients: Organic fruit and vegetables contain more antioxidants than their non-organic equivalents. Because of their greater nutritional value, it’s equivalent to eating an extra one or two portions per day, just by making the change to organic. Organic vegetables also have much lower levels of pesticides and dangerous toxins like cadmium.7

If you don’t already eat enough veggies, now is the time to try to supercharge your plate with as many as you can (if you don’t feel able to go full on, even increasing by just a few more each day can help you to feel better). For fussy eaters, or for kids, see our article on how to get your child to eat vegetables.

easy ways to eat more veggies! 

Order a weekly organic vegetable box. This helps encourage you to eat seasonally, and ensures there are no excuses, as your larder is stocked! Organic vegetables are more nutritious and contain fewer toxins and can also help to reduce the number of food miles you generate, if you find a local supplier. Try your local farm shop or farmers market, or, if you can’t find a local supplier, try nationwide services like Riverford Organic Farmers or Abel and Cole

Eat a rainbow: Different coloured vegetables have different phytochemicals (plant nutrients), all with different health benefits. Try and eat a range of different coloured veggies at each meal. This can also make the prospect of veggies more exciting and appealing for children too. 

Turn them into veggie burgers! To help fussy kids (and adults) to get their daily goodness, in a food processor, blend a mixture of vegetables and onion with peanuts, macadamias or cashews with a little coconut oil to bind the mixture, and coat in rice flour before frying. Delicious and nutritious! 

Juice your vegetables. While it’is true that juiced vegetables lose much of their natural fibre, they still retain their vitamins and minerals. Make a tasty juice with blends like beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger or cucumber, spinach or kale, celery, lime and apple. Try to use apples to sweeten juices, to keep the sugar content low, and consider a masticating juicer for optimal nutrient preservation.

Steam your veg. A simple steamer can sit over a pan with an inch of boiling water and cook several portions of chopped vegetables in just 8-10 minutes. While using a microwave may be quicker, it loses some of the key nutrients. We like to cook broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus and peas in a steamer. Steaming vegetables really allows their natural flavour to shine and they are truly delicious with a dab of organic, raw butter.

 

references:

  1. Liu RH. Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):517S-520S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/78.3.517S. PMID: 12936943.
  2. Slavin JL, Lloyd B. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables Adv Nutr. 2012 Jul 1;3(4):506-16. doi: 10.3945/an.112.002154. PMID: 22797986; PMCID: PMC3649719.
  3. Rodriguez-Casado A. The Health Potential of Fruits and Vegetables Phytochemicals: Notable Examples Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016 May 18;56(7):1097-107. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.755149. PMID: 25225771.
  4. Wu X, Schauss AG. Mitigation of inflammation with foods J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Jul 11;60(27):6703-17. doi: 10.1021/jf3007008. Epub 2012 Apr 15. PMID: 22468569.
  5. Tapsell LC, Batterham MJ, Thorne RL, O’Shea JE, Grafenauer SJ, Probst YC. Weight loss effects from vegetable intake: a 12-month randomised controlled trial Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;68(7):778-85. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.39. Epub 2014 Mar 26. PMID: 24667750; PMCID: PMC4086735.
  6. Hollis JL, Williams LT, Young MD, Pollard KT, Collins CE, Morgan PJ. Compliance to step count and vegetable serve recommendations mediates weight gain prevention in mid-age, premenopausal women. Findings of the 40-Something RCT Appetite. 2014 Dec;83:33-41. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.07.020. Epub 2014 Jul 22. PMID: 25062965.
  7. Organic vs non-organic food – Press Office 

 

 

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