From a young age, we’re taught that vegetables are a key staple in a healthy diet – anyone remember the phrase, ‘You can’t have pudding until you’ve finished your vegetables’? As much as it felt like a punishment at the time, you grow up and realise just how essential fruit and vegetables are for your health.
Current government issued advice states that adults and children should have at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. For further health benefits, you want to aim for about 10 portions a day and it’s not as difficult to achieve as you may think. To make it easier, I stick to the rule of including some fruit and vegetables in every meal and making half of my plate non-starchy vegetables, a quarter starchy veg or smart carbohydrates and a quarter protein. This is generally a good rule of thumb for most people but can change depending on your goals and how active you are.
So, you know how many vegetables to eat and you should know where to find them (ingrained in your mind from holding pudding hostage), but it’s also important to understand why you should be eating more vegetables – What are the actual benefits? Here are just three!
1. Helps to manage stress and with that your waistline!
While beetroot and broccoli stems can’t handle your workload or do the school run, vegetables can actually help your body manage stress by providing it with essential nutrients and minerals. When we don’t consume these nutrients, we place our bodies in a stressful environment and consequently store more energy from food as ‘potential energy’ aka body fat rather than using it up and metabolising it. This is why stress management is so important to weight loss and one way to reduce your stress load is by eating plenty of vegetables and fruit.
2. Protects your cells from free radical damage
Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and lycopene, are incredibly good at protecting the body from free radical damage. In our bodies, there is a consistent build-up of free radicals from a variety of external sources like air pollutants that we encounter every day. Antioxidants are essential for protecting the healthy cells in our body from being damaged, but the body can’t produce most of them, they have to be provided in the diet; enter fruit and vegetables!
3. Critical for a healthy gut and good digestion
Fruit and vegetables are a well-known source of fibre. In my previous blog post, we discussed how vital fibre is for good gut health and keeping blood sugar levels stable but it is also incredibly important for digestion and keeping you full for longer. It’s common when making healthy changes to your diet to focus on restriction but when it comes to fruit and vegetables you should be focusing on abundance and diversity!
For optimal nutritional intake (and to reduce boredom) try rotating or introducing new vegetables frequently and aim for a rainbow diet.