Vegetables: five a day not enough

2015-04-30 14:59

SCIENTISTS recommend that we should increase the consumption of fresh fruit and/or vegetables to seven to 10 portions a day.

This is based on a study reviewing causes of death and death risk in a group of more than 65 000 people (Journal of Epidemiology­ andamp; Community Health, 31 March 2014).

Results from this study showed that a higher intake of vegetables and fruit is linked with a lower death risk from cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Health benefits seem to increase exponentially with each extra daily portion of vegetables, while fruit show less favourable results.

Why we need vegetables

Vegetables play a vital role in building healthy families and healthy homes, providing essential nutrients that are hard to acquire from other foods.

-Vitamins, notably vitamin C needed for a healthy immune system, is found in abundance in red peppers, guavas and citrus fruits.

- Minerals such as magnesium, iron and calcium are found in dark green vegetables.

- Soluble and insoluble fibres that support healthy digestive function are found in all fruits and vegetables, while some also contain prebiotics, nutrients that are favoured by the healthy bacteria in our digestive systems.

- Apart from all this goodness, an added bonus is that the bright colour pigments in fruit and vegetables happen to be potent antioxidants that fight disease and support vitality.

- Health problems associated with a low intake of fruit and vegetables include constipation, spastic colon, irritable bowel syndrome, increased susceptibility to infections due to poor immune function, slow healing of wounds and fatigue.

Nutrition tips – how to eat more vegetables

Your favourite winter comfort foods make it easy to eat more vegetables.

- Stews: substitute potatoes with nutritious vegetables such as butternut, baby marrows, carrots – they provide the stodgy comfort food texture, more flavour and less carbohydrates

-Soups: no better way to get multiple portions of vegetables in one meal – combine your favourite vegetables with vegetable stock, cook until soft, combine with a stick blender and enjoy

- Stir-fries: if you get bored with stews and soups, try this interesting combination of chopped vegetables for a flavourful, delicious crunchy stir-fry: purple cabbage, carrots, onions, red peppers, baby marrows, celery, green beans and bean sprouts

- Pasta: enrich your bolognaise sauce by adding grated carrots, finely chopped celery, cauliflower, mushrooms and onions.

- Pesto: pack in veggie power into your family’s meals by making your own pesto: combine two cups blanched baby spinach two cups blanched broccoli, 1 handful rocket leaves, two cloves garlic, ½ cup grated parmesan and ½ cup olive oil; add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Low-carb winter vegetables

Follow this guide to low-carb vegetables, ideal to stop those kilos from piling on this winter (potato contains 20 g carbohydrates per 100 g):

- Vegetable: baby marrows (courgettes - zucchini)

Carbohydrates (g/100 g): 2.2

Use this in: Unbelievably simple, satisfying Italian veg soup: Boil sliced tomatoes, baby marrows and onions in vegetable stock until soft – serve with a dollop of basil pesto.

- Vegetable: broccoli

Carbohydrates (g/100 g): 3.1

Use this in: this broccoli salad has delicious nutty flavour: Combine two cups raw grated broccoli, one tin lentils (fluid drained), ½ cup crumbled feta, two chopped spring onions, a squeeze of lemon juice, black pepper to taste.

- Vegetable: brussels sprouts Carbohydrates (g/100 g): 2.5

Use this in: Add to stews and soups, they provide rich flavour and if cooked soft, a lovely stodgy texture without the carbs.

- Vegetable: Cabbage. Carbohydrates (g/100 g): 4.3

Use this in: Add plenty of cabbage to your beef or lamb stew, season with nutmeg, leave out the potato, you will not miss it.

- Vegetable: carrots. Carbohydrates (g/100 g): 6.4

Use this in: Add plenty of carrots into a meaty stew to substitute potatoes – they add more flavour and 75% less carbs. Grate carrots into a thick hearty soup, they can replace other starchy veg to thicken soup.

- Vegetable: cauliflower

Carbohydrates (g/100 g): 3.4

Use this in: for a delicious, creamy substitute to mashed potatoes, puree boiled cauliflower, flavour with nutmeg and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

- Vegetable: celery

Carbohydrates (g/100 g): 1.7

Use this in: adds flavour and nutritional value to soups and a lovely crunch to any winter salad.

- Vegetable: mushrooms

Carbohydrates (g/100 g):2.7

Use this in: grill large mushrooms in oven, rubbed with olive oil and topped with crumbled feta, black pepper, garlic and rosemary.

And if you are still not inspired, here are some more reasons to motivate you to eat more veg:

- Low cost: seasonal vegetables are the most cost effective, nutritious foods available

- Grow your own – start with rocket, spinach, baby marrows as these need very little TLC and can almost grow on their own

- Freeze them for a lazy day: cooked or raw vegetables can be frozen without compromising­ their nutritional value

- Low carbohydrate options – ideal for high-protein diets.

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