Making the most of your veggies
Updated: Sep 6, 2018
It's all about the veg, 'bout the veg...
Aaah, vegetables. Don't nutritionists half bang on about them.
In my defence, we have good reason.
“In the daily diet vegetables have been strongly associated with improvement of gastrointestinal health, good vision, and reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, chronic diseases such as diabetes, and some forms of cancer.”
Dias, J.S. (2012). Nutritional quality and health benefits of vegetables: A review. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 3 (1354-1374).
Vegetables (and fruit) contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that are beneficial to human health. Some of these phytochemicals have strong antioxidant properties, helping to protect the body against damage couse by free radicals (molecules produced as by-products of normal metabolic processes).
Variety is the key
For the greatest health benefit, a wide variety of vegetables and fruits should be regularly consumed. Different veggies and fruits contain their own specific combination of beneficial nutrients, so eat the rainbow!
What about 5+ A Day? Can't I just eat 5 servings of fruit?
The short answer is no.
The 5+ A Day guideline is broken down into 2 servings of fruit and at least three servings of vegetables a day. Fruit contains more sugar than veg, and there are quite a few beneficial compounds only found in veg. For example, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) are the richest source of glucosenolates, which have been shown to protect against various types of cancer.
What about juicing?
Juicing removes a lot of the fibre from veg and fruit, and it's the fibre the helps you feel fuller and slow the digestion and absorption of the natural sugars, and their release into the bloodstream. Also, there is a tendency to put a lot of fruit into a juice, and very few veg, so you can be drinking the equivalent amount of sugar as that contained in 6 oranges or 6 apples, without the benefit of the fibre to slow it's absorption. That's a lot of sugar.
Try and avoid drinking your vegetables and fruit.
Upping your vegetable game
Try and set a goal of adding an extra serve of veg to each evening meal. Then extend that to an extra one at lunch too. Soon you will be knocking that 5+ A Day target out of the park! Here are some ideas:
grate a carrot and a zucchini into your next spaghetti bolognese
make mini pizzas from wholemeal pita breads, and top them with chopped capsicum, tomatoes, onion and cheese. Serve with a side salad.
make a vege soup - sautee an onion and some celery, add some chicken stock, two chopped carrots and a chopped parsnip and some dried brown lentils. Add a handful of chopped green beans for the last five minutes.
snack on sliced tomato and cream cheese on grainy crackers, or hummus and vege sticks.
dice a variety of vegetables and roast them when you're using the oven to cook dinner. Use them to make lunches - just add some cooked shredded chicken and a handful of greens (lettuce or spinach) and drizzle with a little balsamic dressing.
a new twist on salads - take raw broccoli and whizz it in a food processor. Tip into a large bowl and add shredded carrot, chopped spring onion, diced capsicum and a handful of your favourite herbs (chopped). Mix through a dressing made from olive oil, dijon mustard and lemon juice or red wine vinegar.