Did you know that eating 800 grams (equal to 10 portions) of vegetables and fruit per day can reduce your chance of having a stroke by a third, and the risk of heart disease can drop by around 24%?
In 2017, researchers from the Imperial College of London, analysed data from 95 studies, in order to determine amount of fruit and vegetables we need as humans, in order to have maximum protection from disease. It was decided that the current ‘5 portions a day’ needed to be increased to 10 portions, for optimal health. Sadly, most people aren’t even achieving 5 portions a day, due to the average diet consisting mainly of bread, dairy, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, soft drinks and meat. A banana or a few slices of tomato and lettuce on a sandwich may be part of their lunch, however the rest of the diet is lacking in vital nutrients, from fresh produce.
As human beings, we have evolved with plants and we are designed to consume them in order to receive the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that we need, in order to survive. We are unable to produce a lot of nutrients internally, unlike other animals, therefore we rely on our food to provide them. I like to recommend 8 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit to clients, in order to boost their nutrient intake without consuming too much natural sugar.
4 Reasons to Eat More Veg
Free radical damage, also known as oxidative stress, is a natural mechanism in our body that can be accelerated by factors such as stress, toxin exposure, high sugar intake, alcohol, UV radiation and cigarette smoking. Chronic, untreated oxidative stress can lead to the development of chronic disease, cancer and premature ageing. Fruits and vegetables are rich in many different types of anti-oxidants, all of which help to neutralise this free radical damage and therefore reduce our risk of illness.
The vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables are needed as cofactors for almost every enzymatic reaction in the body, from the creation of neurotransmitters to the production of new, healthy immune cells. For example, magnesium is a co-factor in over 350 reactions, therefore when our diets are lacking in these vital nutrients, there are many functions that our body is unable to carry out effectively, if at all.
3. Digestive health
Our microbiome (gut bacteria) relies on the fibre from fruits and vegetables as its main source of food. Our friendly bacteria perform many functions for us, such as the digestion and absorption of food, protection against pathogens and the creation of certain vitamins. 70-80% of our entire immune system is located in the gut and our microbiome plays a massive part in keeping us healthy and protected. When we are lacking in beneficial bacteria, have an overgrowth of pathogenic species, consume inflammatory foods or don’t eat enough vegetables, our gut lining can become permeable, in a condition known as intestinal permeability. This condition has been linked to autoimmunity, neurological conditions such as Parkinsons Disease, depression, allergies, MS and arthritis. Having a healthy gut with diverse species of bacteria can help protect us from developing ‘leaky gut syndrome’.
Vegetables and fruits also provide us with fibre, which helps to sweep through the intestines like a brush, clearing old debris and toxins out through the bowels. If we are constipated, these toxins and waste matter can be re-circulated into the system, in a process known as auto-intoxication, therefore ensuring we are going to the toilet daily is very important for optimal health.
The liver, our main organ of detoxification requires vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, in order to perform phase 1 and 2 of the detox process. When we are lacking in nutrients, we cannot effectively eliminate toxins, alcohol, ‘used’ hormones such as oestrogen, chemicals and waste products from the liver. This can lead to symptoms such as acne, bad breath, skin rashes, fatigue, nausea and chemical sensitivity.
Modern farming, soil quality and storage facilities can all affect the nutrient levels of fruit and vegetables, therefore always try to buy organic, local produce. We all know that we should be eating fruits and vegetables, however a lot of people struggle with recipe inspiration, don’t like the taste or simply don’t have a lot of time to spend steaming and sautéing their greens every day due to a busy work schedule. Luckily there are many simple ways to boost your intake, including superfood powders!
Add in some greens (spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass) to your morning smoothie for a huge boost of minerals, antioxidants and chlorophyll. The taste can be quite strong, so start slowly or mask the flavour with a handful of berries or a banana!
Vegetables don’t have to be boring or taste horrible! Try them roasted, lightly steamed, raw or stir fried in coconut oil. Season with herbs and spices such as turmeric, pink Himalayan salt, garlic and black pepper. Make vegetables the main focus of your lunch and dinners, adding the protein, fats and carbohydrates as condiments.
Implementing some of these recommendations will hopefully inspire you to aim for 10 portions of vegetables and fruit per day, in order to improve your vitality and reduce your risk of developing chronic disease. What we eat has the ability to contribute to or prevent disease. There is huge conflict between communities following different diets these days, whether that be vegan, paleo, macrobiotic, 5:2 fasting or the raw food diet. However, we should first focus on the commonalities between them all, which is the avoidance of processed junk food and the consumption of lots of fresh vegetables each day.
Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality—a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/46/3/1029/3039477
The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4303825/
Fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort http://jech.bmj.com/content/57/3/218
Health benefits of Fruits and Vegetables https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649719/
Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables - The millennium's health https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249386472_Antioxidants_in_fruits_and_vegetables_-_The_millennium's_health
Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g4490