You’ve probably had it drilled into you since childhood but it’s important to eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables are no secret yet still many of us aren’t getting the required amount each day. Here are some compelling nutritional facts that tell you why, as well as information about how to go about getting enough into your diet.
Fruit and vegetables supply many nutrients that are important for your health. Dark-coloured berries contain potent antioxidants which scavenge free-radicals (which cause cell damage), slow aging, and fight cancer. Orange carrots and sweet potatoes boast high levels of beta-carotene which the body converts into vitamin A which is important for healthy skin and eyes. Leafy greens such as spinach are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium. All fruits and vegetables supply the body with the fibre needed for cholesterol regulation and proper bowel function.
Whether you eat them raw, cooked, steamed, stir-fried, whole, chopped or mashed, it is best to start with fresh organic produce. Frozen vegetables are also a good option as their nutrients are fairly well preserved when frozen.
Rather than getting too caught up in how many servings to eat or what constitutes a serving, use the following points as a guide:
- Make vegetables the focal point of your meals (easily done in salads, curries, stir fries and stews) and snack on fruit during the day and for dessert.
- Eat the “rainbow” – choose fruits and vegetables that make a rainbow of at least three different colours (red tomatoes and capsicum, orange carrots and sweet potatoes, green peas and broccoli etc).
- Eat dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale at least once a day.
- Fruits and vegetables with the brightest and deepest colours indicate the highest levels of nutrients.
- Eat a variety of plant parts including leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruit.
- Aim for half of your plate being made up of vegetables at lunch and dinner.
Fruit and vegetables are a critical component of a balanced diet and following these few simple tips could see you reaping plenty of extra health benefits.