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10 Ways to Eat more Fruit and Vegetables, and Why we Need to!

Large scale observational studies which have followed groups of people over many years conclude that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables correlates with lower incidence of many chronic diseases of developed nations including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, obesity and cancer.

But why?

Fruits and vegetables are all plants and vary greatly in their energy and nutrient content. They supply a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, some obscure phytochemicals of which some are powerful antioxidants, others phytoestrogens and some anti-inflammatories. Most are a great source of dietary fibre. Therefore there is good reason to eat a wide variety to ensure that vitamin, mineral needs are met and phytochemical benefits are gained.

Back in the 1970’s Burkitt and Trowell published their ‘Fibre Hypothesis’ stating that dietary fibre protects against a range of Western diseases. Since then our knowledge has increased enormously on the subject of gut flora and the importance of a varied and balanced population of bacteria and yeasts in the large intestine. This cannot be achieved without a diet which ‘feeds’ these microorganisms with undigested and fermentable ‘food’.

Much more is at stake than Western diseases too: recent research highlights the role the gut flora play in modulating mood, anxiety, depression and now it seems our propensity for obesity too.

Current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults eat 2 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables per day. In the Australian Health Survey 2012-13 less than 50% of adults ate two or more serves of fruit per day. Even worse, 91.8% of adults failed to meet the recommendation of five or more servings of vegetables per day.

So how can we improve?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Always pack fruit and vegetables to take with you even if you’ll only be out for a few hours - having nothing on hand will be the perfect excuse to buy a muffin, chocolate bar or bag of chips because you’re peckish.

  2. Half fill your dinner plate with vegetables or salad. Reduce the portion size of meat and carbohydrate (rice, potato, bread, pasta…) Let the vegetables fill you up.

  3. Serve a simple salad on the side of dinner, even if there are already hot vegetables as part of it. Or, as a side to your lunchtime sandwich.

  4. Borrow a vegetarian cookbook from the library or search for ideas online. Get inspired to try new and interesting ways to cook vegetables.

  5. Meat free Monday! Designate one day (or more) per week and make the vegetables the star of the show.

  6. Grow a few vegetables at home and see how motivated you will feel to use your own produce to cook with. Even herbs in pots make a tasty difference.

  7. Make a good salad dressing and keep a jar of it on hand- undressed leaves can be a bit boring! For example here are some:

  8. Add vegetables to your breakfast - Ditch the bacon and eat spinach, avocado, tomato and mushrooms with your eggs.

  9. Cut up fruit for hungry children to snack on. The convenience of ready prepared bite sized pieces encourages greater intake.

  10. Try new vegetables and fruits that you are less familiar with - make it an adventure!

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