“Eat your fruit and veg” is a phrase you have probably heard repeatedly since you were a kid … from your parents, in school, by your doctor, health advertisements. But why is it so important to eat enough fruit and vegetables?!
Vitamins and minerals are essential to life!! We need them to access the energy and building blocks from our food, to recover and repair from training, to fight disease, to concentrate, and much much more. Essentially, to have the get up and go to attack each day!! Fruits and veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals, and different fruits and veggies (especially those of different colours) are rich in different vitamins and minerals. So get that variety in!!
The average UK adult does not consume the recommended 28g fibre per day (UK government guidelines). Fibre is essential for gut health. It keeps our food moving along through our digestive system, preventing it from getting stuck and starting to ferment, gas and damage our gut (nice!!), and it provides fuel for the gut bacteria we need to digest our food properly and maintain good health. In addition, certain fibres support lowering of ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Fruit and vegetables are high volume and low calorie, because of their high water and fibre content. So if you are looking to lose weight, loading up on these can be a massive plus in feeling fill and hitting your goals. Vegetables are typically lower calorie than fruit, so bear this in mind as you make your choices through the day. If you are not looking to cut calories (perhaps you are even focussed on adding body weight), do not avoid fruit and veg!! You still need the micronutrients and fibre ☺. Instead focus on the slightly higher calorie options, such as banana, mango, avocado, and parsnips.
Reduced risk of chronic disease
Increased intake of fruit and veg is correlated with decreased risk of several chronic ‘lifestyle’ diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers. Whilst correlation is not cause, it is thought the impact of fruit and vegetables on gut health, bodyweight, body function and also the likelihood of consuming large amounts of refined and processed food products has a causative role in reducing these disease risks.
So, eating fruit and veg is clearly important.
But how much?!
You might know that the recommended daily intake of fruit and veg varies widely across the world. In some countries it is seven portions, in some it is ten portions, and in the UK it is just five! Guidelines differ principally because different countries rely on different research to develop their guidelines, may have different definitions of what counts as one portion, and consume different types of fruit and veg. It is going to be hard to overdose on fruit and veg; the more you can get in the better! At a minimum, I suggest aiming for five handfuls of different vegetables each day, and two of fruit (remember that micronutrient and fibre variety!).
And what counts?!
Fresh, frozen, tinned (if it is not in a sugar syrup!) in unlimited amounts! Dried fruit and juice can only count for one serving a day (30g and 125ml), because they have such a high sugar concentration (and the juice has reduced fibre and micronutrient content).
Easy ways to up your intake …
Add grated courgette or carrot to your morning porridge or bircher muesli
Add a side salad to lunch or dinner (add in fruit for added variety and yum!)
Have veg sticks and guacamole as an afternoon snack
Go posh and make some spiced roasted veggies for a starter (refrigerates well, so you can prep ahead!)