Acai, maca, spirulina, sacha inchi, baobab, lucuma ….
No, you don’t need to go and get your dictionary out (or even jump to Mr Google), I’m not talking about the new kids on the block (not today anyway!) – you know the exotic, good-looking ones with a tan and sun-bleached hair – no, today we’re talking vegetables.
Not even any particular vegetable. Just VEGETABLES (excuse me for shouting). We’ve been told for at least 30 years that we need to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Do you know why that is?
Actually, it’s because the powers that be wanted to give us a feasible number to aim for. Vegetable consumption has not tended to be high in the UK compared to other countries where a wider variety of veg is grown and consumed as part of the traditional diet. Apparently about 2/3 of us still don’t eat 5 a day on any kind of a regular basis. Up here in Scotland, we’re good at growing potatoes, carrots, swede and kale – eating 5 portions of those day in, day out is not really going to set your taste buds a-quiver! We’re really good at berries here though, so at least we can get excited about that in the summer (we certainly can’t get excited about the weather …)
To be fair, even a couple of portions of veg a day brings health benefits, but research published last year found that up to 800g (or 10 portions) of fruit and veg a day was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31% reduction in premature deaths. Sounds good to me – I wonder if any of those exotic kids could match that! (Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/23/five-day-10-portions-fruit-veg-cut-early-death)
If you’re wondering if 10 a day is even humanly possible, let me tell you that the Japanese eat 7 to 13 portions of vegetables a day and 2 to 4 portions of fruit! What constitutes a portion does vary from country to country though. Japanese portions are a little smaller than ours, but Spanish portions are much bigger.
So just to be clear, however many portions we’re aiming for (and do just keep aiming for more!) they should be of different vegetables and fruits. We’re not really talking about 5 portions of baked beans in the day (yes, beans count – potatoes don’t). Eating the rainbow covers all our bases nutritionally, as well as looking good and keeping our taste buds happy with plenty of variety. Leafy greens have particular benefits that makes it worth shoehorning them in there every day.
And finally just to say that however many portions we’re getting or aiming for, we really want them to be mostly vegetables. Fruit has nutritional benefits too of course, but the high fructose levels, especially in tropical fruits, mean they should be eaten in moderation. Berries and citrus fruits are lower in fructose, and berries have so many health benefits that scoffing them down in our short berry season is always going to be a better plan than tucking into bananas and mangoes.
So what might 10 a day look like?
Breakfast – porridge with raisins and stewed apple (in winter) or berries (in summer) – 2 portions
Snack – carrot sticks with nut butter or hummus – 1 portion
Lunch – bowl of soup with leafy green salad (soup and salad actually go really well together) – 3 portions
Snack – 1/2 avocado on cracker or rice cake – 1 portion
Dinner – paella made with peppers, peas, green beans and tomatoes – 4 portions . That was my dinner last night – delicious! I could have added some spinach as well, now that I think of it … (I’m a bit embarrassed to share my photo in the same post as those beautiful professional ones above!)
So there you go – not so hard, we even made it to 11 there. As always, I’d love to hear your views and comments – here, on Facebook (maybe we could all share our veggie-rich photos!), or on Instagram.