We all know eating more fruit and vegetables is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. But what is it about filling our plates with plants that is so vital? How does it contribute to our overall health? And how can you go about tackling this in your busy day-to-day lives? To celebrate the introduction of Feedr’s new ‘Plant Packed’ meal tag, (featured in all Cloud Canteen menus) we spoke to Dr Clare Wyld, GP and nutritionist, to get to the root of why fruit and veg is so good for us, and dig the dirt on her simple tips for ensuring we get the most from them.
How does Feedr define ‘Plant Packed’?
Whatever your food goals, everyone needs a daily dose of the green stuff. This can be a real challenge when you’re busy, on the go, and left buying food from grab-and-go places which give little visibility on the true contents of a meal. Feedr is here to make it easy. Every meal with our seal of ‘Plant Packed’ approval contains at least 160g of fruit and/or veg per meal – that’s a minimum of two servings. We have gone above and beyond NHS guidelines and set the bar high. And here is why.
We have all heard of 5-a-day, but is it enough?
Dr Clare says probably not. Research has shown that actually 10 portions of fruit and veg a day is considerably more beneficial than 5. So why do the NHS recommend 5? It was a public health strategy established in 2003 to try to increase people’s fruit and veg consumption, without it feeling unachievable. However, the average adult in the UK reportedly still fails to hit this target, consuming an average of 4.2 servings of fruit and veggies a day, with this dropping to a poor 2.7 portions for teenagers.
So as a nation, we should be looking to increase our fruit and veg intake as much as we can, and prioritising veg when possible. A good number to aim for is 7-8 portions of veggies and 2-3 of fruit. But (!) it’s not just about volume, we also have to pay close attention to the types of fruit and veg we consume. We now know that the more varied our diets, the better it is for our overall health but what should we be looking for when making our daily fruit and veg choices?
What is it about fruit and veg that is just so good for us, and why does variety matter?
We’ve all heard the saying ‘eat the rainbow’, well it’s true! The more colour we can include, the more varied the benefits and this is all down to phytonutrients. Phytonutrients (phytochemicals) are compounds found in plants thought to be important for human health. For example, lycopene in tomatoes can help protect you against the sun, curcumin in turmeric has anti-inflammatory effects, and quercetin in apples can help with hayfever. Each colour represents a different phytonutrient, so the greater variety we eat with ranging colours, the more phytonutrients we consume and the greater our ability to harness all the benefits fruit and veg have to offer.
From peas, beans and pulses to the british favourite, broccoli. Fruits and veg can be a vital source of soluble fibre. We know this is great news for our guts, with the greater the variety of fibre sources, ie. different fruits and veg, the better for Gut Health. For more on fibre and Gut Health, check out our blog post by Dr Megan Rossi, the Gut Health Doctor.
Vitamins & Minerals
Fruit and vegetables represent the most dense natural sources of certain vitamins and minerals available to us. From vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E to magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and folic acid, all of which are vital to our bodies functions. From citrus fruits to leafy greens, brassicas to root veg, they all have their own micronutrient profile, it’s time to swap the daily avo for something a little different.
So, eat the rainbow, change-up your fruit and veg choices, and reap the rewards. But what other simple rules can help guide our fruit and veg intake and give our body what it needs, when it needs it? The answer is found in the diets of our ancestors.
Throughout the millennia we have always eaten with the seasons, our biology is set up for it. It depends where we are in the world what food is available at certain times of the year and making the most of these seasonal changes supports us best. Stone fruits in summer provide extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage, citrus fruits in winter provide much needed vitamin C, helping our immune systems when most at risk. And what’s more, Seasonal fruit and veg ripen naturally, making it more nutritionally dense and quite simply, more delicious. Not only is it good for our bodies, but also has less associated air miles, a lower carbon footprint making it a much more sustainable way of eating (look out for more on seasonal eating to come).
So have fruit and veg grown in your estimations? They certainly have in ours! Providing us with essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and of course fibre, everything indicates to the simple fact – we could all do with upping our plant intake. But this doesn’t mean an extra apple or some more lettuce at lunch! Shift the focus to veg, be adventurous when filling your plate in both colour and variety and take advantage of the best of the season. Plants really do deserve their place on all of our menus.
Follow Dr Clare @wyldhealth and visit her website for more info: www.wyldhealth.co.uk