"Eat more fruits and vegetables!" It's a message we hear so often that it can lose its impact after a while. So much so that just over five percent of Australians are eating their daily recommended five serves of vegetables and two servings of fruit. It can also be difficult to find the time and effort to put into getting our 5 and 2 when... well we know they're good for us but why are they good for us, and what are they actually doing for our body? Here's a few things you need to know about fruit and veg and why every day, without fail, however you can manage it, you make fruit and vegetables the main part of your daily diet.
Who isn't interested in anti-aging? Well did you know fruit and veges can actually help slow down the aging process? Recent studies have shown a diet rich in fruit & veg can lengthen telomeres found at the end of our chromosome, which help to slow down cell death and aging. Fruit and veg contain antioxidants that help to stop unstable molecules from damaging our healthy cells, which can cause aging. Vitamin C, for example found in citrus, kiwi and berries help to produce collagen that maintains the integrity of our skin and that means fewer wrinkles. Vegetables have also been shown to slow cognitive decline as we age.
Soluble fibre found in some fruit and veg slows down the rate of digestion, the movement of food from our stomach to our small intestines. Eating a meal packed with this fibre makes you feel fuller faster and more satisfied for longer, meaning it's great for portion control and helps to reduce the need to eat so frequently. Vegetables, in particular the watery vegetables have low calorie density, which means we can eat a bucket load of them without a great calorie cost. This is a fantastic way to fill up for those with a big appetite.
The best sources of soluble fibre are apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, celery, cucumber and carrot.
Studies show time and again that diets most rich in veges and fruit have the greatest heart protective benefits. Eat more than eight servings of fruit and veg every day and you're 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The fibrous material in fruit and veg can also help reduce the absorption of dietary cholesterol helping to keep our blood cholesterol down - high cholesterol is a known risk factor for heart disease.
Blood pressure lowering
A diet high in veges and fruit and low fat dairy plus low in saturated and total fats has been shown to reduce blood pressure as effectively as a medication. It's a no-brainer really.
The relationship between fruit and vegetables and cancer is more focused on the types of fruit and veg as opposed to the quantity. Cruciferous or brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and green leafy veg like kale, spinach and bok choy as well as onions and garlic may have the most significant protection against cancer. This is the same for specific components of fruits such as lycopene, a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red pigment may be protective against prostate cancer.
A healthy tummy
The combination of soluble and insoluble fibre in fruit and veges is perfect for a healthy gut. Insoluble fibre in particular adds bulk to the diet and this helps to move waste through our intestines quickly, like a scrubbing brush, picking up waste along the way and can help to prevent constipation diverticulosis, haemorrhoids and IBS. These indigestible fibres are also known as prebiotics. They are the food for the good bugs in our gut and can help to create a healthy environment by making sure there's plenty of healthy probiotics that keep the nasty bugs and other pathogens at bay. This science is in fact incredibly complex and the benefits on pre and probiotics on our gut environment are many and varied and range from mood and depression to allergies and auto-immune diseases.
Great sources of insoluble fibre are broccoli, cabbage, green beans, zucchini, onion, dark green leafy veges like kale and spinach, tomatoes and the edible skin or fruit and veges.
It is no surprise that science is showing eating whole fruit, particularly berries reduces the risk of diabetes whilst drinking fruit juice can increase your risk. Whole fruit includes soluble fibre that slows the release of the fruit sugar into our blood stream whereas drinking the fruit juice which has had the fibre removed is a concentrated source and high dose of fruit sugars that can cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Antioxidant components of some fruit and veg can protect our eyes from the age-related conditions, macular degeneration and cataracts. In particular, lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that can protect our vision and are found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. These precious antioxidants are found in green leafy veges, corn, yellow capsicum, kiwi, spinach, grapes, orange, zucchini and squash.
There is no doubt, eating fresh fruit and vegetables every day is the ideal way of obtaining their health benefits. For a number of reasons however this just simply isn't possible. IBS sufferers often have issues digesting the complex sugars found in some fruits and vegetables like cauliflower, onion and apples and experience uncomfortable bloating and gas. Limited access to fruit and vegetables, food allergies, aversions and dislikes, eating too much take away foods and lack of cooking skills can limit intake of fruit and veg in the diet. In these cases, a supplement can be a wonderful tool to help meet those requirements. Obviously not any supplement will do but Nuzest's Good Green Stuff contains a superblend of greens, fruits, veges and berries to help provide some of the nutrients we get from a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. These include organic wheatgrass, papaya, broccoli sprout, blackcurrent extract, beetroot, carrot, spinach and goji to name just a few.