Eating more vegetables, fruit and salad can help you to lose weight. Eating enough vegetables, fruit & salad can also help prevent heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. The World Health Organisation estimate that 2.7 million lives could be saved each year simply by eating more fruit & veg!
How Much Fruit & Veg Should I Eat?
If you’re watching your weight, we recommend that you aim to eat 2 portions of salad, 5 portions of vegetables and 3 portions of fruit per day. Most people should aim for at least 9 servings of fruit and veg per day. A “serving” or a “portion” is roughly a handful – so for most people a portion would be:
- A medium serving of mixed salad leaves
- A medium sized apple, orange or pear
- A handful of berries
For main meals, we recommend that at least half your plate should be full of vegetables and/or salad.
Why is Fruit & Veg so Healthy?
Vegetables and fruit have many health benefits – they contain numerous phytochemicals (pronounced “fight”-o-chemicals) that have a beneficial effect on health. Some phytochemicals have antioxidant effects – they help prevent damaging reactions within the body and have a beneficial effect upon health. Other phytochemicals help reduce inflammation. By reducing inflammation and oxidation, phytochemicals appear to promote heart health and reduce the risk of neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
People who eat plenty of vegetables and fruit get less degenerative illnesses, and taking vitamin pills does not have the same effect. Eating lots of veg & fruit won’t completely protect you from serious illness, but it will reduce your risk.
Fruit, Vegetables and Cancer
Research shows that some plant phytochemicals can slow or prevent the growth of cancer cells. One phytochemical found in cabbage, broccoli and kale (called indole-3-carbinol) slows the growth of breast cancer cells. A good reason to eat more cabbage!
According to the US National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organisation, not eating enough vegetables and fruit is linked to an increased risk for cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommends the regular consumption of vegetables like lettuce, leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, onions and fruits. According to WCRF, these foods probably protect against certain cancers, including:
- Cancers of the mouth, throat & voice box
- Oesophageal cancer
- Stomach cancer
According to the World Health Organisation, eating more fruit probably lowers the risk of cancers of the oesophagus, stomach and lung, and possibly reduces the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, colon-rectum, larynx, kidney, and bladder. Eating more vegetables probably lowers the risk of cancers of the oesophagus and colon-rectum – and possibly reduces the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, stomach, larynx, lung, ovary and kidney.
Fruit, Vegetables and Heart Disease
Studies show that eating more fruit & veg is good for your heart. People who consume 8 or more portions of fruit or veg per day are 30% less likely to get a heart attack or stroke compared with those consuming little fruit or veg.
Which Veggies and Fruits Should I Eat?
The ones that you like! Aim to increase your general fruit and vegetable consumption, rather than focusing on a particular fruit or vegetable. Try to include a wide variety of different coloured fruits & vegetables, to ensure that you are consuming a range of beneficial nutrients. If you have limited choice available, your best bet is probably to go for richly coloured red, orange and yellow vegetables & fruit – like carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes & apples. The health effects of different fruits and vegetables are being slowly uncovered by scientists:
- Apples reduce cholesterol levels and may reduce risk for some cancers, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes
- Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons etc): contain phytochemicals that inhibit cancer cells and may be protective against heart disease
- Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale and other cruciferous vegetables: Consuming these vegetables may protect against breast and other cancers
- Tomatoes and cooked tomato products may be protective against prostate cancer
More health benefits linked to different veg & fruit are being discovered all the time – so don’t just focus on the ones we’ve mentioned. Just try to increase your veg & fruit intake across the board, with a wide variety of different types of veg, salad and fruit.
What About the Sugar in Fruit?
Some diets restrict fruit because of the fact that it contains sugar. I don’t go along with this. While it is true that fruit contains sugar, you’re consuming that sugar in a very natural package. Fruit has been a major part of the human diet since before we were human! So yes, fruit contains sugar – but the absorption of that sugar is slowed because you’re consuming plenty of fibre with it. Fruit is also packed full of other beneficial nutrients, as I mentioned above – so on balance fruit is a good snack for people watching their weight. One of my clients recently lost 1.5 stone in six weeks (and six weeks later, he’s kept the weight off!) – he was eating 12 pieces of fruit per day throughout his weight-loss.
Having said that, for people with a serious weight problem, we always emphasise increasing intake of vegetables (not including potatoes) and salad first and foremost.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully we’ve convinced you to include more vegetables, fruit and salad in your diet! Aim to eat a wide variety of vegetables & fruit of different colours – if you have limited choice, your best bet is to focus on eating lots of dark leafy greens (cabbage, kale, lettuce, rocket and other salad leaves) and anything that’s a rich red, orange or yellow colour. Fill half your plate with veggies at every meal – and cram down bucket-loads of healthy salad!
Need More Help?
We can help you to lose weight! Give us a call on 087 930 7575 to talk about weight-loss.