​Nutrition Back to Basic step 3 Increasing fruit and veg

Tuesday 08 May 2018

Although I have put this as step 3 it is possibly one of the most important changes that could be made, That is to increase the amount of vegetables and fruits that you eat each day. The government recommends 5 portions a day. I would like to think of it as nearer 8 or even 10 portions a day. This is because;

• They are rich in vitamins and minerals and anti-oxidants (See my blog on Antioxidants) which have been shown to potentially help fight cancer.

They protect the cell from any damage that may occur especially from damaged fats and chemicals found in food.

They should give you vitality to help boost your immune system which is all immensely positive.  

• Always try to think of colourful, seasonal and fresh.

The more colour that you include the greater the content of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have been shown to be hugely beneficial to cell health and to have disease fighting potential (See my blog on phytochemicals).

Fruits and vegetables that are in season are generally nutritionally better and obviously the fresher the better because once a fruit or vegetable has been harvested its nutritional value begins to deteriorate.

Note that frozen is a good standby because the food will have been harvested and frozen within hours so preserving its nutritional value.

So how can we include 8-10 portions of fruit and veg a day

Imaginative salads using a wide variety of colourful vegetables. This could include some or all of the following; beetroot, peppers, sweet corn, rocket, grated carrots, red onion as well as the standard lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. NOTE- always wash the vegetables well if you are going to eat them raw. It is worth noting that the most nutritious part of the fruit or vegetable is found just below the skin.

Soups, fresh homemade is best but ‘fresh’ shop bought soups are a good substitute but avoid the creamy based ones as these can be high in damaged fats.

• Juices using a wide variety of coloured fruits and vegetables. NOTE that when making a juice add 1 tblsp of ground almonds or ground flaxseeds or a scoop of protein powder to the juice as this will help to buffer the rapid rise in blood sugar that would come from such a concentration of fruits and vegetables.  However if the juice is going to be drunk as part of a meal where other food is included the additional ground almonds etc is not as vital as the other food with the drink will buffer the absorption of the sugar in the fruits or vegetables. I hope that makes sense and does not seem too confusing.

Stir fried vegetables using olive oil and a tbsp of water or lemon juice. The water will prevent the fat from becoming overheated (damaged) and will create a steam fry rather than a stir fry. Stir fries are good hot or cold. Make plenty and use it as a meal the next day. I quite often add some cashew nuts to my stir fry to give a different texture. Cashew nuts also add some protein and essential fat.

Oven baked vegetables, again using olive oil. Perhaps add some garlic or herbs to ring the changes. Pumpkin, courgettes, peppers and red onion are particularly good. Again make extra and use it as a salad the next day or mix through some cooked rice to make a more substantial meal.

Stews and casseroles are particularly nourishing as we consume the juices that the food has been cooked in so we do not lose any valuable nutrients. If you want to reduce the amount of meat that you are eating you could bulk up the stew or casserole with some lentils or beans, I use red split lentils as these seem to dissolve in the juice and naturally thicken the casserole but any beans or lentils would add extra protein, be cheaper than meat and make a nice change.

A steamed medley using a variety of coloured vegetables all cooked in one steamer pan. This saves washing up!! And because the vegetables are not immersed in water they retain more of their nutritional value.

Vegetable tagines- you can use a wide variety of vegetables cooked in Moroccan spices. Tagines usually have prunes or apricots added which gives a sweet but spicy finish which is good for those whose taste buds have changed.

Frozen vegetables are a good standby but avoid tinned varieties as the canning process destroys the vitamins and minerals in the fruits and vegetables. Note that this does not apply to tomatoes or beans and lentils. I use the tinned varieties of beans and lentils all the time. Just drain and rinse them before use. The dried varieties are good if you are going to use a large amount or want to cook in bulk to freeze but they need soaking overnight and they can take a long time to cook. I suppose a pressure cooker would be idea but I have not mastered how to use them even tho’ I have been cooking for years. Perhaps I should.

Some menus to try

Here I have given 3 days menus, which I think could possibly make up a typical daily food intake and to show how easy it can be to reach the 8-10 portions of fruits or vegetable in the day.

Menu 1

Breakfast; porridge with fresh blueberries(1)

Snack; banana(2) plus some unsalted cashew nuts.

Lunch; wholemeal sandwich with hummus, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber(3&4) followed by an orange(5).

Snack; wholemeal fruit scone (sugar free)(7).

Evening meal; poached salmon, steamed cauliflower(8), carrots(9) and peas(10) with a baked potato.

Menu 2

Breakfast; muesli with dried fruit(1)and banana(2) with oatly milk.

Snack; pear(3) with some almonds

Lunch; vegetable soup(4&5) with rye bread and some goats cheese.

Snack; oatcakes with hummus and some carrot sticks(6)

Evening meal; beef casserole with root vegetables(7&8) and steamed spring cabbage(9)

Menu 3

Breakfast; fruit smoothie(1,2&3) with ground almonds.

Snack; apple(4) with a small pot of live natural yogurt.

Lunch; large imaginative salad(5,6&7) omelette and 1 slice of wholemeal bread.

Snack; Satsuma or a small handful of grapes(8)

Evening meal; wholemeal toast with grilled tomatoes(9) and mushrooms(10) and baked beans.

The Bottom Line;

• Try to have at least 60% of your daily food intake from vegetables and fruits.

• Think Colour, Variety and seasonal whenever you think of fruits and vegetables.

• Always make changes slowly. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables gently over a period of a week or so to give your body the time to adjust.

Next week I will be looking at Sugar. I am sure that with all the recent media hype about sugar in foods you will find it interesting

 See also antioxidants blog, Phytochemicals blog

Blog originally written by Caroline March 2014

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