If you want to follow a healthy, balanced diet then fruit and vegetables are necessary. Research studies show that eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day can have some significant health benefits.
One portion is equal to 80 grams, so eating at least 400 grams of fruit and veg each day can reduce the risk of health issues like, heart disease, stroke and even cancer. But what is it about natural plant foods that makes them so good?
They’re packed with nutrients
Fruit and veg are full of essential nutrients which are the vitamins and minerals your body needs to be healthy and function well. Different types and colours contain different nutrients, so eating a wide variety means you’ll be consuming lots of different vitamins and minerals. Try eating fruit and veg from each of the different colour groups (green, red, yellow, purple, and orange).
Some of the nutrients fruit and veg contain are:
Vitamin A: found in carrots, mangoes, cantaloupe melon, apricot, spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes. It is good for maintaining vision and supporting the immune system.
Vitamin C: found in oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries, broccoli, parsley, kiwis, and lemons. Vitamin C is important for supporting health and immunity and to help your body produce collagen and your teeth, bones and blood vessels need it, too. It’s also a potent antioxidant.
Folate: also known as vitamin B9, it is important for cell division and foetal growth which is why women trying to conceive or who are already pregnant are advised to take a folic acid supplement. Food sources include beans, peas and lentils, asparagus, spinach, kale, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and broccoli.
Magnesium: Magnesium is a vital nutrient and takes part in many of the chemical reactions within the human body. Foods high in magnesium include avocadoes, black beans, bananas, kale, and spinach.
Potassium: potassium helps to maintain blood pressure and also has important roles in the function of your nerves and muscles. Foods which are high in potassium are bananas, avocadoes, watermelon, edamame beans, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.
They’re a great source of fibre
Fruit and vegetables are full of fibre. There is lots of evidence which shows eating plenty of fibre lowers the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Bowel cancer
Your digestive system also needs fibre to keep it healthy and functioning. Fibre feeds the good bacteria in your gut which means their activity increases and so do their health-promoting properties.
The fibre in your diet also helps to absorb water and increase the bulk of stools, preventing constipation.
They’re naturally low in calories
Fruit and veg are naturally low in calories, so eating them can help you to maintain a healthy weight. However, generally, that means eating them in their natural state or not eating them fried and roasted.
Plant foods, particularly fruit and veg, are an essential part of the human diet. As well as tasting great, they also have numerous health benefits. We should all aim to eat at least five portions each day and pick varieties from each of the colour groups to ensure we consume a wide variety of nutrients.
British Nutrition Foundation. (2018) Fruit and Vegetables. Available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/healthydiet/fruit-and-vegetables.html
National Health Service. (2018). Why 5 a Day? Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/why-5-a-day/
Slavin, J, L and Lloyd, B. (2012). Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables. Adv Nutr: 3(4), pp 506-516.