From an early age, we are educated all about the importance of incorporating fruit and vegetables in to our daily diet. Despite this, many individuals still struggle to hit their 5-a day target – in fact, studies suggest that less than a third of people in the UK currently consume the recommended amount.With so many different varieties of delicious fruit and vegetables available, it is surprising that so many people just don’t manage to eat enough.
Ruth Tongue from our nutrition team set out her expert advice on why you need to consider increasing your daily fruit and vegetable intake.
They Offer A Myriad of Benefits
Most of us know all about the long-term benefits of eating the recommended 5-a-day, such as; improved heart health, reduced risk of many cancers and an improved chance of maintaining a healthy weight, however the benefits don’t just end there. Fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, which are highly nutritious active compounds within plants. One brilliant group of phytonutrients are carotenoids, which can be found in most orange, yellow or red coloured fruit and vegetables including carrots, peppers and sweet potatoes. These not only have protective effects against cancers, but also contain high levels of melanin, the pigment that helps to protect our skin against sun damage. In addition, studies have found that diets high in carotenoids have positive effects on the texture, clarity, colour, strength, and elasticity of skin!
They Are A Natural Mood Booster: As if having glowing skin and energy wasn’t enough of a motivator, research has also shown that eating just one extra portion of fruit and vegetables each day can boost mental wellbeing by the same amount as walking for an additional ten minutes a day. It’s not known yet exactly why fruits and vegetables may have this proactive effect on mental health, but some studies suggest that deficiencies in nutrients such as pantothenic acid and vitamin B6, could be the cause of depression in those who do not consume enough plant foods.
You should aim to consume at least five different fruits and vegetables daily to get the vitamins and minerals you need. However, if this feels overwhelming – or the idea of chopping up loads of vegetables is too much, remember that this is a target to work towards, and there are ‘convenient’ options available, such as fruit smoothies, which are a great way to get all the essential nutrients in one drink.
I recommend opting for a smoothie that is all-natural, as most shop bought smoothies are laden with sugars. For example, our Plantshakes, which are a delicious range of instant whole plant smoothies made from freeze-dried fruits and vegetables. We use whole (mainly organic) freeze dried produce that preserves all the gut boosting fibre and energising vitamins that you would find in fresh foods. Their blends focus as much on flavour as nutrition, creating delicious and nutritious smoothies for busy people looking to boost their diet and improve health and energy levels. The freeze-drying process ensures that each pouch is more nutritious than a regular shop bought smoothie, or even the fruit and vegetables you buy from the supermarket and also avoids any unnecessary wastage.
They Are A Great Weight Management Aid
Whether it’s out of boredom, or the need for a quick pick-me-up, many of us who are trying to lose weight will often reach for a snack that is loaded with hidden calories and sugars. It might seem like a boring option, but fruit and vegetables are the healthiest snack you can choose. Brimming with nutritional benefits, they’re low in calories and high in fibre, helping to control your weight. Some studies have even shown that the incredible phytochemicals found in fruit and vegetables may even help to fight off obesity, due to their effect on fat cells in the body.
They Are A Low-calorie Snack
One of the most common excuses people use for their poor eating habits is that they struggle to find healthy options when they are on the go, or at work. And let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than a mushy banana that’s survived a commute and a morning in your bag! This is where people often make the mistake of grabbing a so-called ‘healthy’ cereal bar, or fruit juice – unbeknown to them that they’re often packed with more sugar than a chocolate bar! This is why preparation is key, whether you choose to put your fruit and veg in a Tupperware or take a Plantshake pouch with you, making sure that you have healthy snacks in your bag that will survive the day and provide you with nutritional benefits is essential.
They Have Gut Boosting Benefits
There are trillions of fruits and vegetables which are a great source of fibre that help fill you up, whilst maintaining a healthy gut and preventing constipation and other digestion problems. So, if you can get a variety of these nutrients from different fruits and vegetables, you’ll be boosting your gut microbiome – and research has shown that people with a more diverse microbiome are often happier with better immune systems, less likely to suffer from gastric issues, skin complaints and even sleep better!
They Help Keep You Energised
Fruit and vegetables have a host of health benefits, as they are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, and are critical to supporting health and wellbeing. Although they are significantly low in calories and a great convenience snack, they are also a high source of carbohydrate. Whilst many people try to avoid carbohydrates, it is actually your body’s primary energy source. The fructose and glucose in fruits and vegetables are all-natural, and do not require the work of digestive enzymes to break them down. Therefore, they are a much quicker and healthier way to give your body energy, rather than reaching for a “healthy” protein bar.