There are many reasons why vegetables should feature very highly in your daily diet. Packed full of nutrients, the range of vegetables available to us all year round makes including them in our meals every day pretty easy.
This month why not take the Veg Pledge and increase your vegetable intake?
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five great reasons why you should.
Vegetables are loaded with nutrients
Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense food groups on the planet. The human body needs around 45 nutrients daily (including water) and a very large proportion of these are found in vegetables.
If you eat a wide variety of vegetables, then you’ll certainly be loading yourself up with a good range of nutrients. First up are vitamins, most of which can’t be made in the body so have to be eaten very regularly. Vitamins such as A, C, and E are all key for the immune system. The B vitamins are needed for energy and a healthy nervous system and brain. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth. And that’s just the beginning!
The body contains a range of trace minerals that are utilised for many body functions, so must be eaten regularly as well. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, with most of it being stored in the bones. Magnesium is key for bone health but also for the heart. Potassium and sodium should also be in good balance to support our cell make-up.
Vegetables are packed with antioxidants
Antioxidants protect the body against free radical damage. Free radicals come from the environment but also from within the body. Whilst the body has its own antioxidant systems, it needs more protection from foods we eat, including vegetables. The richer and darker the colour, the more antioxidants the vegetable provides; broccoli and kale, for example, are packed with antioxidants.
The colour of the vegetable also gives a clue as to the different types of antioxidant it contains. For example, orange and red vegetables contain lots of carotenoids. Some of these are turned into vitamin A in the body. Others serve to protect the body against disease, the aging process and from nasty bugs and infections.
Vegetables are loaded with fibre
We need around 30 grams of fibre in the diet each day to help the digestive tract run smoothly. Fibre is also needed to aid liver detoxification, balance blood sugar levels and keep cholesterol levels in check, just for starters.
Foods contain soluble and insoluble fibre, and we need both, but vegetables contain high levels of soluble fibre. As an example, there’s around three grams of fibre in a cup of cauliflower so the body needs plenty more from food sources to keep the levels topped up. There are of course other foods, especially whole grains, which contain plenty of fibre.
Vegetables are good for the environment
There’s so much research to suggest that adopting a primarily plant-based diet is very beneficial for health. However, with climate change and environmental issues of real concern right now, eating more vegetables and less meat is seen as a very good thing.
Ideally, we should be trying to eat foods in season. We’ve got very used to being able to eat a whole range of vegetables throughout the year due to the wide availability. Farmer’s markets and local growers should be supported as much as possible and are the best places to find in-season, fresh produce. Plus, if you can find organic growers then you’ll be reducing your own intake of pesticides and well as being kinder to the environment.
Make vegetables the main event
You can use vegetables in so many ways, not just as side dishes, but also as mains. Think vegetable curries, risottos and soups or put some of your favourites in a slow cooker with some stock for a lovely warming winter meal.
The varying and wonderful tastes of vegetables can also be enhanced with plenty of delicious and health-giving herbs and spices. For example, why not try garlic, ginger, chilli, turmeric, paprika, basil, rosemary or sage. There are so many herbs and spices that can be added to vegetables to both enhance taste and have additional health benefits so get creative!
Eating delicious food is one of life’s pleasures and there are certainly many ways to make vegetables tasty and a big part of your everyday diet. Five-a-day is the minimum you should be aiming for but the more the better!
So, take the veg pledge and enjoy creating vegetable-based dishes this season.
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