The five fruits and vegetables that should be top of the list in a vegetarian diet

Blueberries in a heart shape

It’s National Vegetarian Week where we celebrate all that is great about plant-based diets. 

However, whatever type of diet you’re following, it should always be rich in fruits and vegetables because of their endless health benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite fruits and vegetables to help support a vegetarian diet


This wonderful vegetable delivers many nutritional benefits.  Indeed, there are very few people on the planet that wouldn’t benefit from eating some broccoli, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s green or purple!

Whilst broccoli is rich in a range of vitamins and minerals, its exciting claim to fame is that it’s part of the super healthy cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale. These types of vegetables contain indoles which have been found to provide some protection against some of our nasty diseases.

Broccoli florets on a plate

Additionally, broccoli is high in fibre so it’s great for the digestive system, and all cruciferous vegetables are brilliant for helping the liver to detoxify.

Since its vitamin C content is lost during cooking, it’s best to lightly steam broccoli and perhaps serve with a little butter or stir fry with some garlic and toss in sesame seeds.  It doesn’t need to be complicated to get the most out of this superstar.


Whilst the green, leafy tops of beetroot do contain plenty of nutrients, including immune-boosting beta-carotene, it’s the roots that provide some real gems in terms of nutrients.  

Beetroots are loaded with folate, which is very protective of DNA. They also contain energising iron, and potassium which is great for the heart, plus good amounts of vitamin C.  However, more recently beetroot has been found to help with endurance sports performance.  This is down to its ability to produce nitric oxide which helps open the blood vessels and therefore encourage more oxygen to flow through.

Whole beetroots

Since beetroot is slightly sweet, it works in both sweet and savoury recipes.  As we’re coming into the summer season, why not keep it simple? Fresh beetroots can be easily peeled, diced, and quickly boiled to be used in salads with goat’s cheese. Try them mashed with chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and olive oil to make beetroot hummus. Or make them into chocolate brownies which contain half the fat of regular brownies.


Blueberries are naturally sweet so need no added sugar, unlike some other berry fruits. Just like most fruits and vegetables, berries are rich in immune-boosting vitamin C but it’s the presence of plant compounds called anthocyanins that make them so special.

A wooden bowl of blueberries

Essentially anthocyanins are found primarily in the pigment of the fruit which is what gives blueberries their amazing colours. Anthocyanins contain powerful antioxidants which help protect the body.  Whilst the body does have its own antioxidant systems, it’s these kinds of foods that provide the extra protection that the body really needs.

I love blueberries as a snack with a few walnuts.

Sweet potatoes

This is another ‘go-to’ vegetable for me, all year round. Sweet potatoes deliver more in terms of nutrition than white potatoes and are less starchy which helps with blood sugar balance.

Their main claim to fame above white potatoes is their orange colour which means they’re high in beta carotene. This is not only great for the immune system but helps protect the skin and hair from sun damage and oxidative damage from environmental toxins.


Additionally, sweet potatoes are high in fibre so are great for digestion.  I try and buy organic sweet potatoes if I can, lightly boil and mash them with a little butter and pepper with the skin on, so I get maximum nutrients.  Equally, they make fantastic wedges, roasted in the oven in a little olive oil and salt.


There are many wonderful benefits to carrots, but they are also so easy to include in the diet as a snack or an easy vegetable side. Carrots are high in lycopene which is great for the heart; in a diet without heart-healthy omega-3s from oily fish, this is important.

Carrots are also rich source of beta carotene.  All the carotenoids are powerful antioxidants, but they specifically protect the eyes against free radical damage.  Importantly, beta carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body as it’s needed, which is also essential for eyesight and especially night vision.  It’s the reason why carrots are said to help you see in the dark; it’s not a myth!

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

Unlike most vegetables, carrots provide more nutritional benefit when cooked than raw as it helps to release the beta carotene. Additionally, if carrots are eaten with fats – carrots and hummus make a great snack – or with some meat or fish, the fat-soluble beta carotene is better absorbed.

So why not add some of these delicious fruits and vegetables to your diet and reap the nutritional benefits!



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All images: Shutterstock


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