It’s National Nutrition Month which highlights the importance of good nutrition and is a great time for us all to take stock of our daily diets.
It’s sometimes easier said than done to eat a varied, healthy diet every day, but there are ways we can make it simpler for ourselves, especially when it comes to eating more vegetables.
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her insights on the topic and why eating more vegetables is so important.
In our time-poor, budget-stretched busy lives, it’s often easier to adopt the ‘grab and go’ way of eating. Unfortunately, any kind of processed food is going to be lacking in nutrients. And whilst us nutritionists bang on about eating more vegetables, there are some very good reasons why.
The body needs around 45 different nutrients every day to work at its best. Every single vitamin and mineral fulfils a range of functions in the body, without which our intricate body biochemistry just wouldn’t work.
Vegetables (and many other plants too) contain so many of these micronutrients which are essential for life. Importantly, their bright and varied colours means they are loaded with antioxidants which protect the body from free radical damage, a major driver of the ageing process.
If we can just get them into the diet on a more regular basis, we could take some bigger steps to becoming healthier. So how can we include more?
Spinach is rich in energising B-vitamins, iron, and antioxidants and whilst a bag of spinach might look like a lot, it reduces massively when cooked. Spinach can be added to pasta dishes, stews, soups or bolognaise without affecting the taste or texture of the meal but would significantly uprate its nutrient content.
Stir-fries are really quick and easy and are a great way of including more vegetables. A stir fry meal is always going to look more appealing if it has loads of colour, and the more colour, the greater and wider variety of nutrients.
Go for the wonky vegetables
Many shops are now selling ‘wonky’ vegetables which are slightly cheaper. Why not boil them all up with some stock and seasoning to create a delicious, filling soup? The soup can then be liquidised or hand-blended to create a smooth texture and can be stored if the fridge to eat over a few days.
Getting to the shops regularly can be difficult for many time-stretched people. This Is when frozen vegetables can be a great and convenient option. They are often richer in nutrients than fresh as they’ve been picked and frozen quickly, which retains those all-important nutrients. Plus, they’re generally a bit cheaper.
What are the key nutrients and where can you find them?
Vegetables are packed full of nutrients including B-vitamins (needed for energy and brain function), iron (essential for energy and healthy blood), potassium (great for a healthy heart) and calcium (essential for strong bones), to name but a few. But here I am calling our vitamin C and magnesium:
Vitamin C is the most widely available nutrient in fruits and vegetables. It’s essential for the immune system, brain function, collagen production and keeping blood vessels strong and free flowing. Plus, it’s one of our most powerful antioxidant vitamins which means it’s going to help protect us against the ageing process and everything that comes with it.
Magnesium we know is widely deficient in the UK population. This is potentially problematic because magnesium has many key roles in the body but is important for regulating mood, blood pressure, the nervous system, producing energy, bone health and muscle function. It’s also great for helping us to sleep.
It’s widely available in leafy green vegetables including broccoli, sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage, all of which can be ‘disguised’ in many different dishes.
How to make vegetables more appealing
If you or your family members push back from eating leafy greens, it may be something to do with how they are served. No-one likes overcooked mushy sprouts or cabbage, but instead why not try them stir fried with some garlic and bacon; they become a whole lot more attractive. Or perhaps try some broccoli tossed in sesame seeds?
Why not resolve this month to try adding at least one new vegetable to your weekly diet and see where the journey takes you!
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