“Eat your vegetables” You’ve probably not has this order barked at you since you were a kid, but as always, mum was right.
But how many of us actually listened, how much of our 5 a day are we actually eating?
According to the Food Statistic Report, not enough and it’s even declining: “The average UK household now manages 4 portions per person per day, while the poorest 10% have just 2.9. Back in 2005 though, things looked different – the average person was eating 4.4 of their 5 a day, and even the poorest 10% were having 3.5.”
This doesn’t bode well, especially as new reports now suggest we should be aiming for at least seven portions of vegetables a day.
So why is it so important to eat more vegetables?
They are the real comfort foods. Forget about that tub of Ben & Jerry’s at the end of a stressful day, as they are packed with nutrients that actually improve your resilience to stress. Eating vegetables helps replenish your magnesium and vitamin C, which can be depleted by stress. Green leafy vegetables are loaded with magnesium, which helps balance your cortisol. Magnesium and potassium relax blood vessels, helping keep your blood pressure low.
Muscle maintenance. The magnesium in leafy greens also plays an important role in calcium absorption, helping you maintain good muscle and nerve function and a healthy immune system. Athletes and people who may be exercising intensively may have an increased risk of illness and infection. Due to a higher need for anti-oxidants they need to have a higher intake of these invaluable nutrients and can get there with an extra helping of fruits and vegetables.
Veggies are beautifying. Stock up your fridge instead of your bathroom cabinet, as they contain powerful antioxidants that help to protect skin from the cellular damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are caused by smoking, pollution and sunlight and can cause wrinkling and age spots. Betacarotene, found in pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes, and lutein, found in kale, papaya and spinach are potent antioxidants, important for normal skin cell development and healthy skin tone.
Fight disease and inflammation. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check. Eat a variety of types and colors of produce in order to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs.
Fibre = weight loss. Vegetables are naturally low in calories, as well as being very nutrient dense. This means you can safely fill up on vegetables, without worrying about weight gain. Nobody ever gained weight eating too much broccoli! (Unless it’s smothered in butter or deep fried.. You know who you are.)