We all know we should be eating more fruit and vegetables, but did you know that only 5% of us meet the targets? (1)
Ideally we should aim to have a couple of pieces of fruit every day and as many colourful vegetables as we can fit in. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends 5-6 portions of vegetables per day (about 5-6 cups of salad or 3 cups of cooked vegetables).
These targets come with good reason; they have been shown to help us live longer and prevent a staggering amount of diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease and a range of different types of cancer. In fact, going from 1 portion to 5 portions per day of fruit and vegetables will decrease your risk of death by 20 per cent! (2)
Eating patterns that have a high emphasis on fruit and vegetables (such as the Mediterranean Diet) have also been shown to improve depression. (3)
Fresh, local, seasonal and organic is best but any form that they come in is better than none! This means frozen or tinned ones are great too, just check the label for any added salt or sugar.
The phrase ‘eat the rainbow’ is a fantastic consideration for our fruit and vegetables; eating as many different types as possible helps to make sure we’re getting a range of different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The variety of fibres are also fantastic for our gut health and microbiome.
So how can you fit more in to your day? Here’s a few ideas to try:
add avocado, tomato, baby spinach, tomatoes or mushrooms to your breakfast (great with eggs or on toast)
load up your sandwich or wrap with as much salad as possible
this time of year a big bowl of vegetable soup works as a great lunch
try adding as many veggies as possible to dinners - grate them to add in to pasta sauces, load up in casseroles, and bulk up stir fries with plenty of colour. Aim for half your plate to be full of veg
use different types that you haven’t tried before, or cook them in different ways to make them more exciting eg. instead of having the same boring steamed cauliflower, try roasting it with a little olive oil and spices - this creates so much more flavour
instead of always serving dips with crackers, mix it up with colourful veggie sticks like carrots, celery, snow peas, cucumber and capsicum
choose seasonal fruit as a snack, and add to Greek yoghurt, porridge or muesli
1. ABS 2015d; Table S1.4.15
2. X. Wang, Y. Ouyang, J. Liu, M. Zhu, G. Zhao, W. Bao, F. B. Hu. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ, 2014; 349 (jul29 3): g4490 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g4490
3. Felice N. Jacka, Adrienne O’Neil, et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Medicine201715:23