eating simply, simply eating: why we need vegetables

 

Vegetables are nutritional superstars. “Eat your greens, they’re good for you!” is an order many of us will recall from childhood, whether in warm tones of encouragement from grandparents or in frustrated admonishment from caring parents. Maybe that’s why many of us grow up disliking them, but the instruction was a good one. This may be bad news for those of us still resisting the need to eat these nutrient rich powerhouses, but it’s something to consider if you want to eat food for better health.

Vegetable vitality

Nutrients found in vegetables, such as vitamins A, C and E are vital to maintain optimal health, as these dietary antioxidants may delay cell damage by free radicals. To prevent free radical damage our body has an antioxidant defence system, but our body cannot make the micronutrients, so they must be supplied through the food we consume. Vegetables provide the best supply. There is no food group that provides as plentiful a level of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, with the two largest sets of phytonutrients being carotenoids and flavonoids. Vegetables are simply incredibly valuable when it comes to supplying nutritional defence against long term health problems. Packed with non-starchy polysaccharides, important for colon health, eating vegetables could also aid in reducing the risk of:

  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes

Meanwhile epidemiologic observations have shown lower cancer rates in people who consume large amounts of plant based foods.

Vegetable variety

No single vegetable provides all the nutrition the body requires daily, so don’t think silver bullet – rather a quiver of nutrition rich arrows. And while it is important to eat a wide variety of different types and colours, don’t stress excessively every day, just make sure to vary things across each week and month. And if you need an additional incentive, the higher the average daily intake of vegetables the better in lowering the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Let the many vivid vegetable colours guide you

Colour is a helpful guide to consuming a wider variety of nutrients. For example, yellow and orange coloured vegetables are a rich source of beta-carotene, zeaxanthins and kryptoxanthin, while green veg are full of minerals, flavonoids and antioxidants. Aim for a rainbow.

Vegetables can be fresh, frozen or canned in water, but avoid those with added salt or sugar. Always drain canned vegetables and rinse before use. And remember, vegetable juice is not considered a vegetable portion, as it does not contain complex fibre.

Just Routine is our real food app. Designed to be inclusive, to avoid cutting out macro or micro nutrients from our eating regimes, six key food groups lie at its core: Protein, Carbohydrates, Legumes, Vegetables, Fruits, Fats. It’s about eating simply, simply eating.

 

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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