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Vegetables: 5 per day not enough?

19 September 2014, 08:55

Abuja - UK scientists recommend that we should increase the consumption of fresh fruit and/or vegetables to 7-10 portions per day.

This is based on a study reviewing causes of death and death risk in a group of more than 65 000 people (Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health; 31 March 2014).

Results from this study showed that a higher intake of vegetables and fruit is linked with a lower death risk from cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Health benefits seem to increase exponentially with each extra daily portion of vegetables, while fruit show less favourable results.

Why we need vegetables

Vegetables play a vital role to build healthy families and healthy homes, providing essential nutrients that are hard to acquire from other foods.

- Vitamins, notably vitamin C needed for a healthy immune system is found in abundance in red peppers, guavas and citrus fruits.

- Minerals such as magnesium, iron and calcium are found in dark green vegetables.

- Soluble and insoluble fibres that support healthy digestive function are found in all fruits and vegetables, while some also contain prebiotics, nutrients that are favoured by the healthy bacteria in our digestive systems.

- Apart from all this goodness, an added bonus is that the bright colour pigments in fruit and vegetables happen to be potent antioxidants that fight disease and support vitality.

- Health problems associated with a low intake of fruit and vegetables include constipation, spastic colon, irritable bowel syndrome, increased susceptibility to infections due to poor immune function, slow healing of wounds and fatigue.

Nutrition tips – how to eat more vegetables

Your favourite winter comfort foods make it easy to eat more vegetables:

- Stews: substitute potatoes with more nutritious vegetables such as butternut, baby marrows, carrots – they provide the stodgy comfort food texture, more flavour and less carbohydrates

-Soups: no better way to get multiple portions of vegetables in one meal – combine your favourite vegetables with vegetable stock, cook until soft, combine with a stick blender and enjoy

- Stir-fries: If you get bored with stews and soups, try this interesting combination of chopped vegetables for a flavourful, delicious crunchy stir-fry: purple cabbage, carrots, onions, red peppers, baby marrows, celery, green beans and bean sprouts

- Pasta: enrich your bolognaise sauce by adding grated carrots, finely chopped celery, cauliflower, mushrooms and onions.

- Pesto: pack in veggie power into your family’s meals by making your own pesto: combine 2 cups blanched baby spinach 2 cups blanched broccoli, 1 handful rocket leaves, 2 cloves garlic, ½ cup grated parmesan and ½ cup olive oil;  add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

- Women24

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