Eating vegetables provides a multitude of health benefits. Evidence shows that people who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases.
Buy fresh vegetables in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavour. Buy frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.
Vary your vegetable choices to keep meals interesting and try crunchy vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.
Sauces, dressings and seasonings can add calories, saturated fat, and sodium to vegetables. Use natural seasoning such as lemon or herbs.
Choose Some Vegetarian Meals
Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup.
Add Extra Veggies to Meat-Based Meals
Add shredded carrots or zucchini into food dishes such as meatloaf, casseroles, lasagne, pasta sauce and muffins.
Veggies on the BBQ
Make barbeques interesting with grilled vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
Swap Galletti for Veggies
Use vegetables for dips such as raw broccoli, red and green peppers, celery sticks, carrots or cauliflower.
Lead by Example
Set a good example for children by eating vegetables with meals and as snacks. Let children chop and prepare vegetables.
Why Go for a Green Diet?
Vegetables are also an essential part of a balanced nutritious diet, as they provide a source of many nutrients, including potassium, fibre, folate (folic acid) and vitamins A, E and C. Each of these nutrients have specific health benefits.
Potassium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beetroot greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
Dietary fibre from vegetables helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and hence lowers the risk of heart disease. Fibre-containing foods such as vegetables help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
Folate (folic acid) helps the body form healthy red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant and those in the first trimester of pregnancy need adequate folate to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and spina bifida during foetal development. All the green-yellow-orange vegetables are rich sources of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, beta-carotene, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K.
As in fruits, vegetables have a high content of antioxidants. These health-benefiting phyto-chemical compounds help protect the human body from oxidant stress, diseases, and cancers, and fight against these by boosting immunity. Additionally, vegetables have a high content of soluble and insoluble dietary fibre known as non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) such as cellulose, mucilage, hemi-cellulose, gums and pectin, among others. These substances absorb excess water in the colon, retain a good amount of moisture in the faecal matter, and help its smooth passage out of the body. This provides protection from conditions like chronic constipation, haemorrhoids, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and rectal fissures.
Protection Against Cancer
Numerous early studies reveal a strong link between eating fruits and vegetables and protection against cancer. A report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that non-starchy vegetables, such as lettuce and other leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, as well as garlic, onions “probably” protect against several types of cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus, and stomach; fruit probably also protects against lung cancer. However, more research is needed in this area. Consumption of green leafy vegetables and fruit is also associated with a lower risk of diabetes.
This compelling evidence on the various effects on health and prevention of diseases is enough for vegetables to be recommended in all national food-based dietary guidelines.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Dr Charmaine Gauci
For more information and a copy of the Healthy Eating Guide, contact the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate on 23266000.