Eating for health

Family Health Diary

The Heart foundation has recently released research that shows that plant based diets are best for your health. This does not mean we all have to become vegetarian or vegan. It does mean that most of us could do with eating a few more vegetables. In fact vegetables, fruit, legumes (peas and beans), whole grains, nuts and seeds are all low in saturated fat, contain heart-healthy fats and are an excellent source of fibre and are good for our heath.

The closer your food is to how it is in nature that better. This means eating raw (or home cooked) fruit. It means eating vegetables that you buy either fresh or frozen. Not packaged or processed things that used to be fruit or vegetables. Better still it means growing something yourself if you have the room. A few silverbeet plants don’t take up much room and usually keep producing food for months. I like to have a planter pot of rocket or mixed lettuces. This is so much better than buying bags of leaves at the supermarket, which always seems to go slimy before I finish the bag. It feels so good to pick a few leaves from your own garden (or planter pot) to put with your dinner. But don’t worry if growing your own is not for you. Simply increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables is likely to be helpful for your health.

Interesting research published in 2017 copied the way people usually store the fruit and vegetables that they buy. The study looked at several nutrients from fresh, fresh then stored in the fridge, and frozen produce. The study showed the fresh produce (fruit and veggies) lose their vitamin content over the few days they were stored in the fridge. For some veggies, frozen produce is more nutritious than the fresh veggies that were stored in the fridge for five days.

What does this really mean?

  • Make sure you include at least one serving of fruit with your breakfast every day. Or eat an apple or banana on your way to school or work.
  • Try and have 3 pieces of fruit per day. That means one for a morning and/or afternoon snack and possibly one with your lunch.
  • Aim for 5 servings of vegetables per day.
  • This means you really need to include some vegetables with your lunch. Try veggie soup over winter and a salad in summer. If you have left over roast veggies from dinner you can take them to work for lunch the next day.
  •  For snacks you can have carrot sticks and hummus or a handful of raw nuts.
  • For your main meal of the day half fill your plate with at least three different sorts of vegetables. You can then add one or two servings of protein (fish, chicken, eggs, meat, vegetable protein) and a small portion of carbohydrates like rice, potatoes or pasta.
  • Two portions of protein at dinner or one with dinner and one with lunch.

A ‘serving’ of fruit or vegetables is what you can hold in the palm of your hand. This means that one apple is probably two servings of fruit for most people. A ‘serving of protein is about the size of your palm. This means of course that for bigger people their servings are larger than a smaller person.

I hope I have inspired you to add at least another serving (or three) of vegetables to your diet every day. The Heart Foundation says “A diet centred on plenty of whole, minimally processed plant foods lowers your risk of heart disease and benefits your overall health.”

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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