Your mum’s constant refrain to eat your vegetables was based on some pretty solid science.
Vegetables are the ultimate weight loss food. High in water, full of fibre, low-GI, satiating, packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, vegetables are a dieter’s best friend.
Most vegetables have low energy density, so are very effective for weight control. For example, eating some sweet potato will fill you up much more than eating sweets with the same calorie content.
WHY SHOULD I EAT MORE VEGETABLES?
According to the World Cancer Research Fund, only 30% of British adults are eating enough vegetables. And just 10% of British kids are eating enough veg.
The British government recommends consuming at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. One serving is the equivalent of ½ cup of cooked vegetables, 1 cup of salad or 1 medium potato.
Compared with individuals who consumed fewer than 3 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, people who ate 3 to 5 serves a day had an 11% reduction in the risk of stroke, and people who had more than 5 serves per day had a reduction of 26%, according to The Lancet.
Apart from aiding in weight loss and stroke, vegetables also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The British Heart Foundation says eating 5 vegetables a day could save 7000 people a year dying of coronary heart disease.
All vegetables are great for you, but some are veritable wonder-foods. Keep these 5 groups on regular rotation in your diet.
- Brassicas (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and Asian greens) They contain phytochemicals that fight cancer (especially colon cancer) and heart disease, antioxidants that help everything from eye sight to healthy skin, insoluble fibre for gut health, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, watercress and rocket) These are rich in folate which fights cancer and heart disease and is helpful for mothers in early pregnancy, lutein for eyesight, vitamin A and vitamin K.
- The onion family (onions, garlic, leeks and shallots) This group is high in dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, calcium and iron and play a role gut health and lowering cardiovascular disease. Be aware: cooking destroys some of the nutrients, so try to include raw onions in meals, too. Try shallots sprinkled over Asian soups, red onion in tomato salsa or garlic in dips.
- The pea family (green peas, sugar snaps and snow peas) All peas contain disease-fighting antioxidants, fibre, vitamin C, B-group vitamins, iron and a good amount of plant protein.
- Mushrooms They’re a great source of vitamin D (and the only vegetable source), thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B-group vitamins, potassium and selenium. Shiitake and other Asian varieties contain extra cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
HOW TO INCLUDE MORE VEGETABLES IN YOUR DIET
Many people have the view that a meal is incomplete without meat. Vegetables are generally the supporting act, but really we should be making them the main event. And given all these benefits, why wouldn’t you eat more vegetables!
CREATE DISHES WHERE MEAT WON’T EVEN BE MISSED
Stews full of legumes, slow-cooked casseroles, tasty curries, richly-flavoured pastas and mushroom or vegie burgers make for hearty dishes full of protein.
Many of us nurse childhood memories of soggy broccoli, evil-smelling boiled Brussels sprouts and floppy carrots. But given the right treatment, vegetables are full of flavour and texture.
Blanch green beans so they’re still squeaky against the teeth. Roast broccoli and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Try zucchini chips – slices baked until golden, as a snack. Carrots are delicious baked, steamed and stir-fried.
- Wash, trim, chop and portion a week worth of vegetables at once. With containers of celery and carrot sticks ready to go, you’re less likely to reach for a bag of chips.
- Make salad and divide it among containers to grab out of the fridge on your way to work each day.
- Keep containers of prepped veg in the fridge that just need a light steam to serve with dinner.
- For things likely to deteriorate faster, cook and freeze them, or make a soup or stew.
Increase your intake of vegetables by adding them to everything.
A mushroom risotto? Add a handful of spinach. Spaghetti sauce? Check the crisper and add whatever works – capsicum, tomato, eggplant and zucchini are flavoursome additions. Add broccoli florets to pasta cooking water in the last few minutes of cooking and serve with the pasta and sauce.
INTRODUCE VEGETABLES TO THE BREAKFAST TABLE
- Soft-boiled eggs with asparagus spear soldiers
- Pre-cooked spinach added to scrambled eggs
- Sliced tomato and avocado on your morning toast
- 2 cups spinach
- 1 Lebanese cucumber
- 1 banana
- ½ cup water
- A handful of frozen berries
- A dollop of yoghurt
- A pinch of cinnamon
Add more water if it’s too thick. Drink for breakfast or a healthy snack.
SNACK ON VEG
Replace processed snack foods such as crackers, potato chips and biscuits with vegetable crudités and low-fat hummus.
LOOK TO THE FREEZER
Don’t overlook frozen vegetables for convenience. Handfuls of frozen peas make soup substantial, frozen spinach bulks up pasta bakes and frittatas, mixed frozen veg stir-fried with rice makes a quick fried rice or add broccoli florets to a basic quiche.
IF YOU’RE A SWEET TOOTH
Vegetables are a great addition to sweet treats because they create a moist dense texture and their flavour is undetectable. Try beetroot in chocolate cake, zucchini loaf or pumpkin muffins. And don’t forget classics like pumpkin pie and carrot cake!
Results May Vary: Causes for being overweight or obese vary from person to person. Whether genetic or environmental, it should be noted that food intake, rates of metabolism and levels of exercise and physical exertion vary from person to person. This means weight loss results will also vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as typical.