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Throughout November, Cancer Research UK is encouraging everyone to pledge to eat more veg. The reason? Eating a wide variety of plant foods is connected with significantly lower levels of cancer and numerous other chronic diseases.
Read on for some inspiration so you can pledge to eat more veg.
You probably know you should be eating at least 5-a-day, and you might wonder where the magic number of five came from. In early studies, researchers found eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day reduced the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and early death.
However, later research looked at studies involving two million people around the world and found even more protection was provided from chronic diseases by consuming ten servings per day of plant foods 1. This amount reduced the risk of cancer by 13% and stroke by over 30%. The simple reason ‘5-a-day’ was adopted was it was felt to be more achievable than 10 a day. But it needn’t be difficult, as you’ll discover later.
At the other end of the scale, eating just one serving per day of leafy greens has been found to slow the rate at which the brain deteriorates with age.
You’ll often see the term ‘plant foods’ used rather than fruit and veg so as not to overlook foods such as beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. Essentially, plant foods are so beneficial because they contain a vast array of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals as well as substances called phytonutrients, hugely beneficial to health. These include antioxidants, vital to protect your body’s cells from ageing and prevent DNA damage, and substances capable of fighting inflammation. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower contain chemicals which appear to protect cells from cancer.
Last but definitely not least, plant foods are packed with fibre, acting as food for your gut microbiome. It pays to feed the bacteria in your microbiome a healthy diet because these guys support a whole range of essential body processes. With many more bacteria in your gut microbiome than cells in your body, it could be argued you are more bacterial than human, so you need to nourish your microbiome with the foods it loves.
Finally, if you need any more encouragement to up your veg, a diet high in plant foods works out cheaper, too.
It can be, but certain nutrients are hard to obtain from a completely vegetarian diet. For example, your body needs omega 3 oils to fight inflammation. These can be scarce in plant foods, particularly those packaged in a form your body can use easily. This is the advantage of including oily fish in your diet – the healthy omega 3 oils they contain are readily available to your body. Then there’s vitamin B12, absent from a vegan diet unless fortified foods like nutritional yeast are eaten.
Some people struggle to include enough protein in a vegetarian diet without reaching for fake meat products. But these are highly processed and since they come with preservatives, colourings and flavourings they have no place in a healthy diet. Beans, tofu and legumes are all great protein sources, but a 100% grass-fed beef burger with a hefty side serving of veg will be healthier than a highly-processed plant food.
So, your challenge is simply to include more fresh vegetables in your diet this week. Here’s some inspiration:
You are unique, and so are your nutritional needs. An in-depth functional medicine consultation will assess your nutritional status and requirements, and from this a personalised nutritional and lifestyle programme will be prepared for you to support your health. View our booking page to make an appointment, or if you prefer, book a free 15-minute Discovery Call below.
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