People often tell me that they eat 'lots of vegetables' but what they really mean is that they eat something like peas and carrots at their evening meal. Therefore, they are not even getting the recommended five a day.
However, even if they are, five is not enough. That is because vegetables are packed with all kinds of health promoting qualities much more so than any other food. This means that they really should form the bulk of our diet. I am not talking here about a vegetarian diets, I am talking about all diets.
You will have noticed that I have not said 'fruits and vegetables'. I don't really know why these are always lumped together as they are not the same. The fact is that vegetables are more important than fruits because many fruits, though nutritious, are quite high in sugar. We do need to eat some fruit, especially berries, but vegetables are more important.
The Power of Vegetables
• They are high in antioxidants, which help prevent cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration of the eyes and a host of other conditions including premature ageing!
• They are alkaline and so prevent the body becoming too acidic. If this happens, calcium can be drawn from the bones to neutralise it.
• Apart from antioxidants, they are full of other phytochemicals or plant chemicals, which protect us against cancer in many ways. Examples are sulphoraphane in broccoli, indole-3-carbinol in cabbage and apigenin in celery. The good news is that there are thousands of different plant chemicals in vegetables that can do us good.
• They are unprocessed with nothing added or taken away and remain as nature intended, unlike so much of the food around today.
• They are high in soluble fibre which helps the digestion, takes excess oestrogen and cholesterol out of the body and prevents diseases of the colon.
Crowding out Vegetables
The problem is that whilst in the far distant past we would have survived on these foods, now our diet is full of wheat-based foods. We might have cereal and toast for breakfast sandwiches for lunch and a pasta dish for dinner. Biscuits mid-- morning and a muffin with afternoon tea completes the picture of wheat all day long. This crowds out the extremely nutritious fruits and vegetables that we really need.
Ways to Include More Vegetables in Your Diet
• At breakfast have some tomatoes with your eggs or have them raw on rice cakes or toast.
• Keep a bowl of washed cut up vegetables in the fridge for snacking.
• Make soup every few days and include all sorts of different vegetables.
• Add extra vegetables to pizzas and rice dishes.
• Avocadoes can be added to all kinds of dishes such as smoothies or mashed on to rice cakes.
• Shops are now selling 'noodles' made from vegetables such as courgettes.
• Blend in extra vegetables to pasta sauces and soups.
• Add grated carrots, bean sprouts or avocado to sandwiches.
• Make a pizza crust with mashed cauliflower for anyone who is gluten free.
Lastly, I hope that you will enjoy eating more vegetables. Eating should make us happy and not be a bind or a chore. So happy eating and good health to all!
Hilda Glickman is a lecturer at the Open University and author of the new bestselling book, Take Breast Cancer off Your Menu, How to Prevent Breast Cancer or Stop it Returning, New Evidence Reveals Amazing Protector Foods