Myth: We Need 5 Portions of Fruit and Vegetables Per DayOur government informs us that we need to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day but that figure was chosen arbitrarily and bears no relation to our actual needs. It's the lowest recommended daily intake in Europe. The truth is we need 9 - 14 portions per day. They made the decision to misinform owing to their nanny state thinking, deciding it was too much to ask people to do. But that means that many people get two to three portions (and many others less or even none) and have no idea that they are inviting bad health.
The Importance of Fruit and Vegetables in a Healthy Diet
Dietary FibreFruit and vegetables supply us with important dietary fibre which helps to maintain steady blood sugar levels and facilitates efficient bowel movements by providing bulk. Regular evacuation of your bowels removes toxic waste from your body reducing the likelihood of developing bowel cancer and taking the load off your liver (which for most people is already dreadfully overworked).
Vitmains and MineralsIn addition, fruit and vegetables provide us with essential vitamins and minerals. Antioxidant vitamins such as C and E help to protect us from dangerous free radicals.
Free radicals are formed simply by living. Breathing oxygen for example creates free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that lack an electron making them very unstable. They career around the body seeking that missing electron. Free radicals are neutralised by anti-oxidants (which provide them with that missing electron). When a free radical encounters a cell in your body only one of three things can happen. The free radical can be neutralised by an anti-oxidant and removed from your body without causing damage, or, in the absence of sufficient anti-oxidants, the cell will either mutate or be destroyed (and I am sure you can imagine that neither eventuality is desirable). Free radical damage is thought to be the cause of most common diseases.
Our ancient ancestors lived a natural life and would have eaten whatever fruit and vegetables they were able to gather. They would have eaten whatever was growing at the time so everything was wild, fresh and packed with anti-oxidants. Whilst their bodies still produced free radicals they were adequately provided with anti-oxidants to netralise the effects: perfect harmony.
Our ancestors also did not have to contend with our modern environment. The air they breathed was fresh and clean without pollution, chemicals and other contaminants. They did not live in an enviroment packed with electro magnetic fields, microwaves and radiation from electrical appliances, no mobile phones, no pesticides on their food, no artifical fragrances or other chemicals to "clean" their skin, no chlorine in the water, no artificial stress (just survival), no manufactured food packed with chemicals and additives, no fizzy drinks, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals made from chemicals, petrol fumes etc etc.
All the contaminants we encounter mean that we generate far more free radicals which need to be neutralised in order to avoid the damage they cause (such as cancers). But sadly our antioxidant intake is often (and maybe even always) woefully inadequate.
Falling Nutrient Levels
The soil our fruit and vegetables grows in is short on nutrients and so is the produce grown. Intensive farming methods have robbed the soil of goodness and growers now attempt to reintroduce nutrients in the form of chemical fertilisers polluting our food.
In 1935 scientists discovered that nutrient levels in fruit and vegetables was on the decline and that decline has accelerated dramatically. For example beween 1985 and 2002 brocoli lost 73% of its calcium content and magnesium fell by 55%. During the same period the vitamin B6 content of bananas fell by 95% and strawberries lost 87% of their vitamin C content: our food is a shadow of its former self.
So we have a much greater level of free radicals to neutralise but a greatly reduced quality of food comppounded by inadequate consumption.
Not Just AntioxidantsAnd its not just the antioxidant function of fruit and vegetables that are important. Vitamins and minerals are essential if are bodies are to work properly. Some nutrients our bodies can create but even so a poorly nourished body will not effectively produce anything much. Our bones, skin, organs, brain, health and happiness (in fact every aspect of being alive) all depend on getting the right nutrients. If you are not full of vim and vigour then its probably because you are simply not geting enough vitamins and minerals.
Increasing Your Fruit and Veg IntakeOften, when I tell people they need 9-14 portions of fruit and veg a day they are shocked and feel its somethng they cannot achieve. However most are consuming way more bread, pasta, rice and potatoes than they have any need for. These foods are good for people who have a big energy requirement: someone who works hard in a field all day, or who has to walk miles to get water or gather fuel for cooking. They are concentrated sources of energy but dont deliver a lot in term of vitamins and minerals. In our society people are filling up on concenrated energy and not getting enough vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables.
To increase your fruit and vegetable intake add three pieces of fruit to your breakfast and eat them through the morning. Fruit is the ultimate convenience food. Take a big salad to work for lunch with a wide variety of colours and textures. Or make your sandwich with wholemeal pitta bread so you have way more salad than bread. You will easily manage three or more portions of veg.
Snack on a little dried fruit, vegetable batons and some houmus, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, berries, nuts and seeds.
In the evening make your meals two-thirds vegetables. Have a starter of fruit (it digests better on an empty stomach) such as half a grapefuit, melon or pineapple (which can improve digestion). If you must eat pasta make it wholewheat or brown rice with a predominantly vegetable topping. Adopt the French habit and have salad with every meal. If you are having fish or meat then have it with three or four servings of vegetables (excluding potatoes). If you want a super quick meal then how about a vegetable omlette. I particularly like mushroom, peppers, tomato and asparagus but you can add just about anything. And you can use small amounts of meat for flavour such as chopped bacon.
If you find vegetables bland then dress them with a knob of butter or drizzle with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Or try lightly sauteing them in a little butter, Rapeseed or olive oil, I particularly like cabbage done this way: wash and slice it and put into a frying pan with a little melted butter then put the lid on and let it cook on a low heat whilst preparing the rest of your meal (don't overcook it though).
Add fresh herbs to significantly increase your nutrient intake. In summer it is easy to grow your own and some you can keep going in the winter on a sunny windowsill.
To maximise your nutrient intake choose a wide variety of colours and don't eat the same things all the time. Eat at least one third of your vegetables raw.
When you can, choose organic. I think you can taste the difference but even if you can't they have a higher nutrient content.
SupplementI used to think you could get enough nutrients from a good diet but in light of new information I think its unlikely. I have access to an anti-oxidant scanner which measures the level of anti-oxidants in your skin and is very accurate. It takes a great many processes for the anti-oxidant to reach your skin so its a much more accurate measure than blood or urine. If you would like to be scanned (if you live in the UK) then get in touch and I will be able to arange it for you. If your score is low you can then take an optimal health supplement on a three month trial and then get rescanned. If your scores do not improve you can get your money back. It's the only supplement I know of that the results can acutally be measured.
That's all for now,