In early April 2014, University College London announced the results of a study looking at the fruit and vegetable intake of 65,226 people between 2001 and 2013.
The figures were adjusted for sex, age, cigarette smoking, social class, Body Mass Index, education, physical activity and alcohol intake…yet still showed that eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces risk of death at any point by 42% compared to eating only one portion.
Equally importantly, the study also found that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.
The suggestion that seven servings of fruit and veg a day might be a wiser target to aim for than five has incited much controversy in the media, with experts and members of the public alike ridiculing it as an unfeasible amount.
Comments on the Daily Mail website, under its article “Should YOU be eating seven a day?”, included:
“I couldn’t manage 7 portions a day! I just don’t eat that much! Even if I gave up all other food and just had my 7 portions each day, I would probably be eating more than I do now!” and
“I really wonder if anyone can actually put all this food into their tummy and still find space for carbs and protein – 5 portions is hard enough, but 7 – not easy – just looking at 7 portions makes me feel sick – I can’t eat that much food.”
A serving is just one medium apple, banana, carrot, tomato or stick of celery, two broccoli florets or 80 grams of spinach.
Eat – gasp! – all of those during the course of a day’s meals and snacks and you’ve eaten your seven servings.
I don’t know about you, but it’s rare that I only manage to consume that little fruit and veg – and on those days, I feel decidedly crappy compared to how I’m used to feeling.
I often get asked how much fruit and veg I eat.
Well, if we’re going by the government definition of a “serving”, on an average day I’ll eat at least 20 “servings” of vegetables, and often quite a lot more than that.
My basic meal plan is a mid-morning green smoothie, a lunchtime salad, and a plant-based dinner – with a raw juice as the first course.
And the main ingredient in each of those menu items is – can you guess? – vegetables. Apart from the smoothie, which is a little heavier on the fruit than the leafy greens.
It might include a couple of bananas and a handful of berries – but that’s actually the only sweet fruit I’ll eat in a day. (Side note: we don’t want to go much higher than this on fruit, because of its fructose content.)
I don’t follow this meal plan every day – but it’s easy on days I’m working from home, and easier still on days when I’m in London or another big city, as I don’t have to make the juice or the smoothie (or wash up after)!
Since you’ve read this far, I think there’s a good chance you’re either a fellow veg-centric eater, or open to the idea of trying it out.
And here’s the thing… Only by trying it can you find out what it does for you.
If you’re like most people, you will notice the following changes.
You’ll wake up one day, maybe a few weeks into your experiment, but quite possibly just a few days in, and the world will seem brighter.
And when you look in the mirror you will notice a new brightness and glow in your skin, and in your eyes.
And those are just the most immediate and obvious short-term pluses to Livin’ La Vida Veg-Centric.
More and more is being discovered about the amazing benefits of plant foods on every aspect of our health and wellbeing.
These are benefits we can only get by eating these foods. There is no pill, powder nor potion that can take their place.
But there are ways to make vegetable-centric eating quick and easy.
Here are my top seven tips.
1. Drink raw vegetable juice
If you have access to a juice bar that serves quality organic veg juices, become a regular – it will be worth every penny. I personally don’t, so I have to make my own. Juicing at home can seem daunting, but once you have the routine down you’ll be amazed at how little time it takes – not to mention how much goodness you can get into one glass. Go here for the recipe for my current go-to juice.
2. Have a green smoothie every day
Here’s how to make the perfect green smoothie. (Preparation time: 1 minute).
3. Have at least one salad every day
Load up your bowl and have fun with different combinations.
4. Chop an avocado into your salad
It will make it heavenly, and it’s packed with antioxidants and good fats.
5. Snack on raw vegetable sticks
Dunk ’em in hummus, guacamole or your other favourite healthy dip.
6. Make vegetable soup
There are so many recipes which require less than 10 minutes preparation time, and which will give you five or more veg servings in just one nourishing bowl.
7. Make simple veggie dishes