Why you need phytonutrients

Today we're talking about food, in particular the hidden ingredients in fruits and vegetables that can do wonders for your health.

Want to decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease by 42%? Research has found that by eating 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day this is entirely possible. The national guidelines aren't going to be changed yet, a controversial decision based on the fact that most people already fail to eat their 5 a day. It is thought that asking us to aim for 7 a day could result in everyone giving up completely. This doesn't mean we shouldn't be trying to eat more vegetables, and with such great health benefits, how can you say no?

What's so good about fruit and veg?

One of the reasons is that they are so colourful. The best way to go about getting the most from your fruit and veg is to eat as many different colours as you can. The colour of fruits and vegetables shows you some of the nutrients it contains, thanks to natural chemicals called phytonutrients. There are over 25,000 phytonutrients which provide many health benefits, from protecting against cancer to reducing the risk of asthma. Just one orange has up to 170 different phytonutrients, so get nibbling!

To make sure you’re getting as many phytonutrients as possible from your food, have a look at the list below, we’ve highlighted the main phytonutrient for each colour. If you eat at least one food from each group every day you’ll easily be hitting 7 a day, and your plate will be colourful and tempting too!

The Food Rainbow:

tomatoes

RED

Lycopene has been shown to protect against prostate cancer (especially cooked tomatoes) and heart disease. The highest levels of lycopene can be found in red or pink foods:

Seven cherry tomatoes, half a red pepper, half a pink grapefruit, 150g watermelon.

 
carrots

ORANGE

Beta-carotene is important for healthy skin, nerves and eyes. Which means the rumours are true and carrots really do help your eyesight! To improve your night vision include a portion of something orange:

A large sweet potato, 3 heaped tablespoons of chopped carrots, 1 slice of cantaloupe melon or 3 fresh apricots.

 
apricot

YELLOW

Flavonoids help to decrease inflammation which can contribute to pain and they act as natural antibiotics which means they can prevent you from getting ill. So bolster your defences by snacking on yellow-orange fruits like:

A medium peach, a large slice of pineapple, one orange, tangerine or mandarin.

 
kiwi

LIGHT GREEN

Lutein is fantastic for eye health, reducing the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. It is most concentrated in light green foods:

Two heaped tablespoons of cooked spinach, two kiwi fruits, half an avocado or half a green pepper.

 
leaves

DARK GREEN

Glucosinolates are proven to fight inflammation, balance hormones and lung and stomach cancer. They’re mostly found in dark green, leafy vegetables so ignore your protesting inner child and eat your greens!

Two spears of broccoli, two handfuls of sliced cabbage, eight brussels sprouts, or a cereal bowl of watercress.

 
BLUEBERRIES

PURPLE

Anthocyanins have been linked to a decrease in heart disease, arthritis and type 2 diabetes. They’re mostly found in berries so grab a handful or two of these, they’re perfect with yoghurt:

A handful of grapes, fourteen cherries, 2 handfuls of blueberries, or seven fresh strawberries.

 
garlic.jpg

WHITE

Allyl sulphides can stop you from developing osteoporosis (brittle bones), boost your immune system and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Try to have at least one of these every day, and the vampires will stay away too!

1 clove of garlic, 1 medium onion, or 1 medium leek

 

How to fit them all in:

So now you know all the amazing benefits of fruits and vegetables, how are you supposed to pack 7 portions into your day?

A good aim is 3 portions of fruit and 4 portions of vegetables. To achieve that a typical day could look like this:

BREAKFAST

Yoghurt with homemade granola and blueberries (find the recipe here!)

SNACK

Oatcakes with carrot sticks and hummus

LUNCH

A super salad with tuna, watercress, avocado and tomatoes with a scattering of seeds and a peach for pudding

SNACK

Strawberries with rice cakes and peanut butter

DINNER

Roasted chicken with broccoli and a sweet potato and garlic mash

(You’ll notice that there’s actually ten servings in this example, but I want to prove that even if you’re someone who doesn’t snack you can get your 7, and even more!)

We're off to fill our trolley with colours, why not give it a go for a week and see how you feel? We'd wager a bet that you'll be feeling brighter!