To live a good healthy life, veg and fruit need to be right at the heart of your diet. The wide bounty of incredible vitamins and minerals we get from the array of veg and fruit out there is honestly astounding.
And by the way, you’ll notice I’m referring to veg and fruit, not fruit and veg. It’s a great philosophy I picked up from Professor Julie Lovegrove about how we should think about our natural friends: fruit is brilliantly nutritious and we should definitely embrace it, but veggies shouldn’t be thought of as second best. Veg and fruit are at the core of the best diets in the world, and why all the recipes in this book are so colourful, vibrant and exciting.
EAT THE RAINBOW
Veg and fruit come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colours, flavours and textures, and help us to navigate the seasons in a wonderful way. There’s no denying their nutrient value, so the best thing we can do to take advantage of this nutritious bounty is to eat the rainbow, enjoying as wide a variety as possible.
HOW MUCH SHOULD WE EAT?
We’ve all heard about 5-a-day, but I’m here to tell you that we should all be aiming for at least 5-a-day, ideally more. I think five is a compromise because here in the UK we’re not doing too well on our consumption, so this lower target dumbs down our expectations. The reality is we should be trying to get seven or eight portions a day. Look at other countries with higher targets – Australia advocates five veg and two fruit portions every day! Plant-based diets are also more prevalent in many of the communities around the world with the highest proportion of centenarians.
THE KNOWN HEALTH BENEFITS
Things we know for sure about these nutritional powerhouses are that veg and fruit can help us maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart, as well as reducing the risk of strokes and some cancers. They are also packed with dietary fibre, keeping us regular (which is a good thing!) and helping reduce the risk of strokes and some cancers. They really should be embraced at every meal and they make great snacks, too.
THE UNKNOWN HEALTH BENEFITS
The brilliant thing about veg and fruit is that there’s loads of hidden stuff we’re yet to uncover too. For example, I can tell you that broccoli is high in folic acid and vitamin C, but nutritionists are looking at lots of other stuff on top of that, more nutrients, vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are beneficial to the body in many, many ways. Sounds pretty amazing, right – veg and fruit is where it’s at! And this is why it’s so important to eat the rainbow to get maximum goodness.
GROWING YOUR OWN
In the areas of the world where people live the longest, many of them grow their own food . If you’ve never tried, I recommend giving it a go. It’s the best hobby – it’ll keep you fit and save you cash; your relationship with planet earth will become more meaningful (I challenge anyone not to be inspired by watching stuff grow); and best of all, you get to eat the veg, and fruits, of your labour! Plus, if you’ve got kids, it will get them engaged in food in the most fun, dynamic way. You don’t need a garden or a field to get involved – a window box, flat roof, allotment, balcony, pot, grow-bag or bucket all work fine – I’ve even grown stuff in a gutter pipe!
KEEPING IT FRESH
When you pick stuff straight from the ground it’s at its freshest and most nutritious. I get a geeky buzz about turning something into a meal that’s been in the ground just minutes before. If you’ve got a farmer’s market nearby and you know stuff’s been picked that morning, take advantage of it. As soon as veg are picked, their nutrient levels start to deplete, so eating them as fresh as possible – even raw, if you like – is going to give you more goodness per mouthful.
SHOULD WE GO ORGANIC?
Buying local, seasonal organic produce is always going to be optimal for our health.
SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?
- 80g of fresh, frozen or tinned veg or fruit is considered a portion – that’s what I’ve worked to in the recipes in this book. Because we should be eating a wide variety of veg and fruit, we can only count each variety as one portion, so even if you eat 160g of carrots, for example, it would still only count as one portion of your 5-a-day
- 30g of dried fruit is considered a portion. I only count one portion a day. Dried fruit is natural, but the sugar is more concentrated
- 150ml of unsweetened veg or fruit juice can be counted as one portion only each day. A lot of nutrients and fibre are lost when veg and fruit are juiced, which is why it only counts as one of your 5-a-day – personally, I don’t count juice at all in my tally. Smoothies are a better choice
- 80g of beans or pulses – about 3 big tablespoons – can be counted as one portion only each day, and also give us protein
- And for all you spud lovers out there, I have to point out that our humble potatoes don’t count towards our 5-a-day as they’re a starchy food so go into our carb tally instead. Non-starchy sweet potatoes, on the other hand, do count
Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Random House ⓒ Jamie Oliver Enterprises Limited (2015 Everyday Super Food) Photographer: Jamie Oliver
For more super food info and inspiration, check out our guide, here.