As you’ve probably read, a recent UK-based study has shown that eating fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of death from any health issue but particularly death from heart disease and cancer. The study, which uses information from more than 65,000 adults, suggests that the more vegetables and fruit a person eats, the higher the protective effect, with vegetables giving even more protection than fruit.
People eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day were 33% less likely to die of disease than those eating less than one portion. 33% is a significant number and we shouldn’t ignore it. The original guideline by the Department of Health always said that ‘5 a day’ should be a minimum for people and the more, the better.
But what is a portion of fruit or vegetables and how can we increase our intake in a tasty and easy way? Let’s face it, the lemon juice in a lemon drizzle cake does not count as one of your portions, even if the food industry would like to make us believe that. While lemon has tremendous health benefits, the sugar and refined flours in the cake have so many associated health risks that a little bit of lemon juice will not save the day. I’ve already talked about the risks of sugar in my Fab After Fifty blog You Can Have Your Cake And Eat It https://www.fabafterfifty.co.uk/2014/04/30/you-can-have-your-cake-and-eat-it-sugar-free/ and refined flours fall into the same category. Because it is highly processed and stripped of fibre as well as nutrients, white flour digests incredibly fast and causes blood sugar to spike, which causes a rise in insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. White flours also contribute to inflammation, food cravings, metabolic slowdown (weight gain), digestive problems and food allergies and intolerances. Unfortunately, the lemon juice in the cake will not be enough to protect you from those risks. So beware those highly processed foods that state on the package ‘one of your 5-a-day’… it’s just a marketing ploy.
Try to eat your 5 a day as nature intended
The NHS guidelines say that you can get your veg or fruit portions from frozen, canned, or cooked foods. But keep in mind, that every time a fresh food is processed in some way it will lose some nutrients. Even blending or juicing causes nutrients to be lost, but not nearly as many as when you cook, bottle or process foods into something that no longer resembles its original state. Therefore to get the most out of your five, seven or more portions a day it’s best to eat them as nature intended and with as little processing as possible. In other words: Eat real foods!
I like Mark Hyman, M.D.’s definition of real food. Mark is a practicing physician, bestselling author and international leader in Functional Medicine and he says: ‘Real food doesn’t have labels’. He also recommends to stay away from any foods that list more than five ingredients on the label or that list ingredients that you don’t know what they are. I’ll be writing more about how to interpret your food labels in another blog but for now, all this boils down to (excuse the pun) is that we should be eating more vegetables and fruit in their raw, fresh and unprocessed form to get the highest benefit for health and vitality. Here are a few ideas of what is considered to be ‘one portion’:
What is ‘one portion’ for your 5 a day ?
1 medium apple
7 cherry tomatoes
5 spears of asparagus
14 button mushrooms
3 heaped tablespoons of shredded cabbage
3 heaped tablespoons of fresh sliced carrot
3 sticks of celery
2” piece of cucumber
1 cereal bowl of mixed lettuce leaves
3 heaped tablespoons of frozen peas
½ a fresh pepper
This is just a small selection but you get the gist. A quick google search of ‘5 a day portions’ will give a fairly comprehensive list that also includes cooked and canned foods. One word of caution about these lists, however, is that they usually start with fruit. They should really start with vegetables because fruit is very high in sugar which, as we know, should only be consumed in small quantities. So start with eating five or more portions of vegetables and then put in a couple of portions of fruit.
I’ve put together a lovely lunch salad for you, which instantly provides you with five portions of veg in just one meal. This salad will also fill you up without making you put on weight. I’m also giving you my Spiralised Courgette and Chunky Tomato Sauce recipe, which is a recipe for 2 people, giving each person 7 portions of vegetables!
5-a-Day Salad (serves one as a main course or two as a starter)
1 ½ tbsp shredded savoy cabbage or spring greens (half a portion)
½ a red pointed pepper, chopped finely (one portion)
2 spears fresh asparagus, hard base removed and chopped into fine slices (nearly half a portion)
2 mushrooms (normal size) or 7 button mushrooms sliced (half a portion)
4 cherry tomatoes, halved (half a portion)
1 cereal bowl full of mixed lettuce leaves e.g. spinach, lettuce, watercress, rocket (one portion)
1 date, sliced (3 dates make one portion, so let’s not even count this!)
For the dressing:
¼ ripe avocado
1tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp of water
1tsp Tamari (wheat free soya sauce)
pinch of sea salt
Whisk all ingredients for the dressing into a smooth sauce and mix in a bowl with all vegetables, except salad leaves and tomatoes. Leave to marinate for a 5-10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and mix again. Place salad leaves on a plate, top with the marinated salad and sliced date. Enjoy! Eat an apple for breakfast and 7 strawberries in the afternoon and you’ve eaten seven portions of veg and fruit today. The avocado and olive oil are both anti-aging, non-fattening fats, providing you with essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Well done!
Courgette Spirals with Chunky Tomato Sauce (serves two as a main course or four as a starter)
This is a very tasty and filling meal, which is quick to prepare. The sauce can be frozen in
portions and you can also heat up the sauce and pour it over the raw courgette.
3 medium courgettes (6 portions)
For the sauce:
1/4 cup dried goji berries (1 portion)
8 sun-dried tomatoes (2 portions)
1/2 cup of walnuts
4 medium tomatoes (4 portions)
1 red pepper (2 portions)
Soak the goji berries, sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts for 30 minutes while
you prepare the other ingredients.
Cut the courgettes into spirals with a spiral slicer or use a potato peeler to
peel thin slices of the courgette length-wise, turning it as you peel to create
long ‘linguine’ style peelings. Set to one side.
Put the tomatoes and pepper into
a blender and blend until you have a smooth sauce.
Add sun-dried tomatoes and basil and blend for 10 seconds.
Add goji berries and walnuts and process briefly until they are broken
down but still chunky. Pour over the courgette and enjoy.
This recipe is from my free e-book on my website radiantonraw.co.uk and provides 7 portions of vegetables per person. In the e-book you can also find a recipe for Almond ‘Parmesan’, which makes a wonderful topping for this dish.
If you want to know more about a raw food diet, I have a video interview with Gabriela about the Raw Food Diet and how she started to follow it.