Post written by: Teresa Ford, VegFest London Committee Member
Why increase our fruit and vegetable intake?
Authors of an article published in the February 2017 edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology sought to establish the amounts and types of fruits and vegetables that are most strongly associated with a reduced risk of disease and death. In this meta-analysis of 95 studies, reductions in risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality were observed up to an intake of 800 grams/day of fruit and vegetables combined, whereas for total cancer no further reductions in risk were observed above 600 grams/day. Positive associations were observed between intake of apples/pears, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables/salads and cruciferous vegetables and cardiovascular disease and mortality, and between green-yellow vegetables and cruciferous vegetables and total cancer risk. Examples of cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower and kale. The authors concluded that an estimated 5.6 and 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide in 2013 may be attributable to a fruit and vegetable intake below 500 and 800 grams/day, respectively, if the observed associations are causal.
Top 10 Tips & Tricks for Increasing our Fruit and Veggie Intake
So how do we get our daily fruit and veggie intake closer to that 600-800 gram range? Or knock it out of the park? Here are the approximate number of grams in a few items to give you an idea:
1 orange = 130 1 apple = 140
1 banana = 120 1 cup carrots = 130
1 cup raw kale = 70 1 cup broccoli = 180
And...here are my top 10 tips for maximizing intake:
1. Eat the ones you like - there are plenty to choose from
2. Plan ahead so you'll always have your favourites on hand
3. Include fresh, frozen and dried options for variety and versatility
4. Prep fresh produce for the week ahead
5. Find ways to maximize your enjoyment (e.g. hummus makes a great veggie dip)
6. Have a daily smoothie (pineapple, banana and spinach with some water or non-dairy milk is delicious)
7. Incorporate fruit into your breakfast routine
8. Use veggies to supersize dishes like pasta, rice, wraps, burgers, salads and pizzas
9. Find a veggie soup or stir fry recipe you love and include it in your weekly line-up (it's a great way to clean out the fridge)
10. Incorporate produce into your baking (like zucchini bread and banana muffins)
Mexican Chopped Salad with Maple-Lime Dressing
Here's one easy and delicious way to load up on veggies! And the black beans make it filling. I've enjoyed it many times over for lunch and dinner. I love the cilantro, but if you are not a fan, simply omit.
Serves: 4 large salads
Ingredients for salad
- 2-1/2 cups (or more) of chopped romaine lettuce
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and well drained
- 1 cup tomato, seeded and chopped
- 1 cup corn (I use frozen when not in season)
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
Ingredients for the maple-lime dressing:
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup oil (I prefer sunflower)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup (you can substitute honey)
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1 tsp chopped jalapeno pepper (seeded for less heat)
Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over mixture and toss again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Teresa Ford, B.Sc., VLCE is a London-based clinical researcher with a Nutritional Science degree. She's a certified vegan lifestyle coach and educator (Main Street Vegan Academy) who has been thriving on a vegan diet for over five years. She's excited about launching her services related to plant-based eating in the fall.