It's that time of year when we start to really see nature shining in all it's glory, and as a nutritionist, it amazes me how nutrient-rich foods just shout out their goodness with vibrant colour, as if to say 'Come and get me!'.
You see, locked inside these biological power-packages we call fruits and vegetables, are a plethora of health substances to keep us healthy - not just water, fibre and key vitamins and minerals, but phytonutrients too…
…and phytonutrients pack a real biological punch. Contained within a host of plant produce, the easiest way to up your dietary intakes is to eat three different coloured fruits, and five different coloured vegetables each day.
Diversity will ensure that you have good intakes of key phytonutrients, such as:
- Carotenoids: There are over 600 of them, and provide yellow, orange and red colours to fruits and vegetables. As well as being powerful antioxidants, they can be converted to vitamin A in the body, for skin, immune system and eye health. Lycopene, which became well known for helping prostate health, is found in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit, whilst lutein and zeaxanthin, found in spinach and kale, can help reduce incidence of age-related macular degeneration.
- Ellagic Acid: This is found in many different berries, including blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. It is great for all-round health, due to its antioxidant properties.
- Quercetin: is a well-studied type of phytonutrient called a flavonol. It’s found in apples, berries, kale and onions, and can help people manage asthma, and maintain a healthy heart.
- Resveratrol: Found in grapes and wine, as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
As well as local and fresh, you can eat frozen and tinned (in juice) – and don’t feel bad about it. Research has shown that those who eat ten portions a day are less likely to be overweight and have good heart, immune, digestive and skin health.
What’s more, searching out new fruits and vegetables is a great chance to spend time with family. Why not go fruit-picking, make some apple and blueberry muffins, try out new vegetables, visit a farm-shop or even try growing your own.
Note: Of course, not everyone finds eating lots of fruits and vegetables easy. Certain conditions such as digestive complaints, reflux or poor appetite might mean that you struggle to achieve recommendations. In this case, a Registered Nutritionist can help to improve your diet as well as recommend appropriate supplements. They can also help manage specific health conditions via a nutritional approach.
Esther Mills-Roberts is a degree-trained nutritional biochemist.
Registered Nutritionist (8445), Fellow of the Health Food Institute and member of the Guild of Health Writers.
Practices at Lifeways and can be contacted by email: hello@allaboutnutrition or by phone: 07834 227677 (please leave a message, if in consultations).