Vegetables: five per day not enough?


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As a regular contributor on the SABC 3 show Expresso (weekdays 06:00–08:30), Andrea du Plessis is able to share her passion for good health achieved though nutrition, natural remedies and a healthy lifestyle. Information about health and nutrition is constantly updated – she provides some guidance on what is current and of interest to you.

Seven to ten portions of vegetables per day is what we should aim for according to a research study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health (31 March 2014). 

Why so many?

A higher intake of fruit and vegetables is linked with a lower death risk from cancer, stroke and heart disease in the Health Surveys for England study which comprised 65 000 participants. Health benefits seem to increase exponentially with each extra daily portion of vegetables, while fruit demonstrated less favourable results.

Results summary

Seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day were linked with:

  • 42% reduction in overall mortality rates
  • 25% lower cancer risk
  • 31% lower risk for heart disease and stroke

Is this realistic?

Even for the super health conscious, aiming for seven to ten portions of vegetables per day may be biting off more than most can chew. Our diets of refined and processed foods are inadequate in regard to the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy. While multivitamins can help fill the gaps, we should aim to increase our intake of nutrient-rich vegetables.

More than just a head of broccoli

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are known to assist in the prevention of chronic disease and cancer. A better understanding of the active components in broccoli and their mechanism of action were revealed in a study conducted by the UK Institute of Food Research. Sulforaphane, derived from glucoraphanin, was identified as the bioactive component. It is believed to activate and retune genes involved with ageing and disease progression. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2013, 98(3):712–722)



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