We’ve always known that we should be eating our ‘5&2’, but now there are even more compelling reasons to bump up our fruit and vegetables, and cut down on meat. Naturopath and nutritional advisor to Bowel Cancer Australia, Teresa Mitchell-Paterson, explains the benefits, as well as how to adopt a more plant-based diet.
1. CUT YOUR CANCER RISK
Researchers have found the risk of bowel cancer goes up by 17 per cent for each 100g of red meat consumed per day and by 18 per cent per 50g of processed meat. By contrast, eating non-starchy fruit and vegetables has a protective effect against cancer, but 95 per cent of Australians don’t reach the recommended intake. We need to aim for five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit per day – juicing, stewing, soups and salads can help.
2. REDUCE RISK OF DIABETES AND HEART DISEASE
Red meat contains saturated fat and iron, while processed meat contains saturated fat, iron, salt and preservatives, such as nitrates. A high salt intake can increase blood pressure and a build-up of arterial plaque, while the nitrates and iron can increase oxidative stress, leading to insulin resistance.
If you do want to eat meat, limit it to less than 500g per week, with little to no processed meat. For a healthier approach to eating, include more fish and plant-based foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – nuts, seeds and olive oil, antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, and wholegrain fibres.
3. FEEL HAPPIER
It’s official – eating fruit and vegetables makes you happy! An Australian study of over 12,000 adults suggests that eating eight serves of fruit and vegetables leads to an increase in overall life satisfaction, wellbeing and happiness scores. It’s by no means a quick fix, but stick with it! Eat at least five servings of non-starchy vegetables (a serve is one cup or a total above 400g) and two pieces of fruit every day.
4. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
In a 24-year US study the evidence spoke for itself. Higher intakes of certain types of fruit and vegetables lowered the risk of weight gain, how and where you store fat, and helped manage glucose and insulin levels. Low-starch vegetables and fruit such as melons, grapefruit, oranges, apples, berries, cauliflower, leafy greens, tomatoes, and broccoli are the most beneficial for weight loss and maintenance.
5.LOOK AND FEEL YOUNGER
Boosting your fruit and vegie intake has the potential to reduce depression, anxiety, and improve mood, within just two weeks. And higher levels of physical vitality are seen where adults eat the recommended five serves of vegetables a day. Plus, the higher intake of carotenoids from carrots, tomatoes, spinach and kale may increase melanin and carotene in our skin, decreasing the signs of ageing. Antioxidants in fruit and vegetables also lower skin oxidation and reduce the effect of sun damage and wrinkles.
3 WAYS TO EAT LESS MEAT
- Adapt the old favourites such as lasagne, shepherd’s pie, or nachos, using lentils or red kidney beans. These legumes taste amazing and take on an incredible flavour and texture with traditional pasta sauces, gravies and Mexican spices.
- Roast vegetables in a good extra virgin olive oil and make this the base for a salad. Keep refrigerated for next-day use, or take to work and heat topped with chopped nuts, seeds, fresh leafy greens and dressings.
- Swap meat burgers for vegie burgers (from supermarket refrigerated sections), topped with hummus, dressings and salad.