Liv­ing on the veg

Take charge of your diet and health by im­prov­ing your veg­etable in­take

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

How im­por­tant is it to hit your daily veg tar­get? We ex­plain all

Still strug­gling to hit your five-a-day? Bad news: you’re dither­ing around at the low end of what’s ac­cept­able. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion says 400g of fruit and veg a day (or five 80g servings) is the bare min­i­mum re­quired for health ben­e­fits, and of­fi­cial rec­om­men­da­tions in other coun­tries are higher – Aus­tralia sug­gests five por­tions of veg and two of fruit should be your tar­get, while Ja­pan’s 5 A DAY or­gan­i­sa­tion urges its ci­ti­zens to eat 350g of veg and 200g of fruit daily. And if you’re plan­ning to top up with some mul­ti­vi­ta­mins and greens pow­der, re­mem­ber: you do need the real thing.

“Veg­eta­bles con­tain an­tiox­i­dants and other dis­ease-fight­ing com­pounds that are dif­fi­cult to get else­where,” says body com­po­si­tion ex­pert Luke Lea­man (mus­cle­n­erds.tv). “Plant phy­to­chem­i­cals re­duce in­flam­ma­tion, elim­i­nate car­cino­gens, reg­u­late cell re­pro­duc­tion and main­tain DNA health.” A 2014 metas­tudy found that higher veg con­sump­tion is linked to a drop in all-cause mor­tal­ity, but even if you’re plan­ning to live fast and die young (un­likely, we know), there’s more to it: more fi­bre will help keep you feel­ing full and in fat-burn­ing mode, help­ing you get lean while main­tain­ing mus­cle. Here’s how to keep things green and pleas­ant.

Q SO, APART FROM VI­TA­MINS, WHY ELSE DO I NEED VEG­ETA­BLES? A ALL SORTS OF REA­SONS

“I would hon­estly rather see al­most any­body jack up their fruit and veg­gies and take their pro­tein in­take down, rather than hav­ing three shakes a day,” says Lea­man. “By eat­ing more veg­gies you’re up­ping the amount of fi­bre you eat, rais­ing your al­ka­lin­ity and re­duc­ing aci­do­sis in the body.” Aci­do­sis oc­curs when the kid­neys and lungs can’t reg­u­late your pH lev­els, caus­ing some­times se­ri­ous health prob­lems. “If you’re try­ing to cut calo­ries you should still keep veg high. You’ll also ramp up your anti-age­ing path­ways.” Ba­si­cally, Lea­man says, if you want a healthy diet, “veg is the first thing you should add, and the last thing you should think about cut­ting out”.

Q ANY OTHER BEN­E­FITS? A YOU’LL EAT LESS OF THE BAD STUFF

“One of the best rea­sons is food dis­place­ment,” says Lea­man. “I work a lot on habits and if some­one hasn’t eaten right for 30 years, they’re go­ing to do three days of good diet and then have a pizza. In­stead of changing ev­ery­thing, the trick is to add more of the good stuff un­til it pushes the bad stuff out. If your break­fast right now is eggs on toast, add some broc­coli or spinach, or maybe throw in an­other egg. Even­tu­ally you’ll leave the toast out. Think prac­ti­cal in­stead of op­ti­mal, and keep mak­ing mi­nor changes.”

Q DOES IT MAT­TER HOW I COOK THEM? A YES

“There’s good ev­i­dence that you keep more of the fi­bre and

an­tiox­i­dant con­tent in most green veg­gies when you steam rather than boil them,” says Lea­man. Toss your as­para­gus or broc­coli in a saucepan with a shot glass’s worth of wa­ter for four to five min­utes. For ex­tra flavour, fin­ish them off with a blob of but­ter and a sprin­kle of salt.

Q DO I NEED TO GO OR­GANIC? A IT MIGHT HELP

We’re still not sure of the ben­e­fits of or­ganic food in gen­eral, but the ev­i­dence is start­ing to pile up for veg in par­tic­u­lar. A New­cas­tle Uni­ver­sity study pub­lished in 2014 con­cluded that there are “sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant, mean­ing­ful” dif­fer­ences, with a range of an­tiox­i­dants be­ing “sub­stan­tially higher” – be­tween 19% and 69% – in or­ganic veg­eta­bles. The study was based on an anal­y­sis of 343 peer-re­viewed stud­ies, and found lower lev­els of heavy metal cad­mium and pes­ti­cides in or­ganic foods – but there’s still con­tro­versy over how ex­actly the re­sults link to health re­sults. The con­sen­sus? Go or­ganic if you can af­ford it – but any veg is bet­ter than none.

“IN­STEAD OF CHANGING EV­ERY­THING IN YOUR DIET, THE TRICK IS TO ADD MORE OF THE GOOD STUFF UN­TIL IT PUSHES THE BAD STUFF OUT”

Choos­ing or­ganic veg­eta­bles can in­crease your an­tiox­i­dant in­take by up to 69%

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