We’ve all heard the old wives tale “carrots make you see in the dark”, but what does make veggies so great?
Love them or loathe them, it’s safe to say we all know we should be eating vegetables! They’re jam-packed with lots of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which all play a really important role in helping to make sure our overall health stays in tip-top condition.
By incorporating a wide variety of vegetables into our daily meals, we can help reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers1. It really is amazing to think about the power that simple humble veggies hold!
Consider vegetables as your own nutrient treasure trove filled with gems such as potassium, magnesium, folate (vitamin B9), vitamins C, A and K, as well as fibre. Fibre is a prized treasure for the gut. Shockingly, only 9% of the UK population eat enough fibre (30g is recommended every day)2. It’s clear many of us are struggling when it comes to fibre but eating more vegetables is a great way to help reach this goal.
Being a non-digestible type of carbohydrate, fibre helps to make sure we have regular bowel movements, feel fuller for longer and helps to prevent uncomfortable constipation3. If you aren’t fully sold on the importance of fibre just yet, know that its benefit stretches beyond digestive health! Fibre can also lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and help control blood sugars4,5,6.
Most prebiotics are a type of fibre and can be found in vegetables such as leeks, artichoke and chicory. Prebiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in our gut which, in turn, help our immune system and digestive well-being – a win-win situation!
How many vegetables do I really need to eat?
We’ve all grown up hearing about aiming for 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables which is a great target but there’s no need to stop there. The more the merrier when it comes to vegetables! Equally, if you only have one portion of vegetables a day, the thought of having to eat lots can seem overwhelming. Why not initially aim to include just one extra portion a day? Or maybe you can list the very few vegetables you like on one hand. You could challenge yourself to try one new type of vegetable every week. Remember: Fresh, frozen and tinned vegetables all count!
What if I hate vegetables?
Vegetables alone can be bland and boring (there – we’ve said it!). But, at Love Your Gut, we believe this doesn’t have to be the case. Season ‘em up! Experiment with different herbs and spices such as paprika, cumin, oregano or even cinnamon to see what you prefer.
Secondly, play with texture. Try out different cooking methods as this can totally change the texture and flavour. Perhaps you’ll find you prefer roasted vegetables rather than boiled. Or if you’ve joined the latest air fryer craze then pop some veggies into it for a crispier texture.
Is there a best way to cook vegetables?
Whilst vegetables are super nutritious, some nutrients can decrease depending on how you cook them. For example, boiling vegetables can lower vitamin C and B-vitamins7. So try to only fill the pot with the water you need and don’t boil them for too long. Steaming and microwaving vegetables can therefore be a great alternative.
Another simple trick to hold on to the nutrients in veg is to keep their skin on. If that’s a step too far, practice rough peeling instead of fully peeling vegetables. Lots of that good fibre we mentioned earlier is concentrated in the skin. By opting for rough peeling, you can retain more fibre and maximise the nutritional value of the vegetable.
Perhaps you grew up being told “eat all your vegetables or else you aren’t getting any dessert!”. These statements can create negative associations as something we have to eat out of obligation rather than something we want to eat from enjoyment. At Love Your Gut we want to show you that eating veggies can make you happy on the inside (your gut bugs will thank you!) as well as happy on the outside. So go forth and “eat the rainbow”!
Interested in recipes?
Try out this platter of roasted Mediterranean vegetables, buffalo mozzarella tapenade and pesto, roast cod and Mediterranean vegetable tray bake or roasted baby carrot salad with walnuts, puy lentils and feta.
- Aune, D. et al. (2017) International Journal of Epidemiology 46(3): 1029–1056.
- Public Health England (2020) NDNS: results from years 9 to 11 (combined) – statistical summary.
- SACN (2015) Carbohydrates and Health. London: TSO
- Aune et al. (2011) BMJ 343: d6617
- WCRF/AICR (2018) Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Colorectal Cancer.
- Stephen et al. (2017) Nutrition Research Reviews 30: 149-190
- Lee et al. (2017) Food science and biotechnology 27(2): 333–342.