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How to Increase Your Fruit & Veg Intake
We human beings are creatures of habit. We like what is known and distrust what we don’t. This filters out into many areas of our life, including the food and drink we consume.
We have our regular go-to meals every week, we even order the same handful of takeaways because we ‘know what we like’. It can be disappointing when you sample a new restaurant and are less than satisfied with your meal. The conversation follows a regretful ‘I should have stuck to the Carbonara, I know it’s good here’.
Government guidelines advise that the public should aim for a mix of five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. Recent guidelines, however, have outlined that we should in fact be aiming for 8 to 10 portions daily, with two portions allocated for fruit.
Why is it so Important to Vary Your Fruit & Vegetable Intake?
Ingesting a range of fruit and vegetable sources lowers your risk for micronutrient insufficiencies. The FAO notes that low fruit and vegetable intake is a major contributing factor to nutrient deficiencies leading to a whole host of health conditions. Noted conditions include mental and physical disorders, blindness, weakened immune system and even birth defects.
Several key micronutrients help support gut health and gut microbiome. In order to improve the diversity and number of beneficial bacteria in the gut, a varied diet high in a range of nutrients is paramount. Although much of the gut microbiome is still relatively undiscovered, there has been evidence to suggest that 70-80% of your immune system health is regulated by your gut. Immune cells line the mucosa of your gut, regulating immune function throughout the entire body.
It’s important to note that gut health plays a major role in the absorption and assimilation of micronutrients within the body. The saying ‘you aren’t what you eat, you are what you absorb’ cannot be truer. Absorption occurs throughout the entire GI tract; therefore, digestive health should be prioritised to help your body utilise micronutrient intake.
Consuming the same short list of foods can actually lead to an increased risk of food sensitivity to those foods. If inadequate nutrients are available for the immune system, it becomes dysregulated and can begin to mistakenly assign ‘threat’ to ‘non-threat’ foods entering the body.
Easy Hacks to Increase Your Micronutrient Intake
It’s safe to say, breakfast tends to be a meal in which we do tend to eat the same foods on a daily basis. Perhaps purchase different ‘toppers’ for your regular go-to breakfasts i.e. rotate fruits and types of nuts and seeds you sprinkle onto your porridge every 3-4 days. Varying your toast toppers is also a fun and easy way to vary your nutrient intake:
(From left to right: Peanut butter, banana, maple syrup and walnuts. Mushrooms, baby chard and rocket. Avocado, tomatoes and lime. Golden tomatoes, garlic, basil & balsamic vinegar).
Another suggestion to help you increase your nutrient intake is to simply swap your salad leaf choices on a weekly basis. Salad leaves are micronutrient powerhouses with varying levels of vitamins and minerals in each option:
Kale – High in antioxidants (quercetin and kaempferol). Excellent sources of vitamin C and has the highest source of vitamin K compared to its leafy companions.
Spinach – High in vitamin A and folic acid. Spinach is also a great source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2.
Wild Rocket – Rich in vitamin C, carotenoids, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, polyphenols and glucosinolates.
Whilst carrying out your weekly shop, it may be beneficial to take a different route through the store. Perhaps start from the furthest aisle to the entrance and walk back through the aisles. This helps to adjust what food choices come into your eye line and stops your brain deferring to weekly ‘autopilot’ whilst grocery shopping.
Fruit & Veg boxes are a great way to try out new foods you might not have thought to experiment with. Suppliers generally rotate fruits and vegetables on offer with subscriptions and usually select items based on seasonality, which provides a sustainable way to consume your micronutrients.
I have purchased boxes from Riverford Organic Farmers and Abel & Cole. You can either sign up to a regular monthly/bi-weekly subscription or sign up for one-off trial boxes (no affiliation here, I just think this is a fantastic idea!).
A simple hack to increase your micronutrient intake from adequate to health guru status is to include a daily smoothie to your diet. It is an excellent and efficient way to drink your nutrients. Ensure you receive a range of nutrients by including a protein, carbohydrate and fat source and aim for a variety of coloured foods. A general rule of thumb would be to include a fruit or vegetable source that belongs to each of the colour groups below:
Yellow/Orange – Foods that are yellow/orange in colour colour tend to be high in vitamin A
Red – These coloured foods are generally high in vitamin C
Green – Green foods tend to be high in vitamin K and folic acid
Purple – Purple foods are high in antioxidants.
Do let me know if you have any easy hacks to increase your nutrient intake.