Contrary to popular belief, a plant-based diet offers an excellent supply of many necessary nutrients. In actuality, several nutrients can only be found in plants! So much so that those who consume meat and grain as primary dietary staples are more likely to not have enough of these nutrients in their diets. A person’s regular diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables. They are nutritious by nature and include vitamins and minerals which support overall health, wellbeing and mental function. They are also a preventative measure to aid against. Plus, they’re delicious, which is a bonus.
Introducing fruit and veg as a regular dietary component in balance with an athletic, healthy lifestyle is beneficial for a majority of people. They’re an accessible and versatile way to get the vitamins you need while broadening your culinary horizons. Research points to the fact that regularly eating fruits and vegetables lowers risks for:
- Certain forms of cancer
- Diabetes (Type 2)
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure
- Cardiovascular issues
The different kinds of fruit
Fruit is commonly defined as the fleshy, seed-related structures, also called produce, of plants. These are generally edible and come in a variety of sweet and sour flavours. Typically, these have seeds in them. It is best to eat the fruit in its raw form, as this is the most nutritionally sound, though it is often cooked as well which is still beneficial. Some common categories of fruits are:
Berries: These smaller fruits with a thin skin which are highly juicy, such as raspberries, grapes, strawberries and blackberries
Pitted Fruits: The flesh of these fruits surrounds a single stone or pit. Examples are apricots, peaches, plums and cherries.
Tropical Fruits: These favour warmer climates, which is the characteristic they have in common: dates, avocados, mangoes, pineapples and coconut.
Melons: Thick rind and multiple seeds characterise this type of fruit, some of which are: honeydew, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
Core Fruits: A central area surrounded by flesh hosts the seeds in this fruit, which include: pears and apples.
Citrus Fruits: A hefty rind surrounds segmented flesh separated by a light membrane in these fruits, which include lemons, oranges and limes.
The types of vegetables
In contrast to the consumable fruits and nuts which woody-stemmed plants produce, such as those grown on trees and shrubs, vegetables are the edible products produced by herbaceous plants, which have a soft stem. Vegetables come in a wide range of forms and may be divided into a number of biological groupings called families, such as:
Cruciferous: brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and bok choy
Plant stems: celery, rhubarb, bamboo shoots, and asparagus
Marrow: cucumber, summer squash, and zucchini
Leafy greens: arugula, lettuce, and swiss chard
Allium: garlic, shallots, and onions
Root: potatoes, carrots, yams and beets
Another very important part of a plant-based diet is legumes, also known as pulses. These are both protein and nutrient-rich and should be eaten alongside fruits and vegetables for a balanced diet. Popular forms include:
Dried peas and beans: kidney beans and chickpeas
Fresh peas and beans: green beans, broad beans, snow peas
Flours: chickpea flour, also called besan and lentil flour
Soy: tofu and edamame
What is one serving of fruits and vegetables?
The optimum way to include fruit and vegetables into your diet is by trying to incorporate about 2 servings of fruit and a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables into your meals daily. Try to vary the colours, as those point to different nutritional benefits. A colourful plate will mean a greater variety of vitamins that fulfil your daily needs.
An easy way to figure out a serving of vegetables is by cup measures: a cup of raw vegetables counts as one serving, while when cooked, half a cup counts as one serving to account for moisture loss.
Servings of fruit are generally by piece: one serving is one regular-sized fruit or two smaller ones.
What nutrients are found in fruits and vegetables?
A potent antioxidant, Vitamin C is essential for the formation and reparation of bodily cells and tissues. It has a role in a variety of biological processes, including the production of collagen, iron absorption, tissue regeneration, and immunological function. Vitamin C is abundant in many plants and is insufficiently present in meat or animal products.
Vitamin A, often known as beta carotene, helps prevent infections and maintains the health of the eyes and skin.
Strong bones and teeth require calcium to function properly. Additionally, it is necessary for the healthy operation of various glands, muscles, and nerves.
Lignans are only one type of various dietary fibre that fruits and veg contain. are converted by the body into phytoestrogens. In addition to being necessary for optimal health, phytoestrogens have been shown to reduce the risk of serious diseases including breast cancer and heart disease. Although flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are excellent sources of lignans, these compounds are also present in a wide variety of other vegetables and fruits.
Fruits also supply another class of fibres with several health advantages, called pectins. They aid in the easing of stomach issues as they provide support for the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Another form of fibre is inulin, a member of the fructan family. This also improves health in the colon by fostering the growth of healthy bacteria.
Including folate in a diet, which the body absorbs through plant-based foods, is thought to reduce birth defects and hence is recommended as a supplement for most pregnant women.
Iron is a mineral that is needed for a variety of bodily functions, such as the production of red blood cells as well as certain hormones. It helps in cell function and oxygenation, which explains why Popeye was always eyeing spinach.
Diets that include magnesium lead to healthy bone development, and are less likely to let cramps or hypertension happen. Magnesium is actually a requirement for hundreds of enzymes in the human body as well, so it’s needed all around.
Potassium is one of the more popularly known vegetable-derived nutrients, and this helps in blood pressure regulation.
The body’s cells can’t function properly without the help of sodium. While it often gets a bad rep, sodium is meant to be had in moderation and aids in the absorption of water.
For more on healthy changes that make for a better body, check out our articles here.