IT’S week four of Hunter Health Kick and time to boost your phytonutrient intake by increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
The National Health survey found the amount of vegetables and fruit we usually eat is a long way from the two fruit and five vegetables serves recommended daily. (One serve equals half a cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of salad.)
Eating enough fruit and vegetables is linked to better health and a lower risk of getting chronic medical conditions such as high blood cholesterol and blocked arteries.
It increases your intake of phytonutrients, vitamins, trace minerals and pectin, a soluble fibre. All these are needed to help reduce high blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Fruit and vegetables are a great source of folate, an essential vitamin for pregnant women, and needed to protect your DNA so that your body can manufacture healthy cells.
High fruit and vegetable intake helps lower high blood pressure. They are high in potassium, which helps to counter the effect of sodium in salt, leading to lower blood pressure, and protects your heart, brain and kidneys.
In a study of 179,000 people, those who had the highest fruit and vegetable intakes had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The risk was lowest in those with the highest intakes of green leafy vegetables.
One challenge is a dislike of the taste of some vegetables. If you have a strong dislike for brussels sprouts, broccoli or cabbage you may be a “super taster”, with an ability to detect the bitter tasting chemical phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). Blame your genes – super tasters inherit two copies of the PTC gene, one copy from each parent.
Super tasters find some vegetables up to 60 per cent more bitter. PTC is not a naturally occurring chemical but it is very similar to a sulphur containing compound called glucosinolate, which is found in watercress, bok choy, cauliflower, radish, swede, turnip, horseradish and mustard greens as well as brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage.
The good news is that repeated exposure to bitter vegetables leads to people eventually learning to tolerate them and even liking them.
Try these ideas to get more vegies into your family’s diet.
■ Increase your intake of vegetables that are not bitter – beetroot, carrots, corn, eggplant, lettuce, onion, peas, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach and tomato.
■ Mask the bitter taste of broccoli and cauliflower with a low-fat cheese sauce. Stir a heaped teaspoon of cornflour into a half cup of skim milk. Place in a small saucepan over low heat and when almost to the boil drop in an extra light processed cheese slice and stir until thick.
■ Neutralise the taste with other ingredients. Black pepper contains ‘‘piperine’’, a food chemical that neutralises pungent flavours. So say yes to a twist of ground black pepper.
■ Camouflage by hiding in casseroles or stews.
■ Cut down the smell by cooking for a short time in the microwave or using a large saucepan with the water boiling before you drop them in to cook. This reduces sulphur gas.
■ Cook vegies with herbs and spices, add them to a stir fry with onion, garlic and ginger, or serve after cooking with a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and black pepper.
Don’t forget to explore the resources on Australia’s Healthy Weight Week website to help you on your weight-loss journey (healthyweightweek南京夜网.au).
Check the Hunter Health Kick webpage each week for updates. This week, take a photo of your favourite veggie mealand tweet it to #HunterHealthKick
Clare Collins is an accredited practicing dietitian and deputy director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre.