The minimum recommended amount of vegetables to eat per day is 5 serves for women and 6 serves for men. This vegetable recommendation includes legumes as well. HOWEVER, research carried out in 2017 suggests that we should be eating 10 serves of vegetables and fruit per day to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Whether you eat a plant based diet or a meat based diet, you may or may not be meeting this minimum recommended amount, let alone the 2017 recommendations. So whilst this Q&A is about plant based diets, this information applies to everybody!!
1/2 cup cooked green or orange vegetables
1 cup leafy or raw salad vegetables
1/2 medium potato or other starchy vegetable
1 medium tomato
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup cooked legumes
In terms of the space that vegetables take up on your plate, Harvard says it should be almost 1/2 (fruit should make up the half), with 1/4 of your plate protein and the other 1/4 whole grains. Sadly for the potato lovers, Harvard says that potatoes don't count as vegetables because of their negative impact on blood sugar. You can still eat them, but stick them in your grain quarter.
Vegetables are super important for optimum wellness because they contain nutrients vital for good health, such as important sources of many nutrients, including:
potassium, which may help to maintain healthy blood pressure
dietary fibre, which is super important for keeping it regular and it also helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and may lower risk of heart disease
folate (folic acid), which helps the body form red blood cells (and is super important for pregnant women!)
vitamin A, which keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections,
vitamin C, which helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Plus - and this is super important for plant based eaters - it aids in iron absorption.
So you know that vegetables are super important for good health but how can you possibly consume at least 5, and ideally 10, serves of veggies and fruit per day? Here are my top tips:
eat a big salad with legumes
eat fruit as dessert
add fruit and vegetables to your smoothies
have a veggie and bean wrap
eat veggie sticks & dip as snacks
have a big pot of homemade veggie / bean soup
fill up your plate with lots of veg!
Now, go eat some veg :)
Ruth Hatten is a plant based coach, helping people eat more plants and less animals. She is based on the Sunshine Coast and offers her coaching services online. Find out more here.