Not so long ago we were being told by the powers that be, to eat our 5 a day. We were being encouraged to eat fruit and vegetables without much guidance as to why AND why 5. Well, 5 was an arbitrary number picked because if they told us to eat what we really needed they felt we would be overwhelmed. Now we are constantly being reminded to eat a rainbow which is a marvellous way to encourage us to eat a great variety of vegetables so we can gain various benefits from the different colours, from purple and red through to brown and white and anything in between. There is such an incredible variety out there but often we find ourselves sticking to the same few vegetables, week in and week out.
First of all, let’s look at the WHY.
nutrients, anti-oxidants,fibre, gut health, can possibly aid blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure reduction, vitality, mental clarity etc, etc…….
Gut Health - eat a rainbow of vegetables…so to appeal to a wide variety of your gut bacteria. Different bacteria thrive on different nutrients derived from different coloured vegetables, but science hasn’t yet been able to definitively chart which match with which, so it is best to cover all bases.
The fibre that comes with veggies will also benefit your gut health. Unfortunately, the average individual living in a Western country and eating a diet of processed foods gets about one-third of the fibre they need each day. Fibre is found in plant-based foods like whole grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. It is a form of carbohydrate that the body is unable to digest, giving the sensation of fullness without many calories. There are two types of dietary fibre—insoluble and soluble—and they have somewhat different benefits. Insoluble fibre can be found in the bran (outer coat) of vegetables and whole grains. This type of fibre acts like a bulky “inner broom,” sweeping out debris from the intestine and creating more motility and movement. Soluble fibre attracts water and swells, creating a gel-like mass. The soluble fibre in foods like oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables acts to slow digestion
There are a number of good diets to follow for gut health and as usual it is for you to decide which suits your individual body best but we can highly recommend that you check out the Mediterranean diet, with lots of vegetables, healthy fats, fibre etc. If your gut is healthy it will help to maintain your general health.
WHEN – with any meal you like. Avocados and spinach with your scrambled or poached eggs make a wonderful start to the day for instance. Berry fruits and live yogurt, with nuts and seeds another idea.
Mid-morning, munchies could be satisfied with carrot sticks and hummus.
Lunch, a mixed salad bowl – so many wonderful options and an easy way to create a rainbow.
Dinner, I am not suggesting everyone suddenly becomes vegetarian but why not try a new vegetable every week with your usual menu. Easy options for those with little time could be a mix of root veg, roasted in the oven. Carrots, beetroot, parsnips, sweet potatoes lend themselves nicely, with some wedges of onion and some garlic. You could experiment with herbs and spices of choice too, chilli or paprika, for instance. Perhaps you could spice up your usual carrots by draining when cooked and tossing them in chopped ginger and a little butter over a low heat for 3 minutes before serving. Kale stir fried with garlic is a very quick option.
It can take a little focus at first to get into the swing of adding more veg to your diet, but the benefits are well worth it. Vegetables are so versatile, there are so many options so experiment whenever you can. My favourite book for recipe ideas is Much More Veg by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, it is the most used of all the recipe books in my collection. The recipes are great on their own but if you have a real ‘carnivore’ in the family you can always add a chicken breast.
The image shows the ingredients for my favourite slaw recipe, another way to add variety. This delicious, moist slaw needs no mayo. All but the apple came from my garden, including the very odd wonkey yellow carrot.
The quantities I use are:
¼ of a red cabbage
1 red apple,
½ - 1 beetroot depending on size
Grate together either by hand or easiest, using a food processor
I am a great advocate for growing your own vegetables for all the incredible benefits this can bring. Not just producing your own fresh organic, seasonal vegetables, bringing fresh nutrients straight to your plate but there is something special about the connection with nature and mindfulness that comes with it too. Of course, we don’t all have the time and then there is the space needed. Over the years I have encouraged the use of even the smallest space, even if this means the window sill in the kitchen for sprouting seeds and beans in a jar, or growing herbs such as basil or parsley etc.
Window boxes, hanging baskets and pots on a balcony. Old baths or a Belfast sink can make great planting space, in fact I grow most of my salad in an old enamel bath outside my kitchen door.