You’re probably familiar with the idea of a “dose” response. It basically describes how when we take more or less of something, it has a greater or lesser effect on us. We normally associate this concept with medications, but it applies to many of the diet and lifestyle choices we make every day.
A recent study out of London is a great example of this. Researchers found that eating 200g of fruits and vegetables daily (about two and-a-half serves) was associated with a 4 per cent reduction in cancer risk and a 15 per cent drop in risk of premature death.
A pretty good benefit for a relatively small amount of plant foods daily, right? Well when researchers looked at those study participants who were eating 800g of fruits and vegetables daily (about 10 serves), they found this was associated with a 28 per cent reduction in cancer risk and a 31 per cent reduction in premature death. On top of this, they also saw a 24 per cent reduced risk of heart disease, a 33 per cent reduced risk of stroke and a 28 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
But what do these numbers mean in everyday terms? Based on their findings, the researchers estimated that in 2013, 5.6 million premature deaths worldwide could be attributable to fruit and vegetable intake below 500g a day and 7.8 million premature deaths to consumption below 800g. So it seems that when it comes to fruit and vegetable intake, while even a little may be good, more is even better.
A serve of vegetables is half a cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of green leafy or raw salad vegetables. A serve of fruit is 1 medium piece of fruit like an apple or banana, 2 small pieces like apricots or kiwi fruit or 1 cup of diced fruit salad.
3 ways to use a simple sauce to boost the veggie content of some family favourites
Lentil bolognaise. Swap out that mince meat for a couple of cans of brown lentils. To really boost the veggie content, grate your other favourite vegetables like carrot, zucchini or squash and add to the mix as well!
Baked potatoes. Did you know that half a medium potato counts as a serve of vegetables? Take a full one and cover it with a big spoonful of the lentil bolognaise sauce and sprinkle with sweet corn and your favourite fresh salad vegetables like tomato and cucumber.
Stuffed capsicum. Chop the top off a medium capsicum, fill with lentil bolognaise sauce, sprinkle with low fat cheese and bake in the oven until warm through.