Let’s fall in love with food! Part 1 – Fruits & Veggies

This week we’re starting a new series about falling in love with food by exploring and dismantling reductionist nutrition advice. Every week we’re going to look at a category of food and explore some interesting questions. We may not always come up with one-size-fit-all answers — but then again, nutrition is not really supposed to have simple answers.

Food and the human body are anything but simple and simple answers are not going to cut it to achieve happiness and well-being 🙂 Let’s get ready to fall in love!

Food group: Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are usually pulled in together to form a food group. They have a lot in common: both come from plants and are made primarily of carbohydrates. Nutritional guidelines all over the world recommend eating plenty of fruits and vegetables daily. The main reason for that is because fruits and vegetables are the main sources of vitamins A and C, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. All these substances are supportive of the immune system and can have protective effects against oxidation, inflammation, and some diseases.

Reductionist nutritional advice: if fruits and veggies are so good for you, then you should eat mostly or only fruits and veggies every day.

Eeeh, no. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients that are hard to find in other foods but they also miss on a lot of nutrients that the body needs, like proteins and fat. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies is good, eating them along with a variety of other foods is better.

Why is it so hard to love veggies?

Seriously, sometimes I think that people eat fruits and vegetables like taking a medicine: only because they feel they have to. I think that the difficulty with eating fruits and vegetables is a combination of cultural upbringing and taste.

When nutritional guidelines were first introduced, fruits and vegetables were emphasized because of nutritional deficiencies. These days, nutritional deficiencies are practically unheard of but at the end of the 1800s it was thanks to these diseases that vitamins were discovered. The disease called “scurvy”, one that most often impacted sailors out at sea, was how vitamin C was discovered: a scientist noticed that these sailors felt better after eating lemons and oranges and vitamin C was the substance that made them feel better. Scurvy is the disease that follows vitamin C deficiency.

A cultural heritage has followed these (very recent) discoveries and children have since then been imposed to “finish their broccoli” as a result. But fruits and especially vegetables are challenging. They have strong flavors that are difficult to love and enjoy, especially as children. If you grew up having to eat fruits and vegetables out of obligation rather than real enjoyment, then you most likely still eat them that way.

How to love your veggies

Most of your intake of fruit might be in the form of juice and most of your vegetables might come in the form of french fries and tomatoes from ketchup and on pizza. This is great as tomatoes have vitamin A and C and contain lycopene. Potatoes are also rich in vitamin C. Keep eating them! And while you’re at it, add to your repertoire.

The best way to add more fruits and veggies to your diet is to enjoy them! A vegetable like spinach still counts as a vegetable if you add it to an omelette for breakfast. And you don’t have to have steamed or raw cauliflowers and broccoli with nothing on them — you can dress them up with butter or sauces and you get even more nutrients you need in one go while actually enjoying them.

You can have more fruit by eating canned or fresh fruits at the end of meals and adding raisins, craisins, and other dried fruits and nuts to your snacks — if you like them. Personally, I love most fruits and I feel like my meal is not done until I’ve had a fruit like an apple, or a pear, or a peach. And is there anything better than a cup of fresh strawberries with whipped cream on a hot summer afternoon? 😉

Okay, now my mouth is watering and I have to ask: what’s your favorite way to enjoy fruits and vegetables? Share in the comments below or email me at valentina@valiantnutrition.com 🙂

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