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01.07.2015

WHY WE NEED TO CONSUME ENOUGH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

A national study entitled “Health Related Behaviour” found that only 23% of the Slovenian adult population has healthy to predominantly healthy eating habits. Other different studies have shown that the eating habits of most Slovenians are not healthy.

Typically, the basic energy value of an individual meal is already too high, and we consume too many total fats, which include too many saturated fats, and these importantly contribute to a higher incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Our diets do not consist of enough fruit and, above all, not enough vegetables and dietary fibres; the latter help guard the organism against the occurrence of chronic diseases. Another worrying finding is that persons between the ages of 25 and 49 are especially at risk of health issues arising from unhealthy diets.

It has long been established that fruits and vegetables are a key to a healthy diet. However, do we know why sufficient intake of these gifts from nature is really important? And finally, how much fruit and vegetables should we be consuming each day to satisfy the needs of our organism?

Chronic diseases are an important health-care problem. They include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, metabolic diseases and respiratory diseases. Poor eating habits are closely linked to the occurrence of such health problems, while on the other hand – healthy eating habits can importantly contribute to health protection and strengthening. Data shows that 41% of occurring modern diseases are closely related to poor eating habits, especially to the insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables. World Health Organisation data also shows that 40% of cancers may be prevented with a suitable lifestyle, which includes: moderate alcohol consumption, diet with enough fruit and vegetables, suitable physical activity and maintaining suitable body weight.

General dietary recommendations state that an adult should eat five units of fruit and vegetables every day (one unit weighs 80 grams). According to recommendations issued by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), each meal should consist of half a plate of fruit and vegetables.

It is important to stress that apart from a suitable quantity, diverse fruits and vegetables must be consumed. This way we can consume an adequately diverse set of substances, important for our health. The selection of fruits and vegetables should be as colourful as possible. Colour is usually connected with active substances. It is also recommended that most fruits and vegetables are consumed fresh, however when this option is not available, we can use frozen or preserved foods, which preserve many healthy substances.

Including fruits and vegetables in our diet is also useful because of their low caloric value –they help maintain suitable body weight. They also contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is these substances that are nowadays put to the forefront, as it has been determined that fruit and vegetables contain hundreds of substances which have an antioxidantive effect, protect our bodies from free-radical injuries and inflammatory processes, and also lower the chance of many modern diseases. Vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables have an important role in the correct operation and maintenance of the immune system, and in the restoration and working of the organism. Another important fact that should be mentioned is that fruit and vegetables are rich in dietary fibres which help improve the metabolism, lower high values of total blood cholesterol and due to their structure enable a slower and more gradual release of sugars from food into the blood, thus decreasing the chance for type 2 diabetes.

All these benefits that fruits and vegetables bring to our health really dispel any reasons as to why we should not include them in our daily diets!

Lea Lukšič

SOURCES:
Gabrijelčič Blenkuš M., Gregorič M., Tivadar B., Koch V., Kostanjevec S., Fajdiga Turk V., Žalar A., Lavtar D., Kuhar D., Rozman U. 2009. Prehrambene navade odraslih prebivalcev Slovenije z vidika varovanja zdravja. (The eating habits of the adult population of Slovenia from the viewpoint of maintaining health) Inštitut za varovanje zdravja Republike Slovenije, 183 str. Institute for the Protection of Health of the Republic of Slovenia, 183 pages
Hunter K. J., Fletcher J. M. 2002. The antioxidant activity and composition of fresh, frozen, jarred and
canned vegetables. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 3: 399–406
Aldwairji M. A., Chu J., Burley V. J., Orfila C. 2014. Analysis of dietary fibre of boiled and canned legumes commonly consumed in the United Kingdom. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 36: 111–116
Lukšič L. 2012. Antioksidativni potencial otrobov pire, navadne in tatarske ajde. (The antioxidant potential of bran paste, common and Tatar buckwheat.) Acta agriculturae Slovenica, 101: 167 – 177
Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-lisa-young/healthy-food_b_1665279.html
Website: http://www.nutris.org/prehrana/abc-prehrane/splosno/94-smernice-zdrave-prehrane.html

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