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There is little doubt that vegetables are the backbone of a healthy diet, but questions remain about the importance of quantity and variety. According to one dietician, a higher variety of vegetables and fruits is essential for living a long life. In order to enhance gut health, immunity and mood, the expert recommends eating at least 30 different plant foods per week.
Dietitian Helen Bond says a healthy diet is one of the “best weapons” we have to fight disease and add years to a person’s life.
The golden rule, according to the expert, is incorporating as many as 30 different plant-based foods into your diet every week.
It is equally important to limit the intake of salt, monitor saturated fat intake, and stay within the recommended alcohol limit, the expert pointed out.
This advice is in line with general nutritional guidelines, but a great portion of the dietary advice in our modern is conflicting.
Helen, based in Melbourne, Derbyshire, said: “There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about what we should and should eat to look after our health.
“But one thing most people agree on is that eating more plant-based foods is good for our health.
“Research shows that people who closely follow diets that include a lot of plants, such as the Mediterranean diet, are less likely to develop health problems later on in life, like cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
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The advice is commonsensical, given that plant-based foods are abundant in antioxidants that can fend off oxidative stress; one of the most significant precursors for disease.
Helen noted: “Plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, provide a valuable mix of vitamins, minerals, soluble fibre and beneficial plant compounds.
“They all work together to keep our bodies healthy – we should ideally be eating 43 plus different plant-based foods a week.”
The expert also noted that the current weekly fish intake of the general population falls short of the recommended amount.
“Whether white or oily, fish is a great source of protein and provide an array of different vitamins such as vitamins A and D, and minerals like calcium, zinc, iron, and iodine, which many of us aren’t getting enough of,” explained Helen.
“Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, pilchards, or sardines are also packed with long-chain polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 fats, which help the heart to work normally and maintain normal blood pressure.”
The next key component of a healthy diet is soluble fibre, which is paramount for the prevention of cardiovascular complications like heart attack and stroke.
Once ingested, fibre latches onto cholesterol molecules circulating in the blood and drags them out of the digestive tract before they have a chance to latch onto the arterial walls.
“We need to be eating more wholegrain or higher fibre varieties, such as brown rice, oats wholewheat pasta and wholemeal bread,” noted Helen.
“It’s also good to try your hand at some of the less familiar whole grains available such as quinoa, whole barley, bulgur (cracked) wheat.”
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