Science insists we eat more plant food

By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach

I was really encouraged the other day to read an article on how diet and health trends have shifted over the past 30 years. In the article, published in SBS food by author Nicola Heath two eminent nutritionists, Clare Collins and Catherine Saxelby were interviewed on how they thought trends in health and nutrition have changed since the 80's.

Being a bit of a veteran myself, I was interested in how their views differed from mine and I am happy to say not much at all.

The snapshot of it was:

  • Because its everywhere, people eat a lot more crap - let's call it ultra-processed food - and portion sizes are huge.
  • Access to information on what is healthy is widely available, which is good, but there's also pseudo experts out there spreading fake news about nutrition.
  • There is much more information on probiotics and gut microbiome, including pre and pro biotic foods which keep the gut healthy.
  • Gut health is strongly associated with mental wellbeing and a healthy gut appears to be associated with reduced anxiety and depression.
  • Scientists today have a much greater understanding about the importance of phytonutrients.

    Phytochemicals are plant chemicals found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans and they contribute to the foods' taste, colour and smell. It is estimated that there are more than 5,000 + phytochemicals and although we have a lot more to learn, here is what we know about some.
  • Carotenoids in red, orange, yellow, and green plants (cooked tomatoes, carrots, squash, and broccoli) may inhibit cancer growth and cardiovascular disease, and boost immunity.
  • Flavonoids in berries, apples, citrus, onions, soybeans, and coffee may fight inflammation and tumour growth.
  • Anthocyanins in berries and red wine are associated with lower blood pressure.
  • Resveratrol in red wine, grapes, dark chocolate, and peanuts is associated with longevity in some animals.
  • Proanthocyanidins and flavanols in grapes, apples, cocoa, and red wine are linked to better function of the lining of the arteries and reduced blood pressure.
  • Sulfides and thiols in onions, garlic, leeks, olives, and scallions may help decrease "bad" LDL cholesterol.
  • Isothiocyanates (sulforaphane) in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale may help protect us against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Quercetin in apples, onions, and citrus fruits may help decrease inflammation and blood pressure.
  • Terpenes in cherries and citrus fruits may help slow cancer cell growth and fight viruses.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin in dark, leafy greens are linked to eye health.

    ( Information Source: Harvard Health - Fill up on phytochemicals)

    Most plant foods contain dozens of phytochemicals so eating a diet with many colours and varieties of plant foods is the key to good health.

    If we go back to gut health and prebiotic foods, we now know that natural prebiotics are found in almost all high-fibre foods but especially in onions, garlic, legumes, asparagus, and whole grains, particularly rye. They are the indigestible components of food which provide food for the gut bacteria and promote colonisation or a healthy gut.
    We have known for more than 30 years that a high fibre diet aids digestion, keeps the bowel healthy and reduces the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer.

    We now know that a healthy gut depends on indigestible (fibre) to enhance immune function, reduce inflammation and symptoms of IBS.
    And we have a greater appreciation about the link between a healthy gut and mental health.

    There is one common denominator in all of this and that is plant food


    Not to exclude meat and fish and poultry.
    Not to eliminate dairy foods
    But as the mainstay of every meal you eat.

    So please, eat a minimum of 7 - 9 serves of plant food in the form of fresh vegetables and fruit, include wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
    There is too much evidence for you not to

    Click here for the full SBS article


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