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Diet blog: Veggie Might

Judith Wills / 12 February 2019

There’s one bit of diet advice that never falters, never changes: eat your veg.

Green veg

I’m beginning to feel a little bit isolated and very slightly crazy for feeling sad that the Brussels sprout season is drawing to a close.  I love them!  Especially when blanched for a minute or two then stir-fried in some extra virgin rapeseed oil – gorgeous!  I also love red cabbage, braised with some white wine vinegar, onion, a tad of sugar and some chopped apple.  Roast cauliflower is a delight, and as for spinach with a bit of butter and some grated nutmeg on top … well, stop me now. And I’m sure you will. My tastebuds have been bad-mouthed for aeons by my spouse.

Vegetables are one of my few good habits.  It has been known for many years – and, unlike most other healthy eating trends, has not been overridden by newer research – that eating plenty of vegetables, particularly greens, is crucial if we want to avoid the major diseases of today, and is a more-or -ess vital element of a successful slimming diet.

And the vegetable-positive research continues. For instance, a very large review (of more than 200 studies) commissioned by the World Health Organisation has found that diets high in plant fibres can cut the risk of early death by a massive 25%.  And new UK research appears to show that eating greens can even help us to feel happier.

We’ve also been told, just a few days ago in a large study of people over the age of 45, that eating too many highly-processed foods and meals (most of which contain little in the way of fresh vegetables or fibre) achieves almost exactly the opposite – a much higher risk of early death.  

As I’m sure almost all of us know by now, the DoH advice is that we should eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, and around half of these should be vegetables, which contain less sugar than fruit, generally more fibre and offer a range of vitamins, minerals and health-giving plant chemicals hard to come by elsewhere. But despite this message having been pushed since 2003, the latest research found that only a third of UK adults meet the targets!

Yes, of course, I can see why many people choose to ignore the advice. Low-veggie fast food, ready meals and takeways fit in too well with the late teen years of the 21st century which have come to be as busy for us slightly older people as they are for anyone else, with our hectic, top-speed lives and barely time to draw breath all day long.  Fast foods can also be tempting if you live alone or just feel too knackered to cook. 

And if you do want fresh fruit or veg – you will, if you are like most people, choose an item which needs no or minimal prep/cooking. One major UK supermarket has produced a ‘top ten’ list of which fruits/vegetables sold best during 2018 in its stores, and here’s the list, in order:  Bananas, red grapes, strawberries, clementines, cucumbers, raspberries, blueberries, apples, potatoes, green grapes.  Only two vegetables in the top ten – neither of which are green (you can’t count cucumber, which is, compared with most other non-root plant foods, pretty low in nutrients and 96% water!) and one of which doesn’t even count towards your ‘five a day’ – potatoes. 

I’m not saying ‘don’t eat fruit’, not at all; each one on the top ten list has its own much-researched health benefits – but how sad that 80% of the plant foods we buy most often are not veggies.  Not even a carrot in sight, never mind a cabbage – or a sprout. 

So if you want to lose a bit of weight and/or feel great, just remember this – studies have shown that people who regularly eat a lot of vegetables (e.g. vegans) tend to be slimmer than people who don’t, and that a high vegetable diet is an easy way to lose weight compared with most other slimming methods.

No, you don’t have to drink kale smoothies or eat raw spiralised courgettes. With the recent rise in popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets, it’s so easy to find thousands of quick and easy recipes incorporating all kinds of veggies.  So why not give it a go? 


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.