Scientists at the 2010 Experimental Biology Conference in Anaheim, California, have refined dietary advice about eating fruit and vegetables.
It has been known for some time that plant foods containing certain phytonutrient chemicals can help protect the heart and arteries and also help prevent the development of certain cancers. However, the US researchers say that it’s not the case that any old fruit and veg will do and we may be buying and eating the ‘wrong’ ones.
Scientists worked with data gleaned from US surveys of people’s eating habits to find out what sources of phytonutrients were most popularly bought and consumed and what the effects on health were. They discovered that for 10 of the 14 phytonutrients studied, a single food type was contributing two-thirds or more of an individual’s phytonutrient intake. The most common sources for 5 important phytonutrients were carrots (supplying beta-carotene), oranges or orange juice (supplying beta-cryptoxanthin), spinach (supplying lutein/zeaxanthin), strawberries (supplying ellagic acid) and mustard (supplying isothiocyanates).
It is argued though that for each one of these crucial phytonutrients a better fruit or vegetable source is available.
The better options are: sweet potatoes, which provide almost double the beta-carotene given by carrots; papaya, which offers 15 times more beta-cryptoxanthin than oranges; kale, giving 3 times more lutein/zeaxanthin than spinach; raspberries, which contain more than three times the ellagic acid contained in strawberries; and watercress which offers more isothiocyanate than mustard without the salt content.
Whether or not you’re inclined to study the list and note the phytonutrients provided the key message is to eat more sweet potatoes, papaya,kale, raspberries and watercress.
It’s possible though that many Americans while finding carrots and spinach easy enough to use in recipes would struggle a bit with sweet potatoes and kale. Raspberries and papaya though, are fairly easy to get hold of and eat when in season though the price may sometimes by discouraging. Watercress can also be a bit pricey but it’s easy to add to salads or make into soup.
If the scientists are to be believed then we should all be looking out for recipes using sweet potatoes and kale or just adding them to meals as a side dish. We should also be adding watercress to salads in summer as well as making fruit salads with raspberries or papayas.
The only trouble is – as we all know by now – the next bit of dietary/nutritional advice we get from health experts may tell us we should be ditching the sweet potatoes, papayas and watercress for turnips, mangoes and lettuce…