Making veg the star!
We all know that veg are good for us, but we sometimes forget why! And few people eat enough. So here’s a quick reminder of why they’re so important. Potentially more important than fruit even!
It’s obviously important to get a balance of healthy fats, protein, carbs and fibre. And most veg don’t contain much protein, and hardly any fat. But they’re a great source of carbs and fibre.
We talk more about carbs (especially sugar) here, but to cut to the chase, they’re an absolutely critical part of our diet. Although refined / processed carbs can be very bad (see our post on whole foods for why), unrefined ones are great. Which is mainly because they’re the body’s preferred source of energy.
Compared to protein and carbs in particular, you rarely hear much about fibre. And that’s maybe why it’s the only macronutrient we don’t eat enough of.
It’s been linked with a whole host of health benefits though. Such as a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. See this post for more details.
So increasing our intake is an easy way of improving our diets and health. And veg are a great, varied source of it.
Veg are perhaps best known as being packed with vitamins and minerals. But they also contain a whole host of other micronutrients, collectively known as phytochemicals.
– Vitamins and minerals
There’s a wide variety of veg containing a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. But let’s take carrots as an example of how great any one type of veg can be:
they’re apparently nature’s richest source of vitamin A, which aids vision and the immune system, and keeps the skin healthy 
they’re also a particularly good source of vitamins C, K, and B6 (so that’s 4 of the essential 13)
and they’re also a source of the mineral potassium, which lowers blood pressure
Although not exotic or expensive, they really are a superfood!
So there are 13 essential vitamins overall, and you can get most of them from veg alone. But there are thousands of other phytochemicals too.
– Other phytochemicals
Phytochemicals are any chemicals of plant origin (so they include most vitamins).
They’re broken down into large categories such as carotenoids and polyphenols, and then again into different layers of sub-categories. Polyphenols are further broken down into categories like phenolic acids and flavonoids, for instance. And those categories can be broken down further too.
As noted above, there are thousands of phytochemicals in total. And within any one type of veg the non-vitamin ones typically outnumber the vitamins considerably. Carrots contain at least 64, for instance.
Even though they’re not all classed as “essential”, like vitamins, there’s lots of evidence to suggest that most are still very beneficial.
Most people know that some vitamins are anti-oxidants, for instance, which help to fight chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer . But a lot of other phytochemicals are too. They also have anti-flammatory, anti-cancer and other beneficial properties.
For instance the the sulforaphane found mainly in cruciferous veg like broccoli:
is a particularly promising anti-cancer agent 
and may also help to protect both the brain 
and our eyesight , amongst other things
Greens are generally seen as particularly healthy, but different types of veg typically have different phytochemicals. And they each have their own benefits:
mushrooms have nine times as much of the unique antioxidant ergothioneine (which can slow down DNA damage) as anything else for instance
and tomatoes have significantly more of the particularly powerful antioxidant lycopene than any other veg
Quantity alone can be important (higher veg consumption may cut the odds of developing depression by as much as 62%, for instance ).
“higher veg consumption may cut the odds of developing depression by as much as 62%”
But it’s nevertheless important to eat as wide a variety as possible.
Indeed, variety of intake has been shown to be more important than quantity for combating inflammation  and lung cancer .
How much veg should we eat?
Alongside fruit, veg are so good for us that we’re advised to eat at least five portions a day.
Australians are advised to eat five portions of veg plus two of fruit, and some say it should be as high as ten overall.
And this shouldn’t be a surprise…
What might happen if we don’t eat enough?
The Department of Health thinks that eating more fruit and veg is the second most important cancer prevention strategy after reducing smoking, for example .
And the failure to eat enough is likely to be a contributing factor to rising levels of obesity and diabetes, and other chronic diseases .
Green veg are linked with up to about a 20% reduction in heart attacks for each daily serving, for instance.
Are veg and fruit as good as each other?
Veg are typically grouped with fruit, but they might be healthier:
studies suggest that each daily portion of veg reduces the overall risk of death by 16%, compared to just 4% for each portion of fruit 
whereas vegetable consumption is significantly associated with reduced cardiovascular disease and death from cancer, fruit consumption isn’t 
because veg score higher on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index and contain fewer calories and more fibre than fruit, researchers at Stanford University (and elsewhere) believe that health messages should intentionally put veg ahead of fruit to promote intake and emphasize their importance 
“health messages should intentionally put veg ahead of fruit to promote intake and emphasize their importance”
Veg are apparently a lot more sustainable than fruit too, requiring just 322 cubic metres of water per tonne versus 962 .
Why don’t we eat enough?
Despite their benefits, and the wide variety of options, most people don’t eat five portions of fruit and veg a day.
Only 29% of UK adults do, for instance, and only 8% of 11-18 year olds .
“Only 29% of UK adults eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, and only 8% of 11-18 year olds”
Are they too expensive?
Healthy food is often seen as expensive, but that’s not really the case for most things. A kilo of carrots typically costs much less than a kilo of own-brand frozen chips, for instance.
The problem is that less healthy food is often more convenient or enticing. It’s more widely available, easier to prepare or just tastier.
And veg are typically less convenient to eat than fruit. It’s easy to grab an apple to eat on the go without much mess, but you can’t say the same about most veg!
And whereas the higher sugar in fruit makes it naturally enticing to a lot of people, veg often needs additional flavouring such as herbs and spices to tempt the taste buds.
It was the lack of convenient and tasty veg-based snacks that prompted us to develop vedge bars.
Packing as much veg as possible into a tasty, convenient bar, they help you snack well and feel fantastic.
Available in a variety of both familiar and ground-breaking flavours, there’s one for every time, place and taste – find out for yourself by trying the range today.
Whilst some are similar to fruit based bars flavour-wise, they’re all lower in sugar and higher in fibre.
Each bar is also at least 1 of your 5 a day.
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p.s. we love fruit too, but just think it’s about time that we made veg the star!