Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is an easy way to improve your health and prevent many diet-related diseases. Around a third of the food you eat every day should be made up of fruits and vegetables. In fact, the United Nations General Assembly has named 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (#IYFV2021) in recognition of the important role fruits and vegetables play in human health and food security.
Eating seasonally is a great way of getting the most out of fruits and vegetables. Their flavour is at its best and their nutrient content is at its highest when just harvested and before they are stored for long periods. Fruits and vegetables are cheapest when they are in season and you don’t have to pay a premium for food imported from distant countries. Seasonal UK produce has minimal food miles and reduces the energy and CO2 emissions needed to grow and transport the food we import. You will also be supporting your local economy by buying from local farmers and producers.
The 1st of March is the official start of Spring and there are several vegetables that are in season in the UK this month:
- Purple sprouting broccoli is at the start of its season
- Cabbages and onions are in season but are available most of the year
- Cauliflower and celeriac still have a month or two left of their season
- Brussels sprouts, chicory, kale, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and parsnips are coming to the end of their season
We rely on importing most of our fruit at this time of year, but we are in the middle of the UK rhubarb season and there are still stored apples available, particularly our famous Bramley cooking apples.
The World Health Organisation recommends that we consume at least 400g of fruits and vegetables a day (excluding potatoes and other starchy root vegetables) to prevent obesity, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, as well as preventing several vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
A portion of fruits or vegetables weighs 80g and is about a handful. So that’s:
- One whole large fruit like an apple, banana, or orange
- Two smaller fruits like kiwifruit or satsumas
- Three tablespoons of peas, sweetcorn, or stewed fruit
Five 80g portions add up to the 400g a day recommended by the World Health Organisation. This is where the UK’s 5-a-day message for fruits and vegetables comes from. You can make up your 5-a-day from fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or juiced fruits and vegetables. However, nutritionists recommend you eat more vegetables than fruits and only one of your portions should come from juice, which should be unsweetened. This is because juicing fruits and vegetables removes a lot of their fibre. Starchy root vegetables like potatoes don’t count towards your 5-a-day because of their high starch content and the fact that they are usually cooked in unhealthy ways such as chips or crisps cooked in oil.
The nutrition team at UCO will be bringing you healthy tips on how to cook seasonal fruits and vegetables throughout each month. There are also some great tips on how to achieve your 5-a-day from the NHS and the British Nutrition Foundation.
Trevor is Course Leader for BSc (Hons) Nutrition with Professional Practice. He is a Registered Nutritionist specialising in Nutrition Science.
When he is not at the UCO, Trevor is a qualified yoga teacher accredited by Yoga Alliance Professionals UK and spends time cultivating his edible garden in Surrey, where he grows over 100 types of edible plants throughout the year.
The BSc (Hons) Nutrition with Professional Practice course at UCO teaches students about the different nutrients in fruits and vegetables, how these improve health and prevent disease, and what factors affect the food quality of fresh and processed produce. Practical classes explore ways to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in recipes, menus, and food products to improve their nutrient content. Students also learn psychological tools and communication skills to help their clients achieve their health goals, such as meeting the 5-a-day recommendations or using fruits and vegetables to help maintain a healthy bodyweight.