7+ FRUIT AND VEG A DAY? ON A LOW CARB DIET!?

Earlier this month a paper was published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reporting favourable improvements in markers of CVD and decreased total cause of mortality with increased consumption of fruit and vegetables.  We covered the article in a blog earlier this month here and assessed the strength of the research behind the original ‘5-a-day’ message. 

 

The paper demonstrated that an increasing fruit and vegetable intake was associated with decreased all cause, cancer and cardiovascular mortality with individuals consuming 7 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day exhibiting the lowest risk.  This has led to numerous recommendations to increase our fruit and veg guidelines from 5-a-day to 7-a-day. 

An increased fruit and veg intake may be beneficial from a public health perspective but what about for those individuals who are already conscientious about what they eat and in particular for individuals on a reduced or low carbohydrate diet?

With every additional portion of fruit and veg consumed there is an inevitable increase in total calorie and carbohydrate intake (providing the portion of fruit or veg isn’t replacing a less favourable option).  So how do these new guidelines fit in with a low-carb lifestyle?

Well, the good news is that there is a wide range of fruits that can easily be adopted into a low carb diet.  But the great news from the report is that they identified that the health benefits from consuming vegetables were greater than that of fruits and as we will show, virtually all above ground vegetables can be integrated to a low-carb diet plan.

So here is our quick guide to the best sources of fruits and vegetables to integrate into your low-carb diet plan.

 

FRUITS:

Fruits tend to be higher in sugar (fructose and glucose) than vegetables and unlike vegetables there is a much greater variation in sugar content across different types of fruit.  This means additional caution has to be taken to ensure that carbohydrate intake from fruit is managed whilst maximising the intake of important micronutrients and fibre.

SIMPLE TIP: To rate a fruits nutrient density the general rule of hand is to opt for deeply coloured fruits where you consume the whole fruit including the skin

 

TOP CHOICES

Low carb - Eat regularly

REASONABLE CHOICES

Moderate carb - Eat occasionally

POOR CHOICES

High carb - Best avoided

Berries

Avocado

Bananas

Lemons & Limes

Kiwi Fruit

Pears

Rhubarb

Oranges

Grapes

Melon

Pineapple

Fruit juices

Coconut

Tomato Juice

Dried fruit

 

VEGETABLES:

Virtually any vegetables that grow above the ground can be included into a low carb diet.  Those vegetables that grow below the ground (e.g. potatoes, carrots, parsnips) contain moderate to high amounts of starch and therefore are unlikely to feature regularly in a low-carb plan.  The fibre content of vegetables is one of their key features as both soluble and insoluble fibre are essential for optimal gastro-intestinal health, and if your gut is happy then the rest of your body and mind is likely to follow suit.

SIMPLE TIP: To rate a vegetables nutrient density the general rule of hand is to opt for dark green leaves first then stems and flowers

Because of the vast array of vegetables that can be eaten the main challenge is to consume a variety of vegetables to maximise your antioxidant exposure.

Our favourite choices are:

·         Green leafy veg (e.g. spinach, kale, bok choy, broccoli):  These nutrition powerhouses are packed with fibre and antioxidants and are very versatile; tasting great when raw in salads or wilted in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil.

·         Mushrooms: A good source of B vitamins that are essential in the breakdown of carbohydrates for energy.  Try cooking with different varieties of mushrooms for variations in flavour and texture.

·         Asparagus: Packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients which have been linked to decreasing cancer risk and maintaining mental health, we love them fried in a little coconut oil then served with poached eggs and smoked salmon on a lazy Sunday morning.

·         Cauliflower:  Plenty of Vitamin C and folate means a bowl of creamy cauliflower soup with flaked smoked mackerel makes a great lunchtime filler.

·         Tomatoes: Ok, so technically they are a fruit (seeds are contained inside the skin) but in most circumstances they are used as a vegetable.  We love their flexibility from firm cherry tomatoes in salads to plump roasted tomatoes with balsamic vinegar.

 

Vegetables best to be avoided due to their high starch (carbohydrate) content:

·         Root vegetables (e.g. potatoes, parsnips, beets)

·         Peas

·         Winter squashes (e.g. butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash)

·         Corn

 

To find out more on how to integrate fruit and vegetables into your low carbohydrate lifestyle then give us a call.

 

Richard Chessor

@RJC_Nutrition

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