Did you know that fifty percent of men in England eat less than 3 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Eating more fruits and vegetables, alongside maintaining a healthy lifestyle, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancer, to name a few major health concerns.
Dr. Naomi Newman-Beinart is a nutritionist (BSc) and specialist in health psychology (PhD) and she explains why finding ways to get more fruits and vegetables into men’s daily diets is essential for maintaining good health and wellbeing.
Dr. Naomi says, “A lack of fruits and vegetables in many men’s diets means that they are not getting enough of the essential nutrients, including vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, required to keep in top form, either mentally or physically, and this can lead to health complications later in life”.
Here are five top men’s wellbeing needs that can be helped by eating more fruit and veg:
Good Digestive Health
Fruits and vegetables are vital to keep your digestive system running smoothly – literally – fruits and veg contain lots of natural fibre which is a winning formula to ensure we avoid constipation and support a healthy digestive system. High fibre fruits and veg to enjoy include bananas, strawberries, oranges, artichokes and broccoli.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the top causes of death for men in the UK. Experts say that many cases of premature death from heart disease are preventable – so what better reason can there be to up your fruit and veg game?! Until recently, it’s been unclear which fruit and veg may be preferable to reduce the risk of heart disease. But last year, researchers in the US combined the results of many studies in this area and found that citrus and apples were the top fruits that showed the greatest benefits. Also, allium vegetables (e.g. garlic, onions and leeks), carrots, cruciferous and green leafy veg were the most beneficial vegetables to include in your diet with regards to heart health (2).
We don’t really think about our joints until they start to hurt, and only then do we realise that we should have been thinking about them before now! I always say that prevention is the best medicine and it’s never too early to take care of your joints. It’s hard to pick out specific fruit and veg that might aid in prevention of joint problems. Foods containing polyphenols, micronutrients that occur naturally in many plant foods, are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and have pain-relieving effects for people with arthritic joint problems (3). Fruits including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and pomegranates, were all found to reduce pain and inflammation of the joints.
Over the past 15 years or so, there has been a heap of scientific research showing that two specific carotenoids are essential for eye health. These are lutein and zeaxanthin and these remarkable nutrients are found in the part of the retina that protect your eyes from blue light (from your tablet, smartphone and laptop) and fight free radicals that could otherwise damage your eyes. Many fruits and vegetables contain lutein and zeaxanthin, including carrots, peppers, kiwi fruit, oranges and green, leafy vegetables. Researchers have analysed the amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin in different fruit and veg and concluded that a variety of different coloured fruit and veg is best to support optimal eye health (4).
If you ask anyone why it’s important to eat more fruit and veg, they are likely to focus on the physical health benefits and prevention of physical illnesses. But fruit and veg is not only important for physical health but is essential for mental wellbeing too. Recently, researchers studied the effects of fruit and vegetable intake on numerous aspects of mental wellbeing (5). They found that people who ate more fruit and veg were more likely to be optimistic and less likely to struggle with low mood and depression. My recommendation is to always try and eat a rainbow of fruit and veg throughout your week. That way you will get the benefits of a variety of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that you need to support your mental health.
It’s pretty clear that eating more fruits and vegetables can boost men’s health, from mental wellbeing to physical health benefits. But, as a nutritionist working with patients, I often find men tell me that they haven’t got enough time to eat enough fruit and veg or it just gets left in the fridge and goes mouldy. Don’t let the idea of upping your fruit and veg stress you out.
Here are 5 man-friendly, simple ways to boost your fruit and veg intake:
1. Don’t overlook frozen fruit and veg as something easy to have in the freezer anytime you need it.
2. If you’re not one to have much fruit and veg at home, then a really simple and quick way to improve your diet is to have FOGA’s delicious freeze-dried instant fruit and veg Plantshakes. Bring a sachet out with you and shake up your preferred flavour with water. The great thing about FOGA’s shakes is that you don’t need a blender – you can use any bottle and just shake and go! You will then have a perfect smoothie that tastes exactly the same as if you’d used fresh fruit in a blender. FOGA’s Plantshakes contain freeze-dried fruit, which retains higher levels of nutrients than fruit and veg bought at the supermarkets – and they provide you with the equivalent of 160g of fresh fruit and veg, which is 2 of your 5 a day!
3. Either do some prep in advance if you can, or buy ready chopped veg as an easy option to add to stir-fries and curries – as long as your eating it, that is the main thing.
4. Pack fruit and veg snacks for when you’re on the go, rather than buying it while you’re out. If you have it with you, you are more likely to eat it as soon as you’re peckish.
5. Eat more soups! Soup is a great way to get more veg in your diet and most soups will contain at least 2 portions of vegetables in one serving. Soup is a clear winner for a starter when you’re out for lunch or dinner.
About the expert
Dr Naomi Newman-Beinart (PhD) is a Nutritionist and Specialist in Health Psychology. Dr Naomi is working on behalf of FOGA, whose delicious freeze-dried instant fruit and veg Plantshakes provide the equivalent of 160g of fresh fruit and veg, which is 2 of your 5 a day, plus by freeze-drying, they retain higher levels of nutrients than fruit and veg bought at the supermarkets.
- HSCIC Health Survey, 2019. http://healthsurvey.hscic.gov.uk/data-visualisation/data-visualisation/explore-the-trends/fruit-vegetables.aspx