Each different colour produce has its own unique set of vitamins, minerals and plant-based antioxidants so you need to mix things up.
Time for a reality check: most of us don’t eat enough fruit and vegies. Full stop.
You’ve heard it over and over again, ‘aim for two serves of fruit and five serves of veg a day’, but with only half of Aussies eating enough fruit and less than 10 per cent getting in sufficient veg, something has to be done.
You see, eating enough of these nutritional superstars comes with an abundance of health benefits. They’re a great source of fibre, which supports a healthy gut. They’re packed with a range of different vitamins and minerals to help your body function it’s best. They’re also high in disease-fighting antioxidants. Plus, eating plenty of them can help to protect you against some of our nation’s biggest killers like heart disease and cancer.
As a dietitian, I’d love for you to eat any type of fruit and veg you like – after all, why would I be picky when chances are you might not be eating enough in the first place. There are, however, benefits to eating particular types of fruit and veg at certain times of year.
Seasonal produce is my go-to
It’s readily available, affordable and helps keep things interesting throughout the year. That’s super important BTW, because each different colour fruit and veg has its own unique set of vitamins, minerals and plant-based antioxidants called ‘phytochemicals’.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Variety is key.
With that in mind, here are some of my favourite fruits and vegies to eat as the seasons change:
- Cherries – the quintessential sweet and juicy summertime dessert. Cherries are deep red in colour because they contain anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities.
- Green beans – a deliciously crunchy side for any protein. These beans are a source of non-haem iron (that is, iron that doesn’t come from an animal). For men, a serve of green beans actually provides almost 10 per cent of your recommended daily iron intake, and for women aged 19-50 it will provide about five per cent.
- Sweetcorn – the perfect addition to a summer BBQ. Corn is classified as a ‘healthy carb’. Following the healthy plate model, corn (along with other healthy carbs like sweet potato, brown rice or wholemeal pasta), should make up a quarter of your plate.
- Pomegranate – these pretty fruits add a beautiful pop of pink to your meals. I like using them in salads or even on avocado toast with low-fat feta for a hit of disease-fighting antioxidants.
- Kale – not convinced? The trick is to ‘massage’ it with a touch of extra virgin olive oil and a tiny bit of salt for a few minutes before serving. Like other leafy greens (and most other vegies, in fact!), kale is very low in energy, so it’s the perfect ingredient to bulk up your meal without going overboard on kilojoules.
- Pumpkin – roasted pumpkin, pumpkin soup, pumpkin mash… the list goes on. This flavoursome veg is a great source of vitamin A, which is essential for eye health.
- Apples – a yummy snack on its own or paired with a tablespoon of natural PB. Apples are brimming with fibre, with one serve of apple containing around 4 grams (FYI, for women you should have 25 grams per day, and for men that quota is increased to 30).
- Beetroot – a tasty addition to a salad when grated fresh or baked in balsamic vinegar. You might be interested to know that beetroot contains a compound that can help to lower blood pressure. Talk about a superfood!
- Cauliflower – my all-time favourite. Simply roast in extra virgin olive oil and voila! This tasty veg is packed with vitamin C. Just one serve and your daily needs are already met.
- Pineapple – does anything say ‘summer is coming’ more than this tropical fruit? I don’t think so! Pineapples contain bromelain, a compound that helps to tenderise meat and may also have anti-inflammatory effects.
- Asparagus – delicious roasted and added to a salad or eaten with hummus. A single serve provides around 20 per cent of your daily requirements for folate (or around 10 per cent if you’re pregnant). This nutrient is key for DNA synthesis and is especially important when planning a bub.
- Zucchini – spiralized, stir-fried or steamed, zucchinis are a light and tasty ingredient that works in so many meals. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which play a vital role in eye health.
So, there you have it! Some of my favourite fruit and veg for each season.
The bottom line
There is no such thing as the ‘best’ fruit and veg to eat, and any that you choose to add to your diet are great.
The ones I’ve listed aren’t miracle foods, either, and I don’t believe that any particular fruit and veg is healthier than another. These are just some of my favourites to give you a little inspo to add variety to your fruit bowl or vegie crisper as the seasons change.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.