Five a day

More Good News on Fruit and Veg

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Most members of WLR will know the importance of eating fruit and veg when it comes to shifting those excess pounds and staying in great health. But this month, the medical press has been packed with even more stories about the health benefits of getting 5-a-day.

First up, researchers from the University of Massachusetts reported that apples might help to protect brain cells against damage that can lead to memory loss and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Mice consuming the human equivalent of two to three glasses of apple juice or two to four apples a day performed best in memory tests compared to mice that didn’t eat apples or had smaller amounts.

Professor Shea, who led the research, said, “This new study suggests that eating and drinking apples and apple juice, in conjunction with a balanced diet, can protect the brain from the effects of oxidative stress – and that we should eat such antioxidant-rich foods.”

In other words, the antioxidants in apples and its juice may prevent damage to the brain cells so that people stay more mentally alert in old age.

Next up, scientists revealed they might finally have discovered a reason to explain why green veg like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts seem to prevent cancer. Reporting their findings in the British Journal of Cancer, the researchers say they’ve found a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) in these veggies.

This compound has been found to boost levels of essential repair proteins in the body, which stop damaged genetic information – like cancer – from being passed on to the next generation of healthy cells. As low levels of these repair proteins are found in cancer cells, the scientists suggest that boosting levels could stop cancer from developing – the perfect reason for serving extra broccoli with dinner or adding a handful of crunchy spring greens to a stir fry.

Grapefruit has also taken centre stage in the medical press, following a new study from Israel that found people eating the equivalent of one grapefruit a day had lower cholesterol levels than those who didn’t eat this fruit. Interestingly, both red and white grapefruit lowered cholesterol, but red grapefruit also lowered levels of triglycerides, a type of blood fat that’s linked to heart problems.

Professor Gorinstein, who was involved in the study said, “It’s likely that antioxidants in grapefruit are responsible for their health benefits. But it’s also possible that red grapefruit may contain unknown chemicals that are responsible for the triglyceride-lowering effect.”

However, if you are taking any medicines, before filling up on grapefruit juice, check with your GP as it can interact with a number of medications, potentially causing serious side effects (see The Grapefruit Diet).

Finally, while 5-a-day is good, six or more fruit and veg a day could be even better when it comes to reducing the risk of stroke.

Researchers from the University of London analysed data from eight studies across Europe, Japan and America and found that those people who ate three to five portions of fruit and veg every day reduced their risk of stroke by 11%, but those who ate more than five servings daily reduced their risk by up to 26%.

The researchers believe it’s the high levels of potassium, folate, fibre and antioxidants in fruit and veg that boost health. Professor MacGregor, a co-author of the study published in medical journal The Lancet, believes this study shows that people should really be eating more than five servings of fruit and veg every day.

WLR says:

Every month, new evidence comes to light revealing the importance of eating more fruit and veg for good health. If you’re not yet eating five-a-day, make it your mission to achieve this – and if you’re already hitting five, don’t be afraid to eat more.

As well as the many health benefits, most fruit and veg are low in calories and fat, making them perfect for slimmers. Plus they’re usually packed with fibre, which can help fill you up. And all those extra vitamins and minerals will keep skin, hair and nails in tip top shape so that you not only feel good – but also look good!

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