Fruit and vegetables are essential parts of our diet and ensuring that you and your family get their 'five a day' is crucial for good health. Both contain vitamins and minerals which are known to improve our immune system and some also contain vital antioxidants which medical experts believe reduce the risks from a range of illnesses including some cancers. Both fruit and veg should be as fresh as possible in order to get the most of the benefits available from them; both can lose some of their nutrients and minerals if not sourced freshly and consumed quickly.
What and When
Five a day means five portions of fruit or veg; one portion is classed as medium sized piece of fruit – an apple or banana for example, while a serving of vegetables should be about eighty grams, if it's to count as a portion. Ideally you should eat one portion of fruit or veg as part of each meal. A piece of fruit with breakfast, a handful of dried fruit as elevenses, salad with lunch, a serving of vegetables with your main meal and another portion of fruit as dessert. It sounds simple but sometimes it's easy to overlook – especially when you've run out of the freshest of fruit and veg!
Cooking (or not) methods
Vegetables and fruit will lose some of their nutrients and vitamins when cooked. It's also worth remembering that many of the important vitamins are contained close to the surface, just under the skin. Avoid peeling fruit and vegetables to ensure that you get the maximum benefit from them. Cooking methods range from boiling, steaming, microwaving and roasting. Boiling removes a number of the vitamins in vegetables so it's not recommended; however if you do boil vegetables, keep the water and add it to a gravy or a stock. This means that some of the vitamins are recycled back into your food! Steaming and microwaving are excellent ways to get the most out of your veg and also both methods retain the flavour better than with boiling. There's also no harm, on occasion, in eating vegetables raw!
One of the most popular places to buy most things is, of course, the supermarket. However, as fruit baskets and vegetable stocks should be as fresh as possible this is not always ideal. The rise of the internet, along with organic fruit baskets or veg box delivery, has meant that a reliable stream of fresh veggies can be delivered to your door. If this sounds a bit expensive (and some services are quite pricey) check out other options in your area. If you still have a local milk delivery service you may find that they also do fruit basket and veg box delivery. These deliveries are daily (or as often as you need) and also first thing in the morning, which means you don't have to wait around. In addition, even for small orders the local dairy will not normally charge delivery as they work to regular rounds. Believe it, or not, they also deliver milk and other dairy products – also essential for a healthy diet!