We all know how important getting our five-a-day is for health and longevity. Fruit and vegetables are a gift from nature providing fructose for energy, as well as essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. When eaten at just the right time, they can also taste delicious. But can eating a plant-based diet of fruit and veg also help you to lose weight?
Fruit and veg for losing weight and longevity
While genetics and environment also play a part, lifestyle factors like our daily dietary choices greatly impact our health and future longevity. Dietary factors are though to cause 11 million global deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life years annually .
However, taking control of your health by eating an optimal diet of whole grains, legumes, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts can improve life expectancy by over 10 years! The earlier you start eating a balanced diet, the bigger its impact on health and longevity, so it is best to try eating healthily today.
The benefits of weight loss to longevity are well-documented, as being overweight or obese is associated with increased morbidity and mortality .
Fad diets have fallen out of favour in recent years and losing weight sustainably by combining a healthy diet with regular exercise has become popularised. The key to losing weight is essentially consuming fewer calories than your body uses, known as a calorie deficit. Upping your fruit and veg intake alongside regular meals, while good for health, can also increase your calorie intake.
An alternative way is to use fruit and veg as substitutes for other high-calorie ingredients in meals, as they contain fibre that helps you feel fuller for longer while using fewer calories. This can effectively prevent the feelings of hunger that accompany most other diet methods that often stop dieters from continuing.
With the growing popularity of vegetarianism and its variations like veganism, pescatarianism and flexitarianism, increasingly more people are converting for the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Indeed, diets rich in fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases .
Including more fruit and veg, alongside wholegrains, lean meat, nuts and beans is a safe and sustainable method for losing weight .
Ideally, fruit and vegetables should take up the largest slice of the pie chart of your dinner plate, replacing meat, cheese and simple carbohydrates. This provides vitamins and minerals and reduces the total calories and fat without limiting the amount of food you can eat.
Once the enemy of calorie counters, complex carbohydrates like wholegrain bread, pasta and rice are essential to a balanced meal, providing energy and keeping you full. Unlike simple carbohydrates like white bread and pasta that contain refined sugars with no nutritional value, complex carbohydrates contain a perfect portion of vitamins, minerals and fibre and should be included in a balanced diet even for losing weight.
Getting your five-a-day
Luckily, the fruit and veg available in supermarkets is as diverse as the planet is, offering endless edible combinations for losing weight. Try eating locally and seasonally to get the best tasting produce, or use tinned and frozen for a taste from another country.
Experiment with different cooking styles, for example eating raw fruit maintains its natural sweetness, while steaming vegetables with herbs and spices gives added flavour. Some ways of cooking vegetables, like breading or deep-frying, can exponentially increase the calorie and fat content, undoing any weight loss benefits.
Equally, while canned and frozen fruits can be enjoyed as a healthy alternative to normally high-calorie, high-fat and high-sugar desserts, avoid those with added sugar or syrup. Generally, the more processed food is, the less healthy it is. Eat whole fruit over dried fruit, as this allows you to eat a larger portion for less sugar and calories. The same goes for fruit juice and drinks that, while marketed as health foods, lose the fibre from whole fruits during the juicing process .
Like most things in life, the key to healthy weight loss using fruit and vegetables is balance. An ideal day of eating for weight loss could include:
- Breakfast: Start the day off with slow-release energy from a serving of porridge, low-sugar cereal or natural Greek yoghurt topped with berries and chopped nuts.
- Lunch: Categorised as a fruit with its large stone seed, avocados on a slice of wholegrain toast topped with an egg can make for a luxurious breakfast using only healthy fats.
- Dinner: Experiment with cooking from scratch by making wholegrain pasta with a homemade vegetable sauce. Finish the day on a sweet note with a bowl of your favourite chopped seasonal or tinned fruit for dessert.
- Snacking throughout the day on chopped fruit and veg can help keep you full as well as replacing the need to nibble on diet-destroying chocolate bars, crisps and salty snacks throughout the day.