One in 20 Brits hasn’t eaten a single green vegetable in a month, with 68% of us going longer than a week at a time between portions.
Meanwhile, half of all British parents have given up trying to get their kids to eat the recommended five a day, reveal studies.
But overlooking veg means missing out on a powerhouse of nutrition.
“A huge body of scientific evidence suggests that a diet rich in vegetables helps protect against a whole textbook of diseases, including cancer and heart disease, along with degenerative diseases like cataracts and Alzheimer’s,” says nutritionist Fiona Hunter.
“Vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals help neutralise the damaging effects of free radicals and inactivate carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer), fibre helps reduce high blood cholesterol levels and keeps the digestive system in good working order and, as an added bonus, most are virtually fat-free and low in calories.”
So which should we be trying – and how do you win over the fussiest of eaters?
“This brassica family member is extremely nutrient-dense with high levels of beta carotene (Vitamin A), Vitamin C, Vitamin K and minerals calcium and magnesium,” says nutritionist Alix Woods. “It’s full of powerful antioxidants which protect the heart and have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-cancer properties.”
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Flavour too strong? “Try a splash of orange juice,” suggests expert Jennifer John, of discovergreatveg.co.uk. “Or add to a casserole, soup or fish, where its natural tang can enhance the whole dish.”
“These tuberous, naturally sweet root vegetables have a number of essential vitamins and minerals,” says Alix. “Significant amounts of potassium maintains heart health while the fibre content boosts digestion, staving off constipation and even encouraging weight loss.”
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Simply peel, boil and mash – or add to mashed potato, starting with a small amount for palates to get used to the flavour, then gradually upping the ratio, suggests Jennifer.
“They contain more protein than other vegetables, along with dietary fibre, vitamin C, folate, vitamins A, K and a host of phytochemicals,” says Fiona. “They provide both soluble and insoluble fibre (particularly those varieties eaten within their pods, like sugar snaps and mange tout).
“They are a useful source of iron and also contain folate, which we need for the manufacture of red blood cells.”
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Keep a supply of frozen peas ready for tossing a handful into pasta sauces, shepherd’s pie, chilli con carne and soups. Stir cooked peas into mashed potato for a splash
of colour and goodness, or add a sprinkling to salads.
“This nutrient-rich leafy vegetable is highly regarded for its phyto-
nutrients (natural plant compounds) that work well with other nutrients,” says Alix.
They also help to combat free radical damage to cells in the body by reducing the incidence of heart disease and cancers.
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Blend raw in a smoothie, toss into a salad or stir into pasta sauces, suggests Jennifer.
“This is also a surprisingly nutrient-dense member of the brassica family, offering many health benefits,” says Alix.
“Rich fibre content maintains healthy gut flora and can help prevent digestive issues like constipation, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It’s also extremely versatile.”
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Make cauliflower rice by simply grating cauliflower florets into rice-size
particles which can then be microwaved, fried or roasted.
They are brimming with fibre, water and immune-boosting vitamin C and potassium, says Alix. “The fibre and water supports
digestion and may relieve constipation. To maximise the nutritional benefits always eat the skins.”
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Spiralise courgettes, then add raw to salads or use instead of spaghetti. Boil briefly or flash-fry for soft – not soggy – results.
“Another brassica family member, this comes in a variety of shapes and colours with purple, red, white or green leaves,” says Alix. “It’s high in nutrients and low in calories, with anti-inflammatory compounds. Full of Vitamin C for immunity, it also protects the body from chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Don’t cook it, coleslaw it. Grate red cabbage with carrots and celery, then mix with Greek yoghurt and mayonnaise, says nutritionist Helen Ford. Tahini, crushed garlic and onion will give an extra zing.
“Love them or hate them, there is no doubting the goodness of sprouts,” says Helen.
“They are rich in protein, vitamin C, vitamin K and they also contain vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese.”
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Some chefs swear the combo of sprouts and Marmite is foodie heaven, so try mixing in a teaspoon of the spread with some butter to glaze your sprouts.
“Alternatively, grate and mix with your sautéed onions and carrots when making shepherd’s pie,” suggests Helen.
“This vegetable – a cross between a cabbage and a turnip – has a wealth of bone-building minerals and sulphur-containing anti-cancer antioxidant glucosinolate and immune-enhancing vitamin C that all help prevent premature ageing, aid cellular repair and improve eyesight,” says Alix.
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Boil and mash with carrots, then season and add a little soft cheese for a creamy treat.
“This ancient veg is wonderfully potent, low in fat, full of vitamins and minerals and packed with powerful antioxidants,” says Alix. “Beetroots are gloriously
nourishing and especially high in glutamine which helps keep the
intestinal tract healthy.”
They are also known to help to reduce blood pressure – studies have shown that drinking beetroot juice after strenuous exercise reduces muscle soreness.
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Make your own beetroot crisps by thinly slicing, dusting with tapioca flour and baking for half an hour – season with celery salt for added flavour.
“Despite the name, these aren’t potatoes but root vegetables, providing a range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium manganese, dietary fibre and healthy carbs,” says Fiona. “Their superfood reputation comes from their impressive levels of beta-carotene, which help to keep skin healthy.”
They are also more slowly digested than many other types of carbohydrate, so blood sugars remain steady.
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Try making sweet potato wedges or spiralise them into curls, add a little oil, salt and pepper, then bake.
Beta-carotene – the phytochemical which gives carrots their
bright orange colour – is an antioxidant which helps protect the skin from damage by free radicals (which accelerate ageing), helps improve skin tone and colour, and can boost eye health, reducing
the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, according to Fiona.
Packed with carotenoid antioxidants, they guard against prostate, lung and colon cancer, as
well as leukaemia.
Beat the “bleurgh” factor Roast in sesame seeds and a little honey or grate into sandwich fillings to add crunchy goodness.