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Stress Management for Health Course

Fruits and Vegetables

   

"People everywhere who eat the most fruits and vegetables, compared with those who eat the least, slash their expectations of cancer by about 50 %.  That includes cancers of the lung, colon, breast, cervix, oesophagus, oral cavity, stomach, bladder and ovary."

(Dr Gladys Block, PhD)

 

The old adage of "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is so true, except that we need to eat more than one apple.  The World Health Organisation research has shown that all adults should be eating 1 pound of fruits and vegetables, which is 5 portions, a day.  Yet 80% of the population do not reach this intake.  A leading cardiac charity says that if we ate the 5 pieces of fruits and vegetables per person per day as recommended by the World Health Organisation this would save 30,000 lives each year.

 

One portion of fruit-vegetables is:

 

        1 Apple or orange or banana

        1 large slice melon/pineapple

        2 tablespoons of vegetables

        1 cup of grapes or strawberries

        2 tablespoons of fruit salad

        1 tablespoon of dried fruit

        2 plums or apricots

        1 desert bowl of salad

 

Only 10% of the UK population are eating the recommended 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day.  In fact on average most of us only eat three portions a day.  Our fruit and vegetable consumption in the UK is amongst the lowest in Europe.  The Greeks eat more than twice the fruit and vegetables we do, and in a nation of smokers, deaths from heart disease are half those in Britain.

 

Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetables

Research has indicated that consuming a diet rich in plant foods containing phytochemicals and non-nutritive plant substances will have protective benefits to our health. 

Fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, that all increase our resistance to a wide range of health problems.  For example they contain Salacylic acid, which is an aspirin-like compound that stops the blood clotting excessively.

Numerous studies have shown that switching away from a high animal, meat, saturated fat, high cholesterol diet and consuming more fruits and vegetables helps to reduce our risk of developing the main diseases that cause premature death and disability in the western world such as:

 

        Colon cancer

        Constipation

        Diabetes

        High Blood Pressure

        Heart Disease

        Asthma

        Stroke

        Diverticulitis

       Breast cancer

 

Research by the National Heart Forum has suggested that if we ate the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, it would save more than 30,000 lives a year.  International research shows that increasing our intake from the current average 2 portions to the recommended 5 portions a day would cut annual heart disease deaths from 150,000 to 120,000 a year.

The cancer research campaign and other researchers like Professor Richard Doll who found the link between smoking and cancer say that about a third of nearly 300,000 yearly incidents of cancer in the UK are diet related and potentially preventable. 

When a person is under stress the body uses up more vitamins and minerals.  In a study in the USA it was shown that prisoners in jail used up double the amount of vitamin C when under stress.  This is exacerbated by a low fruit and vegetable diet which is low in vitamin C.

 

Anti-Oxidants

Anti-oxidants are nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, which help to neutralise a bi-product of metabolism called free radicals.  Excess free radicals can damage our cells DNA code and are thought to play a role in the development of a number of health problems.  Free radicals can damage the lining of our arteries and increase our risk of developing heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of antioxidant nutrients like Vitamins A,C and E.  These antioxidants help prevent oxidation -  the chemical process which allows cholesterol to form atheroma within coronary arteriesFruits and vegetables are also rich in potassium, a mineral which helps control Blood Pressure and they are rich in folic acid which reduces the blood level of a substance called Homocysteine which itself may be a risk factor for heart disease.

 

Some Health Problems Linked to Low Fruit/Vegetable Intake

 

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary Heart Disease is one of the most common causes of premature death in the West.  Research by the World Health Organisation found that 12 million people die in the West each year due to cardiovascular disease and it is estimated that 6 million of these deaths are preventable.  Researchers at Cambridge University found that if we increase our fruit intake by one piece a day this lowers the risk of heart disease by 20%.  This is partly because of the increased fibre.  Fruit is also a rich source of the mineral potassium which has been shown to lower blood pressure.  Fruits and vegetables also contain an aspirin like compound called Salicylic Acid which helps to stop blood clotting.

 

Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a congenital abnormality where part of the spinal chord grows outside the spinal vertebral column and researchers believe that a mother's diet that is low in folic acid is a factor.  A diet high in vegetables supplies a high folic acid intake which has been shown to reduce the risk of spina bifida.

 

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK and western world.  Research in Italy found that a diet high in vegetables helps to reduce the risk of colon cancer.  An increase of only one serving of vegetables a day results in a nearly 15% reduction in risk.  Vegetables are a rich source of fibre that helps speed up intestinal transit time and therefore helps prevent constipation which is known to be a risk factor for colon cancer.

 

Alzheimers

Researchers at Oxford University have found that a diet high in vegetable and fruits could reduce a persons risk of developing Alzheimers disease.

 

Caution

It is important to thoroughly wash and peel all fruits and vegetables in order to remove any excess pesticides from the outside of the fruit or vegetable. 

You can use frozen or tinned fruits but try to use tinned fruit packed in their own juice not the ones in syrup.

 

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