A study done by the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit healthcare advisory body, has found that vitamins may not deliver all that they promise and may actually decrease life expectancy rather than increase it. Their review of data from 67 trials found "no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention." Alarmingly they also found that the intake of Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin E supplements "may increase mortality."
In light of these recent findings, The Daily Mantra decided to go back to school to find out how we could increase our nutrient intake without resorting to pills from a bottle. Bottom line, there's no faking a healthy diet.
Our nutritionist recommended that we eat between 9 and 11 cups of fruit and vegetables a day. This is much higher than the 2 1/2 cups of veg and 2 cups of fruit that the USDA recommends for someone requiring a 2,000 calorie a day diet. Indeed the fruit and veg goals set by the government organization were deliberately dumbed down from those recommended by their scientists due to fears that the public might be deterred if the bar was set at a level that some might perceive as being unattainably high.
When setting out to prepare a balanced meal, as a basic guide our nutritionist suggested we fill at least half our plate with veg. Portions of protein (tofu/fish/meat) and carbohydrates (rice/potatoes etc..) should take up no more than a quarter of the plate each.
We were shown how to make our fruit and veg more appealing by using simple techniques such as roasting and stir frying, which can seriously rev up the flavor factor. A little garlic and chili can seriously spice things up. Adding balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, honey, maple syrup, a handful almonds or pine nuts also makes the good stuff more exciting. A teaspoon of maple syrup may contain around 70 calories, but they're calories well spent if it means you're more likely to actually eat your veg.
We were also given tips on how to introduce fruit and veg into our diet by stealth. Chopped spinach can be added to almost any pasta sauce to give it an instant nutritional bump. Adding pineapple fruit and juice to rice at the end of cooking will give the grain a similar vitamin, and flavor, boost.
Research has shown that vegetarians, and those who eat moderate amounts of white meat and fish, on average, live longer (with some studies showing an increase in life expectancy of up to a staggering ten years). And as the Cochrane Collaboration research indicated, it's becoming increasingly apparent that antioxidants need to be consumed in their natural form, since we're only beginning to understand the complex role that individual compounds such as lycopene have in the bigger picture.
Make sure the fruit and veg you eat is as fresh as possible. Buy it from your local farmer, or farmers' market if you can. Also be sure to wash it well, to get rid of residual pesticides on the surface that can build up in your body over time. If you need some inspiration, try paying a visit to the Mayo Clinic website which has loads of yummy, and healthy, recipes, and lots of other info on healthy food choices.