Every nutritionally sound diet promotes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy or alternatives, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, legumes and lentils and nuts and seeds. This approach is supported by Western science as well as thousands of years of empirical evidence from the Eastern practices of Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Eastern medicine has a method of further refining dietary recommendations, which I will explain in a future post.
From a Western perspective the correct combination of foods enables us to meet our requirements for energy (measured in kilojoules or calories) and nutrients. Western science also acknowledges that certain dietary patterns offer greater health benefits, which is described as the synergistic effect of foods. The most well known eating pattern for highlighting this synergy is the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean diet is a term used for the traditional dietary patterns in Southern European regions renown for their production of olives. The diet features olive oil, ample vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals and fish, with moderate red wine at meals. In the quest to understand the prevention and management of lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, Western science has moved from studying nutrients and individual foods to combinations of foods.
Vegetables are vital for health
In Australia and in many Western countries the dietary balance is missing. This is partly due to a lack of vegetables. Each day we would ideally eat at least 5 to 6 serves of vegetables. A serve is ½ cup cooked vegetables OR 1 cup salad. To maximise health benefits we need to have mostly coloured varieties, such as carrot, pumpkin, broccoli, green leafy types (kale, rocket, spinach) and red cabbage. Keep potato to 1 to 2 serves and top up on the coloured vegetables.
Winter time is perfect for warm soups made from pumpkin, vegetables and lentils or mixed vegetables with pasta, such as a Minestrone soup. Vegetables can be eaten steamed alongside your meat, poultry, fish or vegetarian meal option. They are great in stir-fries and curries too.
- I make a simple stir-fry sauce of freshly grated ginger, one clove of garlic crushed with some reduced salt soy sauce and vegetable stock.
- My favourite yellow curry sauce also has very few ingredients; dry or fresh tumeric (grated), mild curry powder mix, mustard seeds, grated fresh ginger and a finely sliced leek. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of coconut milk to the curry for a creamy finish.
- A squeeze of lemon at the end of cooking adds a lovely tang to stir-fries and curries.
- By having a few different ways of preparing vegetables we can enjoy a variety of meals.
In upcoming posts I will expand upon the basics of nutritious eating by covering each food group and their unique qualities, and suggest how you may restore balance to your eating.