Simple ways to eat more phytochemicals

As discussed last week, phytochemicals are components in plant foods that provide numerous health benefits. My simple rules for eating more phytochemicals and enjoying flavoursome meals include:

  1. Eat 2 fruit and at least 5 vegetables each day—the more colours the better.
  2. Include lentils and legumes instead of meat, poultry or fish at least twice a week.
  3. Add different herbs and spices to create Italian, Indian, Thai and Moroccan meals.
  4. Eat mostly wholegrain and wholemeal cereal and grain foods.
  5. Enjoy fruit, nuts, seeds and dips made from coloured vegetables for snacks.

Cherries contain bonus nutrients and phytochemicals

Eat more phytochemicals with breakfast

  • In summer enjoy blue berries, strawberries, raspberries, Logan berries and cherries
  • Summer to autumn has delicious stone fruits: peaches, plums and nectarines
  • At the end of autumn and early winter include pears and apples
  • Citrus fruits: cumquats, lemons, lines and grapefruit are mostly winter fruits but some varieties are available outside of winter
  • Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals such as mixed grain muesli and porridge, and add oat bran
  • Add coloured vegetables and legumes: slightly cooked (wilted) spinach, grilled tomato with herbs, homemade bake beans (legumes, tomato, garlic, onion, chilli and herbs). These are delicious with wholegrain breads, brown rice or savoury quinoa.

Eat more phytochemicals with lunch

At lunch the best way to eat more phytochemicals is to add coloured vegetables to your salad; wholegrain roll or sandwich; soup or curry.

In warmer weather:

  • Leafy green salad
  • Tomato
  • Grated carrot
  • Grated beetroot
  • Flavour with fresh herbs: coriander, basil and parsley
  • Fresh whole fruit or fruit salad.

For cooler weather try:

  • Pumpkin soup with added turmeric
  • Mixed vegetable soup with Italian herbs
  • Beetroot soup with ginger and garlic
  • Vegetable curry.

Eat more phytochemicals with evening meals

The same core ingredients make a variety of meals, see the examples in the table below. You can eat more phytochemicals by adding colourful vegetables and legumes to pasta sauces, stir-fries and curries. Coloured vegetables can also be served steamed or baked with grilled fish, chicken or lean meat. Leafy greens include spinach, kale, silver beet, bok choy, choy sum and gal lan (Chinese broccoli). My whatever goes stir-fry recipe and yellow curry recipe are a good start.

Phytochemical rich foods

Pasta sauceStir-fryCurry

Tomato

XX

X

Onion

XX

X

Garlic

XX

X

Chilli

XX

X

Ginger

X

X

Basil

XX

X

Coriander

X

X

Parsley

X

Oregano

X

ThymeX

Marjoram

X

Turmeric

XX

X

Cumin

X

Cardamom

X

Cinnamon

X

Carrot

XX

X

Pumpkin

XX

X

Leafy greens

XX

X

BroccoliXX

X

Cauliflower

XX

X

LegumesRed and green lentils, Borlotti or Navy beansTofu or tempeh

Chickpeas, red and green lentils, tofu or tempeh

Eat more phytochemicals with snacks

The best way to boost your phytochemicals in-between meals is to enjoy fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. Dips made from legumes and vegetables, such as tomatoes and beetroot, can also be eaten with wholegrain breads, carrot sticks or brown rice crackers.

Eat more phytochemicals everyday

By basing your meals and snacks on plant foods you will eat a variety of health promoting phytochemicals. This approach will provide more colours, additional health benefits and better flavour. Experiment with herbs and spices, in preference to adding salt and sugar to foods. Choose in-season fruits and vegetables. This way you will learn to appreciate a wider variety of foods and meals.

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