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Colour Boost for a Nutrient Boost, for a Summer WIN!

Let’s take advantage of our summer menu options, and bring ON the vegetables and fruit to your list of recipes. With the warmer weather, long overdue vacation days, and outdoor social outings - colourful and delicious menus turn these celebrations up a notch, and add a “feel-good” outcome when they include a healthy twist. Of course, this begs the question, ‘what adds more colour, flavour and nutrients to your menu’? ANSWER: vegetables and fruit! This food group includes every colour from the rainbow, loaded with nutrients such as fibre, B-vitamins and antioxidants, and can taste delicious in any recipe! For the purpose of our July blog, we are hoping to inspire you to ramp up your vegetable and fruit consumption this summer by sharing (a) benefits to increasing your vegetables and fruit intake and (b) 10/10 recipes you can add to your menu with ease.


Let’s take a couple of minutes, and reflect on how many servings of vegetables and fruit you are usually eating throughout the day. And remember, 1 serving of vegetables / fruit is approximately 1 cup or 1 whole fruit / vegetable the size of your fist. Feel free to fill in the chart below to help you add up your daily servings.

NEXT UP, how many servings should we be having throughout the day? WELL, according to Health Canada / Canada’s Food Guide, ½ our plate should be vegetables and/or fruit for all eating times. For snacks, this is approximately 1 cup, and for meals, this is approximately 2 cups. This equates to ~8 cups during the day with 5 eating times! Now, if we look a little closer, we notice that the portion of vegetable / fruit during breakfast could use some improvement, right? If we add a smoothie or throw in some spinach to an omelette this can help top us up! As you can see, you really need to eat more regularly (every 2-3 hours) to help you achieve your daily needs.

Now let’s DIG into the evidence-based benefits of boosting your vegetable / fruit intake throughout the day, below:

SUMMARY: Increasing your intake of vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, improve gut health, have a positive effect on blood sugar, and help keep appetites in check. In addition to these incredible health benefits, fruits and vegetables are loaded with tons of antioxidants, which prevents damage caused by free radicals - don’t worry we will expand on this!

(A) Cardiovascular Disease

Clinical research studies have concluded that a diet rich in vegetables and fruit can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • A meta-analysis of cohort studies found that fruits and vegetables are associated with an average reduction in risk of 4% for each additional serving per day of fruit and vegetables (Hung et al., 2004).

  • Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that participants that consumed 8 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables were 30% less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke (He et al., 2007).

    • Green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and mustard greens, were most strongly associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

    • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale; and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit (and their juices) also made important contributions (He et al., 2007).

(B) Blood Pressure

  • Research studies have analyzed the DASH diet and found that individuals with high blood pressure and followed this diet plan reduced their systolic blood pressure by around 11 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure by almost 6 mm Hg, which is just as effective as medications (Appel et al., 1997).

  • The randomized trial known as Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial for Heart Health (OmniHeart) showed that a fruit and vegetable-rich diet lowered blood pressure even more when some of the carbohydrate was replaced with healthy unsaturated fat or protein (Appel et al., 2005).

(C) Diabetes

  • Greater consumption of whole fruits (especially blueberries, grapes, and apples) are found to be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (Muraki et al., 2013).

(D) Gastrointestinal Health

  • Another bonus of boosting these colourful foods is that they contain indigestible fibre, which absorbs water and expands as it passes through the digestive system. As a result, this calms symptoms of an irritable bowel and, by triggering regular bowel movements, can relieve or prevent constipation. The bulking and softening action of insoluble fibre also decreases pressure inside the intestinal tract and may help prevent diverticulosis (Lembo et al., 2003; Aldoori et al., 1998).

  • Plant components that have been extensively studied for their influence on the microbiome are plant-derived dietary fibre (also known as non-digestible polysaccharides) and polyphenol (Van der Merwe, 2021).

  • As we all know, a dietitian's favourite F word is….Fibre. Fibre is an important component of the human diet, with endless health benefits including lowering cholesterol and improving blood glucose responses (Fuller et al, 2016). Dietary fibre comprises both soluble and insoluble carbohydrates and many have been shown to affect the microbiome uniquely - pectin, which makeup 35% of fruit fibre cell wall (Van der Merwe, 2021).

  • A research study that examined the adherence to a Mediterranean Diet, that consists of high intakes of fruit and vegetables, showed a higher Firmicutes-Bacteroidetes ratio and a greater presence of Bacteroidetes (Van der Merwe, 2021).

(E) Antioxidants

  • Antioxidants are found in certain foods and may prevent some of the damage caused by free radicals by neutralising them. You may be thinking what free radicals are? Well, they are highly unstable molecules that are naturally formed when exercising or when the body converts food into energy. Our bodies are also exposed to free radicals from a variety of environmental sources, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and sunlight and with increased exposure, it can trigger cell damage. Antioxidants serve an important job, by scavenging free radicals from the body cells and prevent or reduce the damage caused by oxidation.

  • Antioxidants include the vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals copper, zinc and selenium. Phytochemicals found in plants have been studied heavily and are believed to have greater antioxidant effects than vitamins or minerals. These are called the non-nutrient antioxidants and include phytochemicals, (such as lycopenes in tomatoes and anthocyanins found in cranberries).

    • Lycopene, found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit and watermelon, can reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer and the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus in males.

    • Lutein, found in spinach and corn, has been linked to a lower incidence of eye lens degeneration and associated vision loss in the elderly and may improve memory and prevent cognitive decline.

    • Flavonoid-rich foods, such as Apples, grapes, citrus fruits, berries, tea, onions, olive oil and red wine, can prevent some diseases, including metabolic-related diseases and cancer.

Check out this detailed chart for more specific foods that contain antioxidants. Notice that most of the antioxidants are derived from vegetables and fruit! So, yet again, another reason to MAXIMIZE our vegetable and fruit intake. OH, did I mention that high intake of antioxidants delays ‘aging’, preserving the beauty of your skin!

Lastly, let’s turn knowledge into ACTION!

To make this all happen ASAP, it is all about finding healthy recipes to support a BOOST in your veggie / fruit intake. SO, we have included some of our favourite vegetable and fruit Healthy U recipes in this chart below – just CLICK / PRINT / PREP! We are all about keeping these recipes simple, delicious, and exciting. Instead of having the same old plain apple, steamed broccoli, or garden salad, you can transform your veggies / fruit into Banana Ice-Cream, Carrot Fries, or our #1 salad, Broccoli Chicken Salad that lasts for days in the fridge.

Vegetable Recipes

Fruit Recipes

Tips on how to eat more fruits and vegetables daily

  1. Keep fruit where you can see it. Place several ready-to-eat washed whole fruits in a bowl or store chopped colorful fruits in a glass bowl in the refrigerator to tempt a sweet tooth.

  2. Explore the produce aisle and choose something new. Variety and color are key to a healthy diet. On most days, try to get at least one serving from each of the following categories: dark green leafy vegetables; yellow or orange fruits and vegetables; red fruits and vegetables; legumes (beans) and peas; and citrus fruits.

  3. Skip the potatoes. Choose other vegetables that are packed with different nutrients and more slowly digested carbohydrates.

  4. Make it a meal. Try cooking new recipes that include more vegetables. Salads, soups, and stir-fries are just a few ideas for increasing the number of tasty vegetables in your meals.

We hope that this blog has given you som educational and recipe-driven inspiration to boost your menu with more vegetables and fruit! A quick reminder, that by doing so, you are ALSO increasing your intake of key NUTRIENTS we need to be our healthist U!


Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W, Hu FB. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014 Jul 29;349:g4490.

Hung HC, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, Hu FB, Hunter D, Smith-Warner SA, Colditz GA, Rosner B, Spiegelman D, Willett WC. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2004 Nov 3;96(21):1577-84.

He FJ, Nowson CA, Lucas M, MacGregor GA. Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: meta-analysis of cohort studies. Journal of human hypertension. 2007 Sep;21(9):717.

He FJ, Nowson CA, MacGregor GA. Fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke: meta-analysis of cohort studies. The Lancet. 2006 Jan 28;367(9507):320-6.

Appel LJ, Moore TJ, Obarzanek E, Vollmer WM, Svetkey LP, Sacks FM, Bray GA, Vogt TM, Cutler JA, Windhauser MM, Lin PH. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. New England Journal of Medicine. 1997 Apr 17;336(16):1117-24.

Appel LJ, Sacks FM, Carey VJ, Obarzanek E, Swain JF, Miller ER, Conlin PR, Erlinger TP, Rosner BA, Laranjo NM, Charleston J. Effects of protein, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate intake on blood pressure and serum lipids: results of the OmniHeart randomized trial. JAMA. 2005 Nov 16;294(19):2455-64.

Muraki I, Imamura F, Manson JE, Hu FB, Willett WC, van Dam RM, Sun Q. Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies. BMJ. 2013 Aug 29;347:f5001.

Lembo A, Camilleri M. Chronic constipation. New England Journal of Medicine. 2003 Oct 2;349(14):1360-8.

Aldoori WH, Giovannucci EL, Rockett HR, Sampson L, Rimm EB, Willett AW. A prospective study of dietary fiber types and symptomatic diverticular disease in men. The Journal of nutrition. 1998 Oct 1;128(4):714-9.

Van der Merwe, M. (2021). Gut microbiome changes induced by a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 72(5), 665–669.

Blog Collaborators: Elisa Porretta BSc Candidate


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