Eating a good balance of fruits and vegetables is a vital component of having a healthy, vegan diet. Many vegans incorrectly believe their action of giving up animal-based products is enough to be considered healthy.
While quitting animal foods is great for both health and moral reasons, it is not enough to have a healthy diet. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables is key to a healthy diet for a vegan athlete or any vegan.
Eat the Rainbow
Many people are confused when they are told by dieticians or their friends to “eat the rainbow” when it comes to fruits and vegetables. People want specific information about what fruits and vegetables are the healthiest.
But the truth is that no single fruit or vegetable is the “healthiest” option out of them all. Each type of fruit and vegetable will have its own reasons for being part of a healthy, plant-based diet.
And using the color of fruits and vegetables can be a useful way to get variety in one’s diet. The colors of these foods often correspond to the types of nutrients they contain. So, adding all the colors of fruits and vegetables into the weekly grocery basket could do a lot to improve people’s vegan diets.
Colors and Nutrients
Fruits and vegetables get their colors from chemicals called phytochemicals. And these chemicals have special qualities that result in those fruits and vegetables having specific nutrients.
For instance, red foods have many antioxidants. Tomatoes, red berries and pomegranates will have antioxidants such as lycopene, anthocyanins and/or ellagic acid.
Orange foods are very high in carotenoids. These nutrients can help add more vitamin A to the body and can be found in items such as sweet potatoes and carrots. Vitamin A is crucial for having great skin and a healthier immune system.
Yellow foods have beta-carotenes, which also deliver vitamin A. They will also have a high concentration of beta-cryptoxanthin, which is a carotenoid with very good antioxidant qualities. Foods such as grapefruits, lemons, button squash and sweet corn are said to help with developing inflammatory conditions.
And green leafy vegetables, often lacking in the average diet, have a lot of fiber and minerals. Adding a lot of spinach, kale broccoli and green beans to the vegan diet is very helpful for overall health.
Variety Means a Healthier Life
Studies have shown that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is the key to having a healthy and longer life. A study showed that individuals who were eating different types of fruit and vegetables were less likely to develop lung cancer.
It is also linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. These studies not only show that fruits and vegetables are healthy, but that increasing variety is healthier even if the quantity remains the same.
It stands to reason that having one plate full of spinach and kale would be less beneficial than a plate that is full of spinach, carrots, sweet corn and tomatoes. Vegetables offer protection against disease, while fruits also have many healthy and antioxidant properties.
Blending Fruits and Vegetables
Even most vegans would admit that getting the recommended servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day can be a challenge. It is why blending has become so popular as a healthy alternative.
Unlike juicing, blending fruits and vegetables not only provides all their nutrients, but also allows vegans to consume the fiber that is present in these foods. Any vegan athlete who is struggling to eat enough quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables may want to start blending a “green smoothie” for themselves each morning or a powerful smoothie bowl in the afternoon.