Tag Archives: fruit

Easy cheats to improve your diet

Think eating more vegetables and fruits is a chore? It really doesn’t have to be – it’s easier than you think to give your diet a boost.

Plant foods are packed full of vitamins and minerals that help strengthen your immune system. Easing more into your diet and ditching the less healthy options can help you stay in shape and reduce your risk of cancer as well as other diseases, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

These easy swaps and additions take mere seconds to include in your food, and could help improve your diet in the blink of an eye:

Breakfast boost

Porridge

Add a big handful of berries to your wholegrain cereal or porridge.  Not only will they taste great, but berries are also low in calories and a good source of fibre and vitamin C.

Splash skimmed or semi-skimmed milk instead of full fat on top to upgrade your breakfast.

 

 

Berry blast

Try a handful of berries, chopped peach or melon with a few spoonfuls of low-fat natural yoghurt. Add some torn mint leaves for an extra twist.

Wrap it up

Next time you pick a wrap for lunch, swap the meat for a bean-based filling, as beans are a fantastic source of protein and fibre, and count towards your 5 A DAY (although they only count for one portion, no matter how many you eat). If you want the extra health boost, chop up some tomatoes and adding them to the wrap to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

Take a dip

Hummus dip

Instead of reaching for a bag of crisps, choose a variety of rainbow-coloured vegetables to plunge into a low-fat dip. Houmous is made from chickpeas, which contain vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as protein, but can be high in calories so opt for a reduced-fat version. Or try making your own with our delicious and easy roasted red pepper houmous recipe.

Squeeze in leaves

Shop-bought sandwiches are the ultimate convenience, but their veg content is usually limited to one limp lettuce leaf or a sad slice of soggy tomato. Pep them up by adding in salad leaves, or grating a carrot or raw beetroot over the filling.

Soup it up

An easy way to add extra goodness to shop-bought soups is to stir in two big handfuls of spinach as it heats up. By wilting spinach into soup will give you a helping of vitamins, iron and fibre.

Smashing

Next time you boil potatoes for mash, add a large handful of chopped carrot five minutes before the potatoes are cooked. Mash them all together and you’ll have snuck in some extra vitamin A and fibre. It works just as well with diced swede and parsnip, although they may need adding a little earlier.

Cheat with cherries

If you can’t face the idea of skipping on a pudding then zap a little dark chocolate in the microwave and dip a bowl of cherries or strawberries in the melted chocolate. Pop them onto some baking paper and into the fridge and, by the time you’ve finished your dinner, you’ll have a not too naughty dessert with the added bonus of vitamin C and fibre.

The sugar debate

The sugar debate

With recent headlines such as “Sweet poison: why sugar is ruining our health” and “Sugar – as dangerous as alcohol and tobacco” it seems that sugar is this year’s hot topic.

Media reports have become more and more dramatic, with some stories claiming that we should cut nearly all sugar from our diets, for example by limiting or avoiding fruits, some vegetables, cereals, bread and even milk.

Is this another case of media hype or is there any scientific basis for cutting sugar out of our diets? We put the question to WCRF UK’s Deputy Head of Health Information and nutritionist Maya Monteiro.

Maya explained that not all sugar is the same and that we need to make a distinction between naturally-occurring sugars and added sugar.

It’s the added sugar in processed foods and drinks such as cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks that are a cause for concern. These foods tend to be high in calories and have little or no nutritional value.

In fact, the evidence shows that these types of foods and drinks lead to weight gain, and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the key ways that people can reduce their cancer risk.

Sugar that occurs in other foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk and starchy foods like bread, rice and pasta is present alongside other nutrients and can be part of a healthy balanced diet.

What about fruit and fruit juice?

There’s no denying that, by its very nature, fruit juice contains sugar. Sugar occurs naturally in fruit and so even a serving of ‘no added sugar’ fruit juice will contain what can seem to be a surprising amount of sugar.

In general it is much better to eat a whole piece of fruit than have a glass of fruit juice. This is because when you eat a piece of fruit you are consuming fibre alongside the naturally occurring sugars and this bulky fibre helps to fill you up as well as keep your digestive system healthy. Fibre can also help to lower your risk of bowel cancer.

Having said that, fruit juice does contain valuable vitamins and minerals and can count towards your 5 A DAY. But we suggest sticking to one small (150ml) glass a day.

Sugary drinks

Sugary drinks include squashes and fizzy drinks such as cola and lemonade. We would recommend avoiding these drinks as they can contain a lot of sugar and usually have little (or no) nutritional value.

There is also strong evidence that having these drinks regularly can contribute to weight gain as they are easy to drink in large quantities (and are often available in ‘super-sized’ portions) but don’t make us feel full even though they are high in calories.

Instead of sugary drinks, swap to unsweetened tea or coffee or try some water with a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber.

Processed foods

Processed foods such as sweets, cakes and biscuits can contain hidden sugars that manufacturers add to make the food taste better.

Sometimes unexpected foods (that don’t taste sweet) contain sugar, such as tinned soups or ready meals. Some breakfast cereals can also be high in added sugar.

Checking the list of ingredients can help us to see how sugary a food is. Manufacturers have many different names for sugar including dextrose, sucrose, glucose, maltose, fructose, hydrolysed starch, corn syrup, maize syrup, molasses, raw or brown sugar, treacle, honey and concentrated fruit juice.

As a rule of thumb, if any of these appear at the beginning of the ingredients list then the product is likely to be high in sugar.

What about bread and other starchy foods?

Bread and other starchy foods such as rice, potatoes and pasta have been identified as sources of sugar in some articles.

These foods do contain naturally-occurring sugar but they aren’t considered ‘sugary’ foods. In fact, they are an important source of many nutrients including B vitamins and fibre, and we certainly wouldn’t recommend cutting them out of your diet.

The best thing you can do is to choose wholegrain versions of these foods (which contain more fibre and other nutrients), like brown rice and wholemeal pasta and eat them in moderation along with vegetables, pulses and lean sources of protein.

What about milk?

Milk also contains some naturally-occurring sugar, but it contains calcium too, which is vital to help to keep our bones healthy. It’s a healthy choice as part of a balanced diet. Choose semi-skimmed or skimmed whenever possible.

Is sugar bad for you aside from the calories it can add to your diet?

There’s no strong evidence to link sugar directly with cancer, however, we do know that having a lot of sugar in our diets can lead to weight gain, and being overweight increases our risk of cancer.

Why all the media attention?

Some of the media attention sugar has been receiving has been to do with the setting up of Action on Sugar – a group of specialists who are working with the government and the food industry to bring about a reduction in the amount of sugar in processed foods.

How much sugar should we be having?

Current advice is that added sugar should make up 10 per cent or less of your daily calorie intake – that’s around 70g (14 teaspoons) of sugar for men and 50g (10 teaspoons) for women.

As a nation we currently consume more than this, in part due to our high consumption of processed foods, which are high in both fat and sugar.

Should I cut out sugar?

Although many media reports seem to be targeting sugar in general as something we should be avoiding for the good of our health, the evidence shows that rather than cutting out all foods with any type of sugar in them, we should cut down our intake of processed foods and try to avoid sugary drinks.

By following this advice, being regularly physically active and basing our diets around fibre-rich plant foods we can stay in shape and reduce our cancer risk.

Find out more about eating well and reducing cancer risk.

Fibre fuels lower cancer risk

Fibre - how much is enough?
Fibre - how much is enough?

We are often told that eating a diet high in fibre will help to keep our digestive system healthy and protect us from some illnesses, including cancer. But how much is enough and how can we add more to our diet?

Studies have found that eating foods that contain fibre can lower our risk of bowel cancer, the third most common cancer in the UK. Fibre-rich foods also help to control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, which can help you to maintain a healthy heart.

Fibre is an important part of our diet and is found in a variety of plant foods. It is best to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals (such as wholegrain bread and brown rice). Pulses (such as beans and lentils) are also fibre-rich and can count as one portion per day towards your 5 A DAY.

For optimal cancer and disease prevention, adults should aim to eat 18 grams of fibre a day. However, most people in Britain don’t reach this target; diet surveys indicate that eight out of 10 of us are not getting enough fibre, which is only found in plant foods. One of the best ways to increase your fibre intake is to eat your 5 A DAY portions of fruits and vegetables.

Fibre content of common foods

Apple – 2g fibre

Baked potato (with skin) – 4.9g fibre

Broccoli – 2g fibre per portion

Red lentils – 3g fibre per portion

Wholewheat bread – 1.8g fibre per slice

Wholewheat pasta – 6.3g fibre per portion

7 ways to eat more fibre

1. Add chopped fresh or dried fruit to your breakfast cereal.

2. Try porridge with low-fat milk and fruit for an alternative breakfast.

3. Replace white pasta and rice with wholegrain varieties and switch white bread for multi-seeded wholegrain bread.

4. Keep the skin on fruit and vegetables whenever possible.

5. Pack your sandwiches with salad and vegetables.

6. Include more pulses, such as beans and lentils, in your diet – you could add them to stews, soups, casseroles and pasta sauces.

7. Liven up the variety of cereals you cook with. Why not try cous cous, bulgar wheat or pearl barley next time you are cooking?

Interesting recipes to help increase your daily fibre intake can be found in the recipe section of our website or in our range of healthy cookbooks.