We absolutely love fruit and vegetables here at Slimming World – they’re the colourful, fresh (or canned, or frozen) heart of the Food Optimising plan. Most fruit and veg are Free Food (which means you can enjoy them freely with no weighing, measuring or counting), so fill your veg basket, and your fruit bowl, to the brim!
Most people know that eating plenty of fruit and veg is good for you, but there’s one health benefit that might surprise you. Alex Clark, a nutritionist in the Slimming World Nutrition, Health and Research team, tells us more…
Diets rich in fruit and vegetables have been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes
The five-a-day message has been around for years now, and many of us consider fruit and veg to be the cornerstones of a healthy diet – tasty, versatile and with lots of health benefits to boot. While we’ve been aware of the strong links between a higher intake of fruit and veg and a reduced risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers, the link with type 2 diabetes hasn’t been as clear.
Now a major new study has shown that those who had a higher intake of fruit and vegetables had half the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as people who ate lower amounts. So that’s another tick in the box for this fantastic food group!
More than 340,234 people from eight European countries, including the UK, took part in the EPIC-InterAct study, a collaboration between a number of European universities and institutes.
Of this group, 23,500 people underwent a more detailed assessment of their vitamin C and carotenoid levels, and were followed for an average of almost 10 years. So a very substantial study indeed!
Vitamin C is typically found in fruit and veg such as citrus fruit, peppers, berries and broccoli, while there are a few different carotenoids, including beta-carotene (which give carrots and sweet potatoes their vibrant orange colour) and lycopene (responsible for the redness of tomatoes).
Examining blood levels of these nutrients gives a good idea of someone’s fruit and veg consumption and is considered much more reliable than the more commonly used method of asking people what they eat.
Adding just one extra portion of fruit or veg can benefit your health
In the study, those with blood levels of vitamin C and carotenoids in the top 20% (and therefore the highest fruit and veg consumption) were found to have a 50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with lower blood levels of these nutrients.
An additional 66g per day of fruit and veg (a typical portion is around 80g) was shown to reduce risk by 25%. That’s right, adding in just one extra portion a day – maybe snacking on an apple or banana, or adding 3 heaped tablespoons of carrots to your plate or 7 cherry tomatoes to your side-salad – has benefits. This is great news for those following Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan – and, of course, there’s no need to measure these Free Foods!
5 easy ways to get your extra portion:
- Add an extra can of beans to a chilli con carne (mixed, baked, kidney, cannellini… whatever you have – beans, lentils and pulses count towards your 5-a-day).
- If you prefer a veggie chilli, stir in some peeled, cubed butternut squash (ready prepped or frozen does the hard work for you).
- Try out new vegetarian recipes on ‘meat-free Mondays’.
- Throw chickpeas into curries and casseroles.
- Pile your puds with fresh fruit goodness – from pancakes to cheesecakes!
Slimming World members enjoy more fruit and veg
Most fruit and veg can be enjoyed as Free Foods while Food Optimising, as they’re filling while being low in energy density (so great for weight loss!), have a high water content, provide fibre, and are packed with important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Plus, they can be prepared and cooked in lots of different ways, adding variety and colour to meals. So it’s no surprise that our research has shown that Slimming World members typically increase their fruit and veg intake after joining.
In fact, our recent work with the British Nutrition Foundation showed that members significantly increase the portions of fruit and veg they eat after joining Slimming World, tucking into an average of 6.2 portions per day (and smashing their five-a-day!), compared to the 4.2 portions eaten by the average UK woman. So it would seem that, according to this new research, many of our members are helping to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes already!
Is it ‘bad’ to eat fruit if you have diabetes?
While this is great news for helping to prevent type 2 diabetes, there can be a lot of confusion around fruit for those who have a diagnosis of diabetes – should it be avoided?
The short answer is no. While it is the case that those with diabetes often need to be careful with their intake of foods containing carbohydrates (from starchy carbs like pasta and rice, to those containing natural sugars, such as yogurt and fruit, and sweet treats like biscuits and cake), this doesn’t mean fruit (and other carbs) are a total no-go.
Whole fruit doesn’t contain ‘free sugars’, which are the ones we’re all advised to cut down on. ‘Free sugars’ are those found in foods such as sweets, syrups, juices, sugary drinks, chocolate, cakes and biscuits. So, if you have diabetes and have been advised to reduce your carb intake, it’s better to cut down on these foods before cutting down on whole fruits. Foods containing free sugars also tend to be higher in carbohydrate than a portion of fruit, and typically without the beneficial fibre, vitamins and minerals that fruit provides.
If you have diabetes, we’d always recommend you discuss your dietary requirements with your healthcare team and choose foods in the portions they recommend – but it’s unlikely you’ll need to drastically reduce your fruit intake or cut it out altogether. The nutritional benefits of fruit and vegetables are important whether you have diabetes or not, and increasing your overall fruit and veg intake supports achieving a balanced diet and reaching a healthy weight.
We have a special booklet ‘Your diabetes lifestyle’ available for Slimming World members with diabetes. Please do let your Consultant know if you’d like a copy. If you’re not yet a Slimming World member and are thinking of joining, you can find your local Consultant here. They’ll be more than happy to chat about how we can support you in your weight loss journey.
So there you have it! Another amazing reason to love these colourful wonder-foods, brought to us brilliantly by Slimming World nutritionist Alex. What’s your favourite way to add extra fruit and veg to your diet? We’d love to see your most-loved Free Food recipes. Send your snaps to the blog or share on social using #theSlimmingWorldblog.