Fruit and vegetables are known to be good for us but the ways in which they support health is still being studied. This week’s Nutrition News looks at the latest research that explores how vegetables and their nutritional content support us to lead healthy lifestyles.

Heart health needs more than just vegetables

We all know that heart health is influenced by diet but a recent study, reported by the BBC, has found that vegetables alone won’t prevent cardiovascular ill health.

The study, one of the largest in the UK of its kind, surveyed nearly 400,000 people about their vegetable consumption and monitored their health, including heart problems that led to hospital treatment or death, over a 12 year period.

Despite the study finding that the risk of dying from cardiovascular complications was around 15% lower amongst those who consumed the most vegetables, compared to those eating the least, the researchers from the universities of Oxford and Bristol and the Chinese University of Hong Kong attribute this more to other lifestyle factors. However, the researchers note that there is good evidence that foods rich in fibre, such as vegetables, can support healthy weight management and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study concludes that, whilst a diet rich in vegetables is not enough to ward off heart complications, a healthy lifestyle that follows a balanced diet, with plenty of exercise, avoiding smoking, excess alcohol combined with other factors, such as where and how we live, all accumulatively affect heart health.

High fibre diet for cognitive support

A high fibre diet is already well associated with good gut and digestive health but a recent study has suggested that it also offers cognitive support.

The study, reported by Science Daily, from researchers at the Japanese University of Tsukuba surveyed 3739 healthy participants between the ages of 40 and 64 years old and assessed their dietary intake between 1985 and 1999. The study then followed up between 1999 and 2020 and noted whether the participants developed a cognitive disorder, such as dementia, that required care.

The researchers found that the individuals who consumed the most fibre in their diet were at the lowest risk of developing dementia.

One theory that might explain this connection between fibre intake and cognitive health is the powerful gut-brain axis. Speaking of the findings, researcher Professor Yamagishi said, “The mechanisms are currently unknown but might involve the interactions that take place between the gut and the brain," adding that, "one possibility is that soluble fiber regulates the composition of gut bacteria. This composition may affect neuroinflammation, which plays a role in the onset of dementia. It's also possible that dietary fiber may reduce other risk factors for dementia, such as body weight, blood pressure, lipids, and glucose levels. The work is still at an early stage, and it's important to confirm the association in other populations."

The foods high in vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that is vital for the normal function of the immune system, amongst other functions in the body.

Some of the sources of vitamin C are well known, such as oranges and strawberries, but others may surprise you. This Healthline video uncovers some lesser known foods that are high in vitamin C and help you achieve the recommended daily amount.

These include:

Guava – Contains 228 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams.

Sweet yellow peppers – Contains 183 mg per 100 grams.

Parsley – Contains 133 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams

Kale – Contains 120 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams.

Brussels sprouts – Contains 85 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams

As vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, it needs to be replenished through diet daily. Foods such as yellow peppers and kale are an easy way of making sure you’re including sources of vitamin C in your daily diet.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.