Variety is the Spice of Life
There are around 50 essential vitamins, amino acids, minerals and essential fatty acids that the human body needs but cannot make itself. These nutrients must be supplied by the food we eat. There are also more than 1200 phytochemicals, present in fruits, vegetables, beans and grains and animal products – these are not essential, but most have a positive impact on health and wellness.
No single food or food group, supplies all our dietary needs. Hence the continued emphasis on a ‘healthy diet ‘ and the importance of dietary diversity in preventing chronic disease.
Evidence shows that consuming a variety of food improves a range of health outcomes and assures that we obtain adequate nutrients on a regular basis. We often see in clinic people who eat a limited amount of foods have increased sensitivities to those foods over time.
A varied diet has been shown to:
- Even out blood sugar levels and lowers the risk of degenerative changes in our blood vessels
- Protect the heart
- Lower our total risk of cancer
- Help with weight control
So to add variety to our dietary lives:
- Stir fries, casseroles, soups and salads are an easy way to increase vegetable variety because they make use of several different ingredients.
- Choose foods that have variety ‘built-in’, like muesli, raw mixed nut and seed bags.
- Try foods from cultural traditions other than your own.
- Make use of side-dishes, herbs and spices like fruit/vegetable salads, sprouted pulses, fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi), fresh salsas, parsley, coriander, cinnamon.
- Buy a fruit or vegetable that is not familiar to you in your grocery shop.
Remember, just because you haven’t tried it, doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Likewise, even if you don’t like it the first time it’s worth trying again (and how often do we say this to our children?!).
Experts say that it can take humans up to nine attempts at a new food to adjust to and appreciate its flavour.