How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat each day?
I’m running a challenge on Facebook during January to help people kick-start their health journey and build the foundations of a healthy lifestyle to support themselves while managing endometriosis.
The second challenge of the month is to eat more fruits and vegetables. It seems like a basic one, right? It’s not easy to do, but it’s vital for beating endo.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients called antioxidants that help to fight inflammation. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you will know that inflammation is a key problem that needs to be addressed to manage endometriosis symptoms.
Those of us with endometriosis often have higher levels of inflammation in our bodies. Oxidation may be a key reason for this, as research has indicated that oxidative stress is involved in the development of endometriosis.
A 2009 study found that increasing antioxidants by eating more fruits and veggies reduced oxidation in women with endometriosis.
Another key reason is hormonal. For many of us, estrogen is a driver of endometriosis growth. As I discussed in a previous column, research shows that progesterone can also play a role, so it’s essential to keep our hormone ratios in balance.
One way to do this is by ensuring our elimination pathways are working efficiently, so that excess estrogen can leave the body. Fiber supports the gut to move waste along the gastrointestinal tract and out of the body, and without that fiber, we end up with constipation and infrequent bowel movements. If you’re finding that your stools are hard and difficult to pass, you likely need to increase your intake of fiber. Plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are a rich source of fiber.
So how can we increase our intake of fruits and vegetables and how much should we eat?
The official recommendation in the U.K. is five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. However, according to an article on the National Health Service website, researchers found that 10 servings offered the best health outcomes. However, public health expert Dr. Alison Tedstone said that while consumption of more than five portions a day may be desirable, putting pressure on people “creates an unrealistic expectation.”
In my work as a health coach — and particularly for endometriosis and reducing inflammation — I suggest clients work their way up to 10 portions a day, focusing on a variety of color — the more color, the more types of antioxidants — and on eating fruits with lower sugar content, especially antioxidant-rich berries.
If you’re eating fewer than 10 portions of fruits and veggies, my general guidance is two servings each at breakfast and as snacks, and three servings each at lunch and dinner.
If you’re struggling to think about how you could eat more fruits and veggies, these simple tips might help:
- Add fruit to your breakfast
- Have a side salad with your lunch
- Snack on fruit and veggies
- Eat more low-sugar smoothies and soups
- Make your own dips, sauces, and pestos and pack them with extra vegetables such as kale, spinach, tomatoes, beans, cauliflower, squash, peppers, and eggplant.
Following are some meal ideas for incorporating more fruit and veggies into your diet:
- Avocado and spinach smoothie with protein powder, oats, and walnuts, topped with seeds
- Organic free-range egg or organic beans with sweet potatoes, avocado, and spinach or kale, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with seeds
- Roasted squash, red onion, steamed broccoli, arugula, and lentils, sprinkled with seeds and drizzled with tahini
- Roasted cubed sweet potatoes, shredded red cabbage, avocado, fresh baby spinach, arugula, and a healthy dollop of hummus with a drizzle of olive oil
- “Cheesy” broccoli soup made with broccoli, split yellow peas, and nutritional yeast
- Roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant, griddled asparagus, and a bean-based dip topped with pomegranates and walnuts
- Berry fruit salad topped with dairy-free yogurt, nuts, seeds, chia seeds, and a sprinkle of jumbo oats
- Gluten-free, seeded toast topped with nut butter, berries, cinnamon, and seeds
My final tip is to start gradually — jumping in at full throttle is great if you’re that kind of person. But if you’re going from three servings, you may need to create a more realistic plan that allows your body to get used to more fiber and to create steady change that feels sustainable and not overwhelming.
Please note that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. If you suffer from diarrhea, bloating, or other digestive issues, consult your doctor or nutritionist for advice on a healthy diet that suits your needs.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.