The vegetables you need to welcome back to the plate

As fad diets and food trends evolve, some vegetables have gone from fan favourite to out of favour. Here’s why they deserve a place back on the menu.

Potatoes are used to being looked down upon.

They have been the famine food, the peasant filler and these days the humble spud comes with dire warnings in fad diets for being starchy, fattening and best avoided.

But health experts urge a re-think on this and various other vegetables that are being cast aside in high protein, low carbohydrate diets.

Nutrition Australia CEO Lucinda Hancock says all vegetables should be the heroes on the plate because they are all nutritious and valuable in a healthy diet.

Eating the recommended five servings of vegetables a day reduces the risk of death from all causes by 5 per cent and heart disease by up to 4 per cent.

“They have so many antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that it’s really important for our bodies to consume at least five vegetables a day and there’s no reason to be cutting out any vegetables unless your doctor has tested you for allergies,” Lucinda says.

“Given we’re now consuming half the amount of vegetables that we should be – Australians are consuming 13kg less vegetables a year than they did in 2001 – this really impacts our health and wellbeing.

“People are always looking for the next fad, but the bottom line is that quick fixes are unsustainable and cutting out whole food groups means you end up going back where you were because you can’t stick to it.”

Why potatoes deserve their place in a healthy diet

They might not be a fashionable vegetable right now, but potatoes are a great source of energy, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and, when consumed with their skin, an excellent source of fibre.

University of South Australia program director of nutrition and food sciences Dr Evangeline Mantzioris says when potatoes are cooked and cooled before eating their levels of resistant starch increases, helping to improve the gut microbiome and help prevent diabetes.

“Let’s not forget that the potato also carries beautiful flavour and for a long time potatoes, as a staple food, have kept many people alive,” Dr Mantzioris says.

Other vegetables that shouldn’t be overlooked

Vegetables in the deadly nightshade family are sometimes attached to unnecessary cautions.

Nightshade vegetables include eggplant, tomato, capsicum and potatoes (again), which contain small amounts of alkaloid components which can be poisonous in large doses.

Alkaloids are typically found in the leaves and stems of nightshade vegetables, and greening or sprouting parts of potatoes.

While these parts of the vegetables should be avoided, nightshades are a rich source of valuable nutrients.

Tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene which improves heart health and it becomes even more bio-available when cooked in olive oil.

Capsicums, too, are filled with vitamin C, potassium, folate, beta carotene and antioxidants.

Dr Mantzioris says the deep purple colour of eggplant, known as anthocyanin, provides many antioxidants to help fight free radicals and cancer.

Why you need a variety of vegetables

“All vegetables contain antioxidants which have anti-cancer properties so the more vegetables you eat, the less risk you have of getting cancer and heart disease,” Dr Mantzioris says.

“People really should eat a bit of everything, but the more coloured pigments in your vegetables, the better.

“There are no vegetables that need to be avoided in the diet – they all provide essential phytonutrients that are essential for good health unless of course you have a diagnosed allergy to them.”

Written by Catherine Lambert.