The benefits of fruit and vegetables

By eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables we can bolster our natural defences against, and reduce our risk of, contracting some diseases including cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

I think everyone has heard that growing your own is the best way to produce the tastiest and healthiest fruit and vegetables. So people who grow their own could be doing a huge amount to look after their health. That's the conclusion of a molecular biologist and biochemist I spoke to. According to him, these are the health benefits of fruit and veg:

  • Eating 400g (14oz) of fruit and vegetables a day provides a range of antioxidant proteins that can provide protection against damaging superoxide radicals; these are known to be major causes of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • There is increasing evidence that some of these fruit and veg may not only protect against cancer, but actively slow the growth of and, in some cases kill, cancer cells; for instance, some brassicas may be able to kill cancer cells and watercress may be able to kill lung cancer cells.
  • Vegetables provide more benefits than fruit – sometimes up to twice as much.
  • Variety is the key: it is important to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in as wide a range of colours as possible. Each crop may confer slightly different health benefits and the different colours contain different antioxidants.
  • Selenium helps improve the effectiveness of antioxidant proteins. Selenium is rare in British soils but is common in manure and manure-based fertilisers, and so is present in soils fed with these materials.
  • Freshness is a major factor in the effectiveness of fruit and vegetables to help fight disease, and the best way of getting the freshest produce available is to grow and harvest your own.
  • Stress is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and gardening is known to reduce stress.

And now is a great time to start growing and get sowing.

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