Before you serve up peas and carrots again, spare a thought for all the other vegies because variety does matter! In the newly revised Australian Dietary Guidelines we are encouraged to eat ‘plenty of vegetables of different types and colours, and legumes/beans’ every day. Unlike previous versions, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we should be eating vegetables from each of the sub-groups, including dark green or cruciferous vegetables like spinach and broccoli; orange vegetables including pumpkin and sweet potato; salad vegetables such as lettuce and tomato; legumes including dried peas, beans, lentils and chick peas; and a small amount of starchy vegetables, typically potato or corn.
But why does type or colour matter? Each vegetable offers a different range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. What are phytochemicals? Phytochemicals are plant-based chemicals that give vegetables their colouring and smell, and protect the plant from disease. Phytochemicals are being studied for their protective properties against disease – some phytochemicals have been found to reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.
Vegetables contain different types of phytochemicals: tomatoes, for example are rich in the carotenoid (a class or group of phytochemicals) lycopene, while spinach contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which have been found to offer protection from macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss in older adults. These are just two examples of the range of benefits that different varieties of vegetables can offer. By ‘eating a rainbow’ you are maximising the opportunity to receive a variety of nutrients and their potential health benefits.
Here is one of my favourite recipes and a delicious way to get a range of colours on your plate. Risotto lends itself nicely to including a whole range of vegetables and is a great way to use leftovers lurking in your crisper at the end of the week.
Roast Vegetable Risotto
Serves: 6 | Cooking and preparation time: 50 minutes
• 700g butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
• 1 medium zucchini, diced
• 1 red capsicum, cut into small pieces
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp mixed herbs
• 6 cups, salt-reduced vegetable stock
• ½ leek, sliced
• 2 cups arborio rice
• 200g mushrooms, sliced
• 100g baby spinach
• Rocket, to garnish
1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C (160°C for fan forced)
2. Place pumpkin, zucchini and capsicum on baking tray and drizzle with half of the olive oil and dried mixed herbs. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, turn vegetables at least once during cooking.
3. Meanwhile bring stock to the boil in a large saucepan and then reduce to a simmer
4. In a separate saucepan, use the remaining olive oil to fry the leek until soft
5. Add the rice to the saucepan with the leek and stir. Add stock to the rice, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed before adding more
6. Cook rice for 20-30 minutes or until risotto is creamy and rice is tender yet firm to bite
7. Add the roast vegetables and mushroom to the risotto and stir gently to combine
8. Stir through baby spinach, cracked pepper and parmesan
9. Serve and garnish with rocket (if desired)
Other tips on eating a vegie rainbow:
• Think broader than lettuce, tomato and cucumber when making a salad. Other vegies such as beetroot, pumpkin, legumes (or beans) can really jazz up a salad and taste delicious too!
• Spread the veg – use vegetable based spreads such as avocado, hommus (made from chickpeas) in sandwiches in place of margarine and butter
• Stir fry a rainbow – Experiment with different types of vegies. Baby corn, mushrooms, bean shoots, and snow peas are great additions to traditional stir fry
• Barbeque a rainbow – Put zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms or corn on the barbie. It makes for a delicious way to eat vegies
• Roast a rainbow – Try roast beetroot, sweet potato, squash or pumpkin at your next roast meal. Fresh roast beetroot will not disappoint!
Check out the guidelines including the new Australia Guide to Healthy Eating and accompanying resources at Eat for Health and for some more vegetable inspiration go to the Go for 2&5® for some healthy recipes.