Diet & Nutrition

5 fruits and veggies that you should prioritise in your weekly shop

Accredited Practising Dietitian and Senior Dietetic Advisor at Dietitians Australia, Simone Austin, shares her tips on what you should be picking up at the supermarket.

We all know we need to eat fruit and vegetables to improve our health, but the shocking truth is that 95% of adults have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake, according to research from the Government’s National Preventive Health Strategy.

All produce offers its own unique benefits and a good way to ensure we’re getting beneficial nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants is to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables. If you’re picking just five fruits and vegetables in your weekly shop, opt for produce of differing colours to reap an array of benefits.

Like what you see? Sign up to our newsletter for more stories like this.

The different colours can signal different antioxidants or compounds that the foods may contain. For example ‘red’ foods like tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene. Lycopene can be helpful in boosting heart health and can help protect against the risk of some cancers.

This compares to purple fruit and veg, which contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins may reduce the occurrence of heart issues and cancer. Purple vegetables also contain nitrates, and this has been suggested to help reduce blood pressure and boost physical performance.

My other top tip is to eat seasonally, and with winter coming, these five fruits and vegetables are in abundance and at their peak:

#1 Cauliflower

Cauliflower is part of the cruciferous family, along with broccoli and cabbage. Cauliflower is very versatile and can be cooked in soups, stews, salads and you can even eat the leaves. Minimise food waste by roasting these for a delicious side dish or add them to a stir-fry.

#2 Red capsicum

Immune-boosting fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C are great for fending off winter colds. Red capsicum actually has more vitamin C than an orange, so it can be added to salads, eaten raw as a snack, added to stir-fries or roasted to boost your vitamin C intake.

#3 Kiwifruit

Kiwifruits are in season during winter and they are a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants and fibre. You can even eat the skin to avoid wastage (and mess!). Antioxidants help remove free radicals from the body, reducing oxidative stress and cell damage.

#4 Mandarins

Mandarins are in season throughout winter. Orange fruit and vegetables help to pack a nutrition punch due to their high content of beta-carotene, which can be converted by the body into vitamin A. This vitamin is beneficial for helping with vision, immune function and reproduction. Sweet potato is a great option for an in-season orange vegetable.

#5 Pineapple

While pineapples are usually associated with summer, they also have a winter peak. Add them to smoothies and sweet dishes or add them to a curry and casserole for a sweet addition to a savoury dish.

Don’t be afraid to be creative with cooking so that you get your two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables in each day. There’s also evidence that cooking veggies in extra virgin olive oil (such as roasting vegetables in the oven) boosts the absorption of nutrients.

As a guide, one serve is:

  • One medium sized piece of fruit such as an apple, pear or banana, two smaller pieces such as apricots or kiwifruit or 1 cup of fresh fruit salad.
  • Half a cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of fresh salad.

Good nutrition is important at all stages of life, but it’s vital that we are able to access and afford nutritious food and know how to make healthy food choices. Dietitians Australia called for a greater focus on these areas in their recent response to the draft National Preventive Health Strategy. Supporting Australians to have healthy food habits can help prevent diet-related health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and poor mental health.

Simone Austin is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Senior Dietetic Advisor at Dietitians Australia.