UK health guidelines advise everyone eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
But to get the best benefits of all nutrients, it’s important to get a mix of different types of fruit and veg.
While there is no guarantee that following a healthy diet will help you to live longer, it can minimise your risk of developing health problems.
According to dietitian Juliette Kellow and Dr Sarah Brewer, including squashes in your diet may help to protect against certain diseases.
Squashes include vegetables like butternut squash, pumpkin and courgette. The experts advise eating squashes three times per week.
These brightly coloured vegetables are especially rich in carotenoids, which have been linked to keeping the eyes healthy as well as protecting against heart disease and some types of cancer
Juliette Kellow and Dr Sarah Brewer
“These brightly coloured vegetables are especially rich in carotenoids, which have been linked to keeping the eyes healthy as well as protecting against heart disease and some types of cancer,” said Kellow and Brewer.
The carotenoids found in squashes have been linked to healthier hearts and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Butternut squashes are a particularly good source of a carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin.
A large part of the protective factor of carotenoids is thought to likely be due to their high source of antioxidants.
Good intakes of carotenoids have also been linked to a lower risk of a number of cancers, including those of the lungs, mouth, pharynx and larynx.
A review of studies found those with the highest intakes of carotenoids had a 21 per cent lower risk of developing lung cancer than those with the lowest.
The risk of developing cancer of the larynx was 57 per cent lower in those with the highest intakes of beta-carotene.
Squashes with orange skin and flesh contain alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, which can be converted into vitamin A, which supports vision.
Green-skinned squashes are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
The vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids found in squashes help protect against oxidative stress in your airways from airborne pollution and irritants.
Numerous studies support the link between these antioxidants and good lung health.
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