We all have it drummed into us from childhood — "eat your vegetables". Why? Because they're good for you.
But there are some vegetables that are more than good for you — we're talking super vegies: carrots, corn, broccoli, beans and peas. These are the so-called super vegies blessed with all sorts of amazing qualities.
At least, that's the claim — but what's so good about them? And do they really work?
First, what makes super vegies 'super'? Dietitian Voula Koufariotis says the magic ingredients are antioxidants.
"Antioxidants are good substances that help fight the free radicals. Free radicals increase our risk of heart disease, cancers, diabetes. So therefore getting rid of these things helps us maintain a healthier lifestyle," she says.
Do super vegies live up to their reputation?
We have a fatty food foursome who have agreed to hold fire on their fast food diet and eat super vegies for six weeks to find out whether or not they're the holy grail of healthy eating.
Helen Tolios has been trying to get her son Nick to eat well for years. But he keeps sneaking in junk food. But Nick's starting to pay the price for his wayward diet — over the past 10 months he's packed on 10 kilos. Helen and Nick are both participating in the test.
Next is 33-year-old maintenance technician and lifesaver-in-training, James Hately. He eats rubbish all day, every day and knows it.
Number four in the team is 19-year-old Cassie whose dietary habits are of the quick and easy meal variety and not often healthy.
Before they kick-off their vegie fest, our foursome gets their cholesterol and weight checked, then it's goodbye saturated fats and hello super vegies for six weeks.
These are the rules of engagement:
• Our four participants must include five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit in their diet every day.
• At least two of the vegies in those servings must be super vegetables: corn, carrots, broccoli, beans or peas.
Our four were blood-tested and weighed-in once again to see what impact the super vegie diet had on their health.
James: cholesterol went from 3.9 to 3.2.
James's general cholesterol levels dropped by almost 20 percent and are well under the maximum recommended level of 5.5. Plus his weight went down three kilos.
James has also become more regular. You've got to love that extra fibre!
Cassie: good cholesterol went from 1.4 to 1.7.
Cassie's good cholesterol, the HDL, improved by almost 25 percent to well above the minimum of 1.0 and like James, she shed three kilos.
Cassie also has a lot more energy. Looks like less sludge in Cassie's diet has paid off!
Nick: good cholesterol went from 1.2 to 1.3.
Nick's good cholesterol levels also improved — by a little less than 10 percent and he only lost two kilos — looks like he wasn't able to resist temptation completely. But he is feeling a lot better.
Nick has also been sleeping a lot better. He used to wake up a lot, now pretty much as soon as his head hits the pillow he doesn’t wake up till morning. Cutting down on those fatty late night snacks will do that.
Helen: cholesterol levels were unchanged.
But Helen's levels were good to begin with and her eating habits were healthy anyway. But she was thrilled to lose four kilos and she also noticed an improvement in skin tone — those antioxidants will make your skin smoother.
Our results support those from a recent US study where mice fed with only super vegies for four months proved to have almost 40 percent reduction in artery hardening. And just like the mice, the longer you stick with it, the better off you'll be.
So if you want to stay super fit in the heart department and keep off those unwanted kilos go for super vegies as often as you can.