Everyone should know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. But how much of it is enough? And which foods are essential to a balanced menu? Star chef Johann Lafer and doctor Matthias Riedl reveal their six “guarantors of health”.

The recipe adjustments that we made for “Medical Cuisine” are primarily based on six food groups whose positive effects on the human body have been proven in hundreds of studies – and which, according to current research, can therefore prolong life.

A good 70 percent of Germans say they eat carrots, cabbage, etc. every day – but the recommended minimum amount of 400 grams is only reached by just under one in seven. Changing this should be the main focus of any dietary adjustment. For this reason, vegetables and herbs are at the center of medical cuisine recipes.

Johann Lafer looks back on a culinary career spanning over 40 years. In numerous TV shows, books and magazines he has proven for years that he is a master of his craft. Matthias Riedl is a nutritional doctor, diabetologist and medical director and founder of medicum Hamburg. In their new book, they show together how healthy eating works at home. You can read an excerpt from it here.

“Medical Cuisine: The reinvention of healthy cuisine” by Johann Lafer and Matthias Riedl, GU-Verlag, 26 euros

Vegetables and herbs contain a lot of secondary plant substances that, among other things, protect cells, have an antibacterial effect, strengthen the immune system and heart health and, according to the latest research, also support metabolic processes in the brain. A special phytochemical, sulforaphane, is even said to be effective against cancer.

Apart from that, vegetables are full of fiber. These serve as food for the beneficial intestinal bacteria, keep blood sugar levels stable, keep you full for longer and thus reduce the risk of being overweight or help obese people reduce it. Accordingly, numerous scientific studies show that a high fiber intake helps to prevent many diseases of civilization, such as diabetes, diverticulitis and colon cancer. In addition, vegetables provide us with pretty much all the other micronutrients we need – such as vitamins and minerals.

Particularly valuable in this regard are local greens that the grandparents’ generation typically brought to the table – even if, from today’s perspective, they are usually cooked a little too long and thickened too much.

These include, for example

By the way, there is no such thing as too much of vegetables: the positive effects increase steadily up to an amount of 500 grams per day. If you eat more, there is no additional benefit, but there is no disadvantage either. Thanks to their volume, vegetables act as a healthy stomach filler – and are therefore one reason why a “species-appropriate” diet is so filling.

Grandparents can also serve as a role model for this food group: lentils, beans and peas were regularly on their menu. In modern nutrition, we should definitely give the little powerhouses this central place again and eat 50 grams of them several times a week – ideally even daily. According to studies, this amount reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and colon cancer, among other things.

The reason: legumes are true nutritional miracles! For example, they provide more than 20 grams of valuable vegetable protein per 100 grams – and seven out of ten Germans consume far too little of this. This is despite studies showing that everyone would benefit from eating more protein from plant sources.

This is particularly true for people with risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The equation is simple: the more we consume of the “miracle substance” plant protein, the lower the mortality. Unfortunately, the reverse is true: the more animal protein from (red) meat we eat, the worse the prognosis is – especially if it comes from processed products such as sausages.

But that’s not all! Legumes are also a good source of minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc, which we need for our bones and joints as well as for all organs and metabolic processes. And, even more than vegetables, they are real fiber bombs. This means that legumes are extremely filling and prevent us from snacking between meals – which, among other things, stimulates fat burning.

Tip: The bloating and flatulence that many people fear can easily be avoided if you let legumes soak for 30 to 60 minutes after cooking. In this way, the substances that are responsible for the flatulent effect are reduced. And: slowly approach the recommended amount!

The main reason why the modern Western diet makes us sick is its fatty acid ratio. This has shifted significantly in favor of unfavorable omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in ready-made products and snacks, for example. The result: three out of four people are undersupplied with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This is bad because these are among the most important substances in the body. For example, they guarantee that nutrients can get into the cell interior. They also play a significant role in almost all other processes in the organism – from the transmission of information in the brain to the immune system.

Because omega-3 acids are so important, an adequate supply of them has a variety of positive effects on our health. According to studies, they have an anti-inflammatory effect and reduce the risk of, among other things, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, cognitive impairments and depression. Thanks to all of this, high levels of omega-3 fatty acids can also extend our lives – according to current research.

The most important omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Our body cannot produce ALA itself, so we have to get it through food. The body can produce the other two omega-3 fatty acids, at least to a small extent, from ALA. Good sources of all omega-3 fatty acids are primarily healthy oils (especially from flaxseed, olives, walnuts and rapeseed), fatty fish, nuts and seeds.

Important to know: The need for omega-3 fatty acids and the ability to absorb them via the intestine vary greatly from person to person. That’s why everyone should have their personal omega-3 supply measured in their blood – and if necessary, re-dose in consultation with their doctor, for example with dietary supplements. This is particularly recommended for people with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism.

Fermented foods not only taste sour, but also “umami” – a popular savory taste quality that is otherwise mainly found in meat and mature cheese. Yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso paste, tempeh and kombucha tea not only help us satisfy our desire to enjoy meat – without eating any.

These foods are also extremely beneficial for our health: they contain microorganisms that promote the diversity of our intestinal flora and produce short-chain fatty acids that our nerve cells need. They also promote the absorption of vitamins and minerals. And they help the body digest protein. In addition, they keep our immune system fit, have an antibacterial effect, inhibit intestinal inflammation and other inflammatory diseases such as neurodermatitis – and can apparently even reduce anxiety disorders.

Because we need the microorganisms in fermented products so much, they are also called “probiotic”, which means “for life”. Given all this, it is hardly surprising that people in Japan, where fermented foods are served every day, have the highest life expectancy in the world.

So-called empty carbohydrates, which are found in large quantities in white flour products, for example, hardly provide the body with anything other than energy. And most of us don’t burn them because we simply don’t move enough. This causes blood sugar to go on a rollercoaster, fat metabolism is slowed down and the unused energy collects in the body’s own fat deposits on the stomach. Whole grain products, on the other hand, still contain the outer layers of the grain – and therefore a lot of fiber. These complex carbohydrates keep our digestion busy for longer.

As a result, whole grain products fill you up better, the increase in blood sugar is more moderate and there are fewer cravings. In addition, whole grain products provide valuable vegetable protein as well as minerals and vitamins. Accordingly, studies show: Anyone who regularly uses the whole food variant of bread, pasta, rice, etc. significantly reduces the risk of many diseases of civilization, especially metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

You should eat around 100 grams of whole grain products per day. According to researchers, this amount reduces mortality by around 25 percent. Whole grain oat flakes are particularly ideal because they contain an extremely healthy type of fiber, so-called beta-glucans. These have a blood sugar-lowering effect and stimulate the helpful phagocytes of our immune system.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away: Everyone knows this saying. And fruits actually contain a lot of healthy substances that our body needs in order to function properly. Low-sugar, intensely colored fruits, such as berries, are particularly affordable. Secondary plant substances, which support many of our organs in their work, give the fruits their strong red and purple color. These substances also have an antibacterial, immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory effect and also help against diabetes and high blood pressure.

But be careful: Contrary to what is propagated in many places, just 125 grams of fruit per day is enough to benefit from the positive effects. Larger amounts – or fruits that are very high in sugar such as bananas and mangos – burden our bodies with too much fructose. When metabolized, this type of sugar does not go directly into the blood, but takes a detour via the liver. There, fructose is converted into fatty acids, which are then stored.

Too much fructose promotes the development of a fatty liver – and becomes the starting point of a negative spiral, at the end of which there are many diseases of civilization such as diabetes, liver cancer or high blood pressure. Another disadvantage: fructose is not filling, so we quickly overeat.

Anyone who notices a red face after drinking alcohol should take care of themselves. Because there could be alcohol intolerance behind it. And that can increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

Despite their advanced age, super-agers have above-average mental fitness. Their memory performance is as good at the age of 80 as it is at the age of 50 or 60. What is their secret?

The original for this article “Six foods belong on your plate every day” comes from BUNTE.de.