My mom was right when I was just a mere eight years old. She said if I ate my fruits and vegetables I would grow up “big and strong”. Alright, so I’m more “lean and strong” but you get the point. (I still don’t like lima beans, Mom.)
We could spend a lifetime reading about how certain foods may be beneficial to our health. Every week, a new book or magazine pops up with new research on how to eat well, stay well, and live longer. Let’s drop the diet books and the magazines and put a plan into action.
Just a few changes in your normal diet could make a huge difference.
First plan of action: Eat an extra vegetable every day. Studies show that the relationship between vegetable consumption and heart disease is astounding. For every extra serving of vegetables that a person eats – their risk for heart disease was lowered four percent. (Gosh, if it’s four percent, imagine what adding in two more vegetables could do.)
The vegetables with the most impact: green leafy vegetables. If you did add an additional vegetable into your diet every day, your risk of heart disease could be reduced 20 to 40 percent. Yes, from vegetables.
Eating plenty of vegetables is also linked to a lower risk of cancer. In fact, it’s been estimated that a diet high in vegetable consumption (6-10 servings a day) could prevent at least 20 percent of all cancer incidences. And stop a recurrence. (Think about that for a minute.)
Lung cancer is cut in half when vegetable consumption increases from two servings a day to five. Vegetables have the greatest protective effect against cancers of the mouth, esophagus, lung, stomach and colon. Eating those green veggies may also boost bone health (you didn’t think you were really getting all the calcium from the milk you drink, did you?) and protect against stroke, high blood pressure, and Type II diabetes. And that, my friends, is just the beginning.
You are wondering how we are going to get these in your meal planning?
How about a few tips:
1) Eat a salad every day. Twice if you can. You do eat more than one meal a day, I presume? Load your salads with all the veggies you enjoy. Add cucumber, carrots, onion, radishes, tomato, broccoli or cauliflower. Try mixed greens instead of iceburg. Iceburg lettuce is a little lower on the nutrients. The darker in color – of your greens, the more nutrients to fuel your body.
2) Snack on raw vegetables. (Do you really want to feed your body an empty nutrient-free snack, like a pretzel?) Raw vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, red, green or yellow peppers dipped in a healthy avocado dip (yes, this means guacamole) will make your vegetables you are eating a pleasure and not a chore.
3) Drink your vegetables. I’m not a fan or canned vegetable juices – which are pasteurized and full of additives. Real vegetable juice. Do you own a blender, food processor or juicer? Mix your greens: kale, spinach, celery, carrots for an additional 4 servings per day. Even with a blender alone, you can mix up your own homemade favorite juice.
4) Add vegetables into your favorite dishes. Utilize zucchini, tomato, red peppers, portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, grated carrots, sprouts or shredded cabbage. Surely there is one dish that you could spruce up with a few added vegetables. Shred or grate your vegetables to add them into sauces, soups and dips.
The vegetable “no-no”. Ready?
Is it in a can? Donate it. Toss it. Get rid of it. By now, the main nutrients are long gone.
Fresh, when you can. Organic if possible. Eat your vegetables in abundance. Your health is worth it.