How many times growing up did your mom tell you to eat your vegetables whether you liked them or not? Perhaps you had to clean your plate before you were excused from the table, too. Now that you are an adult you realize that your mom was trying to promote healthy eating.
New information is always coming out about how important vegetables are to increase and maintain good health and stave off disease. The key is to eat more cruciferous vegetables, for example, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini. The benefits of eating vegetables include:
» They help to preserve bone mass and muscle tissue.
» They help the body to maintain more of an alkaline state than acidic. It will also increase proper digestion, metabolic rate and energy. This will also reduce acid reflux.
» They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They reduce free radical damage and aging. Many plant antioxidants are stored in the leaves, where oxygen is active in photosynthesis. Others appear in plant pigments (for example, the anthocyanins that make the blue-purple colors of blackberries and blueberries) and the chemical defenses of plant skins (for example, quercetin in apple skins). Fat-soluble antioxidants are most likely to concentrate in the fatty plant material – such as within the germ.
» They contain lots of water to help you stay hydrated.
» They contain high fiber content. This will increase proper digestion and elimination. Eating them on a regular basis can result in a higher volume of food intake which is important in reducing body fat.
» They’re lower on the glycemic index and won’t raise blood glucose or insulin levels.
Studies suggest that consuming a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, like those found in fruits and vegetables, may lower age-related cognitive declines, such as Alzheimer’s and the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease. Studies show that eating plenty of vegetables can reduce disease such as cancer and heart disease. For instance, by simply increasing vegetable and fruit intake, experts predict that we could prevent 20 percent or more of all cancer cases and avoid approximately 200,000 cancer-related deaths annually. Eating plenty of vegetables can also lower risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stroke, eye disease, asthma, COPD and osteoporosis.
Most Americans get only a total of three cups a day of fruits and vegetables. The latest dietary guidelines suggest five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day which is two-and-a-half to six-and-a-half cups. This depends on your caloric needs. Your vegetable intake should be higher than your fruit intake, as well. It is also important to note that eating organic vegetables are a better alternative as they are not immersed in pesticides and are more natural. The fresher your produce the better, for instance, buying from a local farmer. Frozen is also a good alternative to fresh given some vegetables are not available during certain times of the year.
I always tell my clients, “If you don’t like some foods, don’t eat them.” Even if you are picky there are usually a few vegetables that you will eat. Maybe you haven’t tried some, either. Take a chance and try them, you might just find some new foods to eat. You can also use a form of greens supplement such as Green’s Plus or Nanogreens to increase your intake. Adding vegetables like spinach, avocado, and carrots to protein shake is an easy alternative and they don’t alter the taste even if you don’t like them. So you see there are several ways to increase vegetables in your diet. Think outside the box and you will be surprised of what you can eat and it taste good too. Your health is the most important part of your life, make it a priority.
-Melinda Duffie is a health & wellness expert and fitness trainer in Columbus and Jackson.
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