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  • Francine K

Eat Your Veggies


While we are spending a ton of time at home this month (and probably next month too), we have run out of excuses for not eating well. It is more important than ever to nourish our bodies and keep our immune systems strong. It's time to eat your vegetables!!

You might be thinking you are not be able to get all the fresh produce right now, right? This could be due to limiting the trips to the grocery store or lack of stocking on the shelves but, the veggies you can get and already have should not be going to waste. You are can be ordering your groceries online or participating in your local produce box delivery program. It’s not too late to start using these resources. You will find they are very affordable and quit the time-saver. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and spend some more time in the kitchen!

Mothers and grandmothers for generations have been encouraging families to eat their vegetables. Most people realize that vegetables are good for you but, do you know that they could save your life? In fact, more than 50% of adults know they need to eat 5 or more servings of produce per day however, less than 10% of the population actually DO.

Now is the opportunity to raise those statistics. It’s a great time to experiment in the kitchen and try those recipes you never had the time for before. It’s a chance to really taste your creations, learn a new technique or experiment with seasonings.

Why?

According to the longest and largest study to date, The Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professional Follow up Study, the higher the fruits and vegetables eaten, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, degenerative eye disease and intestinal ailments. Those that ate the lowest amount of produce (less than 1.5 servings per day) saw significant increases in medical ailments. In other words, less produce equals more disease and sickness. The most protective benefits of produce were seen when an average 8 or more servings were consumed daily.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans now recommend adults should consume 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables in their daily diets (Jun 3, 2019). One serving of most fruits is about 1 cup fresh or ½ cup canned/frozen. One serving of vegetables is ½ cup cooked or canned and 1 cup raw. To meet the standards, Americans will have to increase their daily intake of produce by 30-50%. It's time to amp it up people! and although these numbers DO include them, I beg you, please don't count those French fries you just made in your air fryer!

Don't get me wrong, potatoes do provide a good source of Vitamin C when fresh or minimally processed. They are also high in potassium but, keep in mind much of that goes away when highly processed and in the form of a huge mountain of fries. Sigh...

Do you know why are vegetables are so nutritious?

Simply put, vegetables contain the most varieties and greatest amounts of vitamins, minerals and fibers of all the other food sources humans consume. While, they also contribute the least amount of simple sugars to a healthy diet. Added sugar lowers our immune system's fighting power so, keep it to a minimum to stay healthy.

All produce contains thousands of plant nutrients called phytochemicals in every serving. Scientists are only beginning to identify and understand the role of the ones they have discovered. For example, the pigment that makes tomatoes red is called lycopene. It has been studied for its potential to protect people from diseases such as heart disease and cancer. When studied alone lycopene was not shown to have much benefit at all however, once the entire food was eaten, it was shown to guard against prostate cancer. The phytochemicals in found naturally in vegetables and fruits are designed to work together – work in synergy.

There are hundreds of carotenoids in an orange colored fruit or vegetable, only one is called beta carotene. Many have heard that beta carotene is good for the eyes but we are now discovering there are hundreds and possibly thousands of this one type of chemical that the body needs to have great vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables like kale, spinach, corn, squash, kiwi and grapes. These have also been found in the eye to help protect it from pollution and damage.

I could go on about every human system and point to vegetables the support each one but, let’s be honest, it’s kind of boring & not a fun read. No one needs to understand all the scientific details to get back to the basic truth – a variety of colorful vegetables are beneficial to our health.

Any further explanations are simply evidence to support a fact we all have known since childhood!

Ways to increase vegetable intake:

  • make half of your plate full of vegetables - all the time meals & snacks!

  • eat raw vegetables for snacks daily

  • add puree veggies right into your fruit smoothies, meatloaf, soups & stews

  • add a cup of frozen vegetables to your microwave meal or canned soup

  • use “riced” cauliflower in place of rice or mash some into your potatoes

  • break out that zoodle maker that you bought, used twice and then packed away

  • add a low sodium vegetable drink to your daily habit

  • Check out Choose My Plate.gov for more tips

BORRING?!?

Are you bored with the same 3 vegetables? I hear ya!! Let’s brainstorm a few more ideas. Look at the list of many the vegetables that are out there (see the lists below). I would bet you probably like many of them but, they have just fallen off your radar to pick them up!

Don’t forget the varieties of each too! There are many types of lettuce & greens, varieties of tomatoes, cabbage or cucumbers and four different colors of sweet peppers.

Make colorful salads with fresh veggies, soups and stews with canned or frozen veggies.

Challenge yourself to try a new veggie each week or taste one that you have not eaten in many years! Perhaps, you hated beets as a kid. Maybe, your tastes have changed? Maybe it was the preparation that you didn’t enjoy. As a kid, there were many vegetables I never had the chance to try because they simply were not offered. For example, my family didn’t eat jicama, okra or spinach so, I didn’t get to taste these until I was on my own. Once I did and learned how I liked them prepared and was able to expand my vegetable list.

THIS is an interactive list of veggies and below is an image with many ideas.

Buy Fresh in Season; Get Frozen or Canned anytime of year!

Get Veggies in season for the best flavor and price. Check out this LINK to find the produce that is in season in your neck of the woods.

Buying local is always the freshest option but, its not necessarily realistic (especially in our current situation). Growing your own is even better! This is especially wonderful for common herbs. Don’t forget that fresh herbs are also plants and add even more variety of nutrients and phytochemicals even in small amounts. Many could be ready in a couple weeks if you start from seedlings! Here are a couple sites to learn more about growing at home from Good Housekeeping and a resource from CNET.

The next best option is frozen. This produce is picked at the peak of ripeness & flash frozen quickly. Produce gathers the most nutrients the last week or so before ripening. In many cases, frozen may have more nutrients than a product that was picked early and half-way around the world so, it would not degrade by the time it arrives to your store.

Finally, there are canned products. These are harvested when they are ripe or slightly over-ripe. The process of canning involves high heat and usually added salt which prevents the food inside from spoiling but, it also decreases some of the more sensitive vitamins. Minerals usually hang around and of course, the fiber is more available to us to digest once cooked. Canned is still a very good option for time saving, convenience and variety. Try to find cans with the lowest sodium (salt) per serving or labeled as low-sodium or no salt added since in the preparation of them, we are free to add the amount of salt that best suits our personal diet needs and tastes.

Self-Assessment

There are many of us that believe in the power of plants! Let them do their good work inside of your body. Now is the time to take a good look at your diet and honestly assess how much produce you really are eating each day. Boost your immune system with vegetables. If you need recipe ideas, I love the recipe ideas on this page and there are thousands out there. There is no need for me to re-invent them!

Test your knowledge on vegetables (and all the food groups). It's kinda fun and you will feel super smart when you pass with flying rainbow colors!

Finally, go and eat your vegetables because they will help you to not just get through this quarantine, they will also help you to live a long and healthy life...but I bet you knew that last part!

#vegetables #healthyeating #homecooking #eatfresh #freshproduce #veggies #nutrition #produce

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