If you've spent time thinking about healthy eating, you know that you should try to include vegetables at every meal. I always encourage my nutrition clients to choose the vegetable first when planning a meal, so that they are sure to get the recommended 5 - 10 servings per day. Eating your veggies to be healthy is common knowledge, and nowadays even fast food restaurants know to throw a bit of iceberg lettuce and tomato at their clients. But there are vegetables and then there are Vegetables and a good question to ask is: "which vegetables pack the most nutritious punch?"
At any health food store you can find shelves of "greens" products that promise a dose of veggies for people on the go. The color green is now synonymous with health and vitality; most doctors will recommend eating leafy greens for their high concentration of vitamins and minerals. But green is not the only thing to look for when walking through your local produce section, although this vibrant color is a very good place to start.
Variety is the spice of life, and also a good way to ensure that you are getting a range of essential vitamins and minerals in your diet. Bright, dark colors, like red, purple, green and orange will lead you to foods like grapes and berries, kale, chard, cabbages, pomegranates, avocado, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, and squash. These foods will supply vitamins A, Bs, C and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that scientists are discovering each week to have healing and protective qualities.
One family of vegetables is the cruciferous variety and this includes many of the colorful honorees above: broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, arugula, bok choy, collard greens, kale, turnip and cabbage. Scientists now find this family of vegetables to be very promising in fighting cancer 1, 2
Once you've chosen a type of vegetable, an important consideration is the quality of the food. You need to make sure that the beautiful color of your veggie is representative of actual vitamin constituents and isn't just the result of a gas the food was exposed to in transit to you. This may sound like a cynical view, but did you know that many fruits and vegetables are picked unripe and "ripened" by exposure to ethylene gas en route to your local store? A closer inspection of conventional grocery store produce reveals that the common tomato of today has 43 % less vitamin A than a 1950s era tomato. In his book entitled "The End of Food", Thomas Pawlick 3 discusses this pathetic loss of nutrition and blames our society's mass-production approach for detrimentally affecting today's food industry. Profit-minded views have led to the mineral-depletion of our soil, adoption of new selection criteria for foods such as large size and uniformity, the ability to ship and stack easily, and is causing farmers to focus on foods conforming to these factors instead of factors such as taste or amount of nutrition in the produce. If October's spinach scare wasn't enough to convince you, now is a good time to buy from smaller, local organic growers who don't cut corners and have manageable crops that are picked ripe, grown on rotated fields, generally not mass-produced) but so is the fact that you will be choosing a food that is pesticide-free. Some of the foods that are highly-sprayed are also the foods that contain the most vitamins: Mexican cantaloupes, grapes, green beans, bell peppers, and spinach.
So what if you're looking for a greens' product that can get you through those mornings when you know it will be a long time before you get a serving of fresh vegetables? Greens' drinks are a good way to fill that gap. But as you would with a whole vegetable, seek out good quality products that offer the most amount of nutrients. Your best bet is an organic greens product that's made from actual vegetables and fruits (not their juices) and contains a large range of colorful vegetables, ideally with a lot of cruciferous ones.
Striving to be perfect may be a recipe for a disaster but it's good to a few things each day to reach your own optimal health. Each day try to tick the following items off your list of healthy to-dos:
- get at least 5 servings (a handful) of fruits or vegetables
- eat one leafy green food
- eat one brightly colored fruit or vegetable
- choose organic as often as you can
1. Science Daily
2. WebMD "Crunchy Veggies Fight Cancer"
Caroline Rechia is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and chocolate maker. Her blog, 'C is for Cookie' can be found here: http://carolinescookies.blogspot.com
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