Today’s blog post is all about VEGETABLES!! From why they are so important and how much of them you should eat to the secret to eating them! Now, before you go hitting the little X at the upper right hand corner of this page, know that you would be lying to yourself if you just said “Nah, this post isn’t for me - I get all the veggies I need.” So take your finger away from that little X and join me for the first ever Veggie Ted Talk (at least I think it’s the first ever) – you won’t be sorry!
Before we get to the big secret about veggies, it's important to understand why veggies are such a powerhouse food group. It's because they contain:
Ok….that’s cool and all, but…what?!? Like, what are all those things? Vitamins are made by plants and animals and are essential for the body to function properly. An example of a vitamin is Vitamin B9 otherwise know as Folate. It’s found in leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale. Folate is essential for bodily functions and an important vitamin for brain development, which is why many pregnant women take a folate supplement. Vitamin C is another important vitamin that helps support a healthy immune system, which is something that continues to be important as we navigate through the current pandemic. You get vitamin C from citrus fruits, but also from tomatoes.
Minerals, on the other hand, are found in the earth’s soil and water, are absorbed by plants, and like vitamins, are essential for bodily function. For example, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage contain sulfur which is necessary for cellular function and DNA production. If you can't or won't eat dairy, you can instead eat leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale to obtain calcium which is a bone-building mineral.
What you might not know is that vegetables also contain important compounds called phytonutrients. Y’all phytonutrients are the sprinkles on top of the cupcake that is vegetables! They are magical! They help ward off chronic diseases like high cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes. They also provide us with rich antioxidants to ensure our body doesn’t suffer from internal wear and tear due to the millions of processes that occur each day.
Finally, vegetables contain fiber which is important for regularity and slowing down digestion which allows you to feel fuller, longer. Did I mention they help with regularity?!
Now that you know the importance of vegetables, the next question you may be asking yourself is how much of them should you eat in a day. The scientific answer is 9 to 13 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Just so you know, a serving of raw vegetables is equal to one cup and a serving of cooked vegetables is equal to a half cup. Want to know an easier way to ensure you are getting the right number of servings? When you sit down to eat your meal, make sure your plate is half vegetables. Yes, breakfast too. It’s also important to ensure that you are eating the rainbow, meaning you are eating all different colors of vegetables throughout your day, not just one single type of vegetable. Why is this important? Well, as you learned above, vegetables have all different types of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. If you only eat broccoli, you’re only going to get the amazing benefits of broccoli. Which means you’re missing out on the amazing benefits of spinach, cauliflower, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.
We've covered why veggies are a powerhouse food group and how much of them we should eat in a day. Another question you might be asking yourself is how do I prepare my veggies to get the biggest nutrient bang for my buck? In other words, to cook or not to cook...🤔 Here's where the secret comes in - you should cook or not cook vegetables in a way that ensures you will eat them. It's mind-blowing right?! But think about it...if you're a person who doesn't like cooked carrots, your never going to eat them and that's ok! So how are you going to eat your veggies - in a way that allows you to enjoy them.
But there is more to eating your veggies then just that simple secret thanks to something called bioavailability. Bio-what?! Bioavailability, or the degree to which a nutrient (vitamin, mineral, phytonutrient) can be absorbed by your body. For example, your body is going to need different vegetable nutrients then your best friends’ body and she is going to need different nutrients then her spouses body. Not to mention the reality that some nutrients break down when cooked and others come out of the woodwork when vegetables are cooked. So to make things a little easier:
Here’s the Top 5 Veggies to Eat Raw (taking into account bioavailability):
4. Brussel Sprouts
Here’s the Top 5 Veggies to Eat Cooked and Why:
1. Spinach – When you cook spinach, it wilts or shrinks, so you are going to eat more because it has a smaller volume when cooked.
2. Asparagus – In a 2009 study published in The International Food Journal of Food Science and Technology found that cooking asparagus increased it’s antioxidant and cancer fighting nutrients from by 9%
3. Mushrooms – They retain more antioxidants when cooked.
4. Tomatoes – When cooking tomatoes, the amount of lycopene (an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory) available for absorption increases.
5. Potatoes – When you cook potatoes, you are cooking away the starches that cause gas and bloating as well as the anti-nutrients that effect the absorption of the good-for-you vitamins and minerals.
Whew! That was a lot of info on vegetables, probably more than you bargained for but hopefully, you learned something new about this powerhouse food group. Thank you for coming to my Veggie Ted Talk and remember - if you’re eating a variety of vegetables, prepared in a variety of ways, you’re body will receive a variety of benefits.