The Why, What and How about Vegetables
We all heard growing up to “Eat your vegetables!” and I don’t know about you but I didn’t care much for vegetables as kid. Now as an adult, I love them and I don’t think that has as much to do with my age now as with the vegetables I was eating as a kid.
When I was growing up we had primarily canned or frozen vegetables. Sometimes they were covered in cheddar cheese, sometimes covered in Cream of Mushroom Soup. Was this how it was for you? It wasn’t until I joined a CSA about 5 years ago and was forced to go through a big box of veg on a weekly basis that I began to notice the difference from my childhood experience. In this article I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned since then: Why to eat vegetables, what vegetables to choose, and how to cook them, all with the intention of maximizing flavor and health.
Why eat vegetables?
We all know that vegetables are full of vitamins and nutrients. What you may not know is that vegetables are incredibly important for disease prevention and even cure. The vitamins and micronutrients in vegetables are anti-inflammatory which is paramount in disease prevention (think anti-cancer, anti-heart disease, anti-Alzheimer’s, anti-diabetes). Vegetables are detoxifying which is vital for our well-being. And they are alkalizing which helps balance the largely acidic Typical American Diet. A ph neutral diet aids all of the body’s functions and also helps in disease prevention. And don’t think you can get all that from a multi-vitamin. Scientists are learning that the micro-nutrients in the whole vegetable actually help in the body’s ability to absorb the vitamins.
Vegetables are also high in fiber. Most people don’t get nearly the amount of fiber that is recommended. An adult female should be getting a minimum of 25 grams of fiber, an adult male, 38. Americans on average get 15 grams max. Fiber keeps the colon and bowel happy, keeps cholesterol down, and helps with weight loss and blood sugar levels.
What vegetables do I choose?
All of them! Focus on eating a rainbow of colors. Each color of vegetable is strong in one particular area of nutrition so it’s great to get a variety. Beyond that, I recommend buying local and organic and non-GMO.
To affect the flavor quotient, there is nothing like going local. Locally grown vegetables are picked at their peak of ripeness and because of that have a flavor that is unlike anything picked 3 weeks early and shipped across the country to sit on the shelf of your grocery store. Those vegetables are grown and bred for longevity of shelf life, not for flavor. When you buy from a CSA or a weekly Farmer’s Market, these vegetables are grown for flavor because the farmer knows you’ll be eating them within the next week. They don’t have to last a long time, they have to taste amazing for you to come back and buy from him/her again.
After local, the second consideration is whether or not to choose organic. To this I refer you to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 on www.ewg.org. The vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list are the most heavily sprayed and really should be eaten organic. The Clean 15 typically have a thick outer layer that protects the part we eat, so in a financial pinch could be eaten non-organic.
There are lots of reasons to choose organic: You do not want to ingest those toxic pesticides, organic farming is good for the environment, organic vegetables are more nutritious. Take your pick, just pick organic.
The third and increasingly important factor in choosing vegetables is whether they are GMO. A GMO (genetically modified organism) vegetable is where the DNA has been altered in a lab to be bug resistant. What happens is the bug’s stomach explodes when they take a bite of a GMO. And lab rats have grown huge tumors eating GMO corn. There have been no long-term human test done to see if they are safe for us to eat, but the companies assure us that they are. Yeah, I am going to avoid it. The best way to do that is to eat organic because they can’t call it organic if there is anything GMO in the product. And get involved in demanding that companies label our foods so we know if we’re eating GMOs (they already sell their products non-GMO to Europe because they have demanded it).
How to cook vegetables?
As previously mentioned, for the biggest flavor, start with fresh, local and organic vegetables. Avoid canned or frozen vegetables as the processing really cuts back on the flavor. Don’t boil or steam if you want big flavor. My favorite way to cook vegetables in the winter is to roast them with a little olive oil and chopped garlic. I haven’t met a vegetable that wasn’t delicious roasted! I also like to stir-fry in the winter. In the summer, I like to grill my vegetables and toss them in salads. Green salad, beet salad, cucumber salad, carrot salad, lentil salad, the list is endless. Toss your veggies with home-made vinaigrettes or dressings to punch up flavors.
Let me know in the comments below what your favorite vegetable is and how you like to cook it!
To your health,
Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach