Was your first response to this headline “Yuck”? You’re not alone. I find that most people don’t eat enough vegetables, for a variety of reasons. They don’t like them, don’t know how to cook them, hated them as a kid and so on. None of those reasons changes the fact that vegetables are vital to a healthy diet. This month, we’ll explore lots of different ways to eat your veggies.
Why You Should Eat More Vegetables
There’s a garden-full of good reasons to eat plenty of vegetables:
Studies show that those who eat a plant-based diet weigh less than those who eat more animal products. The fiber and water content in the produce helps fill you up and keep you satisfied. Vegetables are naturally low in calories so eating them instead of higher calorie foods automatically helps you cut calories.
The antioxidants and other nutrients help prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Studies have shown that crucifer vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are powerful allies in the fight against cancer:
- they help the body get rid of toxic chemicals and carcinogenic compounds
- they can stop the growth of cancer cells
- they have a direct impact on the way the body breaks down estrogen, important when we’re talking about hormone-dependent cancers such as breast cancer
When you eat healthy foods that help keep your blood sugar steady instead of junk foods that can spike your blood sugar, you have more energy and feel better all throughout the day. The fiber in vegetables helps your GI system work properly, keeping you regular and feeling good.
How Much Should You Eat?
In general, we recommend 5 servings of vegetables each and every day. While this may sound like a lot, it’s actually easier to accomplish than you might think.
One serving equals:
- ½ cup chopped raw vegetables (like sliced carrots, tomatoes)
- 1 cup of leafy raw vegetables (like salad greens, baby spinach)
- ½ cup cooked leafy vegetables (like cooked spinach)
- ½ cup fresh salsa or tomato sauce (make your own or check your supermarket’s produce section)
- 1 cup vegetable soup (make your own or choose a low-sodium prepared soup)
- 6 ounces of low-sodium vegetable juice (better choices are those that are made fresh for you and include the fiber from the vegetables)
A good-sized salad for lunch can contribute 4 or 5 servings of vegetables all by itself. Add a cup of roasted vegetables as a side at dinner and you’ve exceeded the recommended 5 servings. See? Not so hard after all.
So hit the salad bar at least once this week! Leave me a comment once you do and tell me what you ate.