Two Types of Vegetables, Their Health Benefits and Why You Need More of Them
Why Do We Need Vegetables?
“Eat your vegetables, because they are good for you.” We have all heard this since we were children. This is very good advice, since vegetables are low in calories and contain many vitamins and minerals that are difficult to obtain from other foods. However, many people do not realize the full impact that eating lots of fresh vegetables will have on their health. In today’s fast food and convenience food society, the amount of fresh vegetables that people believe they need to consume is devastatingly underestimated. Eating a plant-based diet that is very rich in fruits and vegetables can greatly improve your health by preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A vegetable-rich diet also helps lower your blood pressure, keep you full, and give you the nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants you need to feel your best.
In this article, I will explain the many benefits of consuming vegetables, the difference between starch vegetables and “true vegetables,” and ways to add more vegetables into your daily diet.
Why You Should Be Eating More Vegetables:
The Benefits of Vegetables
Eating vegetables “because they are good for you” is a vague statement that many people hear or say all the time, but knowing specifically why vegetables are healthy makes people more likely and more willing to actually do so.
They are packed full of vitamins and minerals. In general, darker and more richly-colored vegetables tend to have a higher vitamin and mineral content. For example, kale and spinach contain more vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce. Dark leafy greens could very well be called nature’s multivitamin. They are high in vitamin K, which helps form clotting factors in your blood for better healing. (For this reason, if you are on blood thinners, your doctor may tell you to be consistent with the amount of leafy greens you eat). Vitamin K also helps keep bones strong. Leafy greens are rich in the B vitamin folic acid, and iron, which helps prevent anemia in women of childbearing age.
They contain antioxidants. Vegetables contain antioxidants such as lutein and xeazanthin are antioxidants that protect your cells from free radial damage and improve eye health. Vegetables are also rich in the antioxidant vitamins, vitamin A, C, and E. Eating a diet rich in fresh vegetables and therefore rich in antioxidants will combat the negative effects of aging!
They are low in calories and high in fiber. This is extremely helpful for losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight. Lower calorie plant based foods have a high water content, so they help keep you hydrated and full. They will take up more space in your stomach for a fewer amount of calories, so you tend to eat less calories when you eat lots of vegetables. The fiber in vegetables also helps keep you full and satisfied. In addition, one of the best ways to prevent colon cancer is to eat a diet rich in fiber!
Below is a list containing examples of starch vegetables:
- Sweet potatoes
Starch vegetables include things like root vegetables (potatoes and carrots) and legumes (peas and beans). Most of these starch vegetables, such as potatoes and beans, could are just as easily placed in the starch category with breads and pastas. These vegetables contain many beneficial nutrients and tend to be more filling and calorie-dense. Starch vegetables like beans and peas also contain a higher percentage of protein. While these foods certainly are good for you, it is important to realize that they are different from true vegetables. These are the vegetables that are most commonly consumed, and vegetables like leafy greens and broccoli are often forgotten.
Below is a list containing examples of true vegetables:
- Romaine lettuce
These true vegetables are very high in vitamins and minerals and lower in calories. The recommended intake of green leafy vegetables is at least 3 cups per week, but getting more will provide even more benefits. While all vegetables are healthy, starch vegetables and true vegetables should be treated as two different categories so you do not miss out on any on any of the amazing benefits of leafy greens and broccoli.
Spinach, a true leafy green vegetable, is often recognized as a “super food,” and for good reasons! Spinach contains many nutrients that help build muscle. (Remember Popeye the sailor man and his can of spinach?) The calcium in spinach, along with helping to strengthen your bones, also aids in muscle function. Consuming spinach has been shown to increase lean muscle mass. Spinach also contains natural nitrates that help deliver oxygen to muscles for better performance and recovery.
In her book The Beauty Detox Solution, certified nutritionist and beauty expert Kimberly Snyder refers to greens as “beauty foods” because of all the vitamins and minerals they contain that improve your overall health and therefore your overall appearance. When your body gets all the nutrients it needs for bodily function and repair, your health will shine through in your hair, skin, and eyes.
Banana Smoothie Tip: When making a smoothie with bananas, use bananas that are freckled. Ripe bananas will be sweeter and much easier for your body to digest.
A Green Smoothie
Vitamix is known for their quality blenders. If you are a smoothie lover, a Vitamix blender is an excellent way to easily add vegetables to your smoothies. They are powerful enough to make a veggie-filled smoothie creamy and smooth.
How to Add More Vegetables into Your Daily Diet
Make your fruit smoothie or protein shake into a “green smoothie.” A big trend in the health world these days is the use of fruit smoothies or protein shakes for breakfast or after a workout. These are great opportunities to add leafy greens into your diet. When you add in a handful of spinach to a fruit and protein smoothie, for example, you only taste the sweetness from the fruits or protein powder. Here is an easy recipe for a green smoothie. With this smoothie, you will be getting a full serving or more of leafy greens with all the taste of fruit:
- Add a couple handfuls of spinach or kale to a blender with about a cup of water.
- Blend the water and greens until it is a smooth liquid.
- Add in fruits such as bananas to make it creamy, along with some berries or other fruits of your choice.
- Add a scoop of protein powder, if desired.
The smoothie will look green, but you will only taste the fruit! Once you get used to green smoothies, you can start adding in more leafy greens. Adding a small amount of lemon juice can also help cut through the “grassy taste” of a smoothie that contains more greens.
Eat a green salad with every meal. Keeping plenty of greens and other veggies in your house is very important! It means you will be able to easily toss together a salad before each meal. Studies have shown that people who eat a salad before their meals consume less calories. This makes sense, since vegetables are high in water and fiber. If you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, this will help a lot. Just be careful about the dressing you use. Creamy dressings tend to have the highest fat content, so try something light like balsamic vinaigrette. Fresh leafy greens can be kept in your fridge for a few days, but they do not need to be wasted if they are not used in time. You can put them in a freezer bag and freeze them to cook later or use in a green smoothie!
Vegan Meal Ideas
Make more of your meals plant-based. In today’s world of over-consumed meat and dairy, a vegan diet can sound extreme. However, the fact is that most Americans are getting too much fat and protein, and not enough healthy carbohydrates from whole food sources like fruits and vegetables. Find some healthy vegan recipes based on whole foods and aim to make one or even two of your daily meals vegan. This absolutely does not mean that you have to make every meal of every day vegan, but aiming for more vegan meals will drastically increase the amount of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains that you consume. This will have lots of benefits for maintaining a healthy weight, clearing up your skin, and increasing your energy level.
Make a vegetable juice daily. Try juicing some vegetables to start your day with a hydrating vitamin and antioxidant-packed drink. By juicing your vegetables, you will be able to get the nutrients from a large quantity of veggies that you would not be able to eat whole. The only downside to juicing is that it removes the fiber, but vegetable juice ensures that your body can quickly and easily absorb the vitamins and antioxidant concentrated in the juice. Fruits and vegetables such as large carrots, oranges, apples, celery, spinach and other greens are excellent foods for juicing. Green apples will sweeten up your green juice without adding too much sugar. A high-quality juicer can be a bit expensive, but it is well worth the investment when used regularly.
Vegetable Juicer Options
More on Nutrition:
- How to Grow Luscious Potted Tomatoes on Your Own Porch
For those who live in a home such as an apartment with no access to a yard, having a vegetable garden can be tricky. Here is how to easily grow large tomatoes in planters on your own porch!
- The Benefits of Soaking and Sprouting Raw Almonds
Almonds are a healthy snack that contain many nutrients your body needs. Since the skin in almonds and other brown nuts contains enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, soaking and sprouting them can help your body truly use all the vitamins and minerals
- The Benefits of Buying Local Produce
Some of the benefits of buying local produce include freshness and better taste, better nutritional value, and supporting your local economy.