Reasons To Include More Vibrant Vegetables In Your Life

carrots

Food has always been regarded as medicine in cultures throughout the world. People reached for plants, vegetables, and even animal proteins to cure ailments. Food was the first source people went to before seeking other kinds of treatments. With the advantages and brainwashing of convenience food, we  forget what is essential for us to maintain and improve health. As pointed out by many scientists and doctors, our health became complicated with the introduction of packaged and processed foods, overproduction of wheat, corn, and soy, and the industrialization of meat, poultry, and dairy.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) consists of highly processed meats and wheat. Americans are over-consuming food with little nutritional benefits and not consuming enough of whole foods- mostly vegetables. The SAD diet has no room for fresh, whole foods and has lead to the rise of Western Diseases– breast cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. The dependency of processed foods is also giving rise to allergies and sensitivities to foods like wheat and diary.

All of us need to eat more vegetables for good health, weight loss, and reversing diseases. I am not advocating vegetarianism. What I am saying is that the more vegetables and plant-based foods you consume daily will have the most positive impact on your health. The best possible sources of obtaining micronutrients that your body needs to function healthily come from plant-based foods. Vegetables are grown on a farm, not manufactured in a lab, and do not require a degree to figure out that they are good for you.

Plant foods are complex systems and are the best sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber. These nutrients have hundreds of roles in the body. Our body uses them to make hormones, send nerve impulses, maintain bone and teeth strength, bolster the immune system, prevent cell and tissue damage, increase digestion and absorption, and maintain a normal heartbeat.

Examples of minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium.  Minerals are mostly found in plant foods and are essential for healthy minds and bodies. Minerals are not vulnerable to heat and cooking does not destroy them. It is much easier to obtain minerals from food than vitamins. Vitamins are easily destroyed due to heat and storage duration. Examples of vitamins include vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, and carotenoids. Vitamins and minerals depend on each other to be useful. For example, vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption from food. Similarly, too much of one nutrient can cause a deficiency of another nutrient, since they can interfere with each other’s function. Though, this is rarely the case when you eat varied, whole foods.

Vegetables come in a vibrant array of colors, not just green. These colors signify the type of vitamins and antioxidants are present in them. Purple foods have the antioxidant anthocyanins, which is prevents aging, boost memory, and fights off diseases like Alzheimer’s. Red foods include strawberries, pomegranates, and tomatoes. These foods are known to prevent cancer, reduce pain and inflammation, and lower blood pressure.  Orange foods include pumpkins, bell peppers, and carrots. These foods are high in vitamin C and beat-carotene, which help support the immune system, delay cognitive aging, and rebuild collagen in the skin. In order to ensure you are getting all of these different nutrients, you have to eat a variety of foods. Sticking to just a few vegetables throughout the year will make you loose out on the benefits other plant-based foods offer. Eating a varied, vibrant diet is the best way to get sufficient amounts of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

peppers

It is pretty difficult to overdose on micronutrients that come from whole, unprocessed foods since they contain low levels.  We only need miniscule amounts of them, hence the name micronutrients. On the contrary, supplements may contain fillers and additives, and come in high dosages that can be harmful. Many supplements also contain contaminants such as arsenic and mercury. Our body stores certain nutrients and releases them as needed, thus toxic levels can build up. Dietary supplements are unregulated and do not have to go through testing for safety. Supplements are not intended to replace whole foods, but support people with certain conditions who just cannot get all the nutrients. It is wise to talk to a doctor or nutritionist before taking supplements. Whole foods are complex and contain many nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber that a pill cannot provide. Vegetables are also a lot more affordable than quality supplements.

Pesticide exposure is linked to many health concerns and should not be overlooked. Though, the health benefits of vegetables outweigh the alternative of not eating them at all. Nutrient deficiencies from the lack of vegetables are also the cause of many health issues. Fresh, whole foods are often replaced with processed foods when they are eliminated from the diet, causing more health troubles. I recommend choosing food from sustainable farms. If you are not sure about where or how the food is grown, opt to buy organic, local, and/or seasonal. Local and seasonal food is usually sprayed with less or no pesticides, since they do not have to travel as far. Of course, the best way to learn and ensure you are getting high-quality food is to shop at the farmers market or join a CSA. You can ask the farmers directly about their farming practices. Buying 100% organic produce may not always be possible, but you should at least try to get organic for the vegetables (and fruits) that have the most pesticide residue. You can download the list onto your phone.  If none of these are options for you, start your own vegetable garden. Do what you can to feed yourself and your family more fresh vegetables.

Vegetables should be the star of your plate, not cast off to the side. So what are you waiting for?

radish

This is part one of a three-part series on vegetables. Next week, I will discuss simple ways to eat more vegetables and include a protein-balanced vegetable recipe. 

Advertisements

Farmers Market Finds: Strawberries!

It was a slow, quiet morning at the farmers market today. Partially because of the intermittent rain and the Easter holiday. Even though, I literally only had 30 minutes to get to, shop, and return from the farmers market, I decided it was worth the hustle. The alternative would have been to make time to shop at the grocery store for the week. I resist going to the grocery store, because the quality and prices of the produce just are not as good as what I get at the farmers market. Let’s just say I have been spoiled by shopping consistently at the farmers market for over 3 years now. Plus, I like to see all my farmer friends weekly.

It’s definitely full-blown spring now. Strawberries, artichokes, English peas, asparagus, avocados, fava greens, spring onions, green garlic, fresh herbs, and ramps are just some of the vegetables and fruits you will find at the stalls and stands. I’ve already pinned many recipes to include these vegetables in our diet. Photo Mar 31, 11 12 12 AM

Organic strawberries are just coming into season. Serendipity Farms

Strawberries are one of the fruits I refuse to buy non-organic. The 54 or so pesticides sprayed on strawberries are outrageous and dangerous for your health, the health of the farm workers, and the health of the environment. Tokyo-based Arysta LifeScience Inc, the company producing the fumigant pesticide methyl iodide, decided to pull out distribution in the United States after a year-long battle with farm workers, consumers, scientists, and environmentalist. However, Arysta still continues to market methyl iodide in other countries for strawberries and other crops. This means methyl iodide can still end up in the United States, which is another reason to eat local fruits and vegetables.

I liked eating strawberries as a kid, but most of the time ate them because my parents made us. I am pretty sure I was not eating local, seasonal, or organic strawberries most of the time. Some of the times the strawberries were super sweet and delicious, but other times the strawberries left a bad taste in my mouth. I remember telling my dad one day to stop buying strawberries and he was really surprised. Maybe, he thought all kids like the cute fruit and should eat them. Aside from the bad taste in my mouth, I started experiencing a tingling sensation on my lips, inside of my cheeks and tongue. It was not until I discovered farm fresh, seasonal, organic strawberries that I fully enjoyed them again. I have not experienced the tingling sensation again. I really do think it has to do with all the pesticides that are sprayed on conventional strawberries.

Photo Mar 17, 12 42 19 PM

There are many varieties of avocados other than Haas, something I only learned by shopping at the farmers market. The produce at the grocery store can get monotonous. Avocados really come into season during spring through autumn. They are not natural in the winter as they need warm climates to grow, something to keep in mind when you eat those guac and chips at Super Bowl parties.

Photo Mar 31, 11 14 18 AM

Beautiful, colorful radishes at Happy Boy Farms.

Photo Mar 31, 11 33 05 AMThe market basket, my Instagram post of the day.

What do you plan to cook this week?

 

Farmer’s Market Find: Strawberries and Asparagus!

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

We got the first crop of strawberries and asparagus already! Subtle signs that Spring isn’t too far away.  I am not entirely sure, but I think the two strawberry vendors at today’s market were from Southern California, where the weather is much warmer than here. Strawberries are just lovely, but they have a really thin, delicate outer and absorbs the pesticides and is listed number 1 in EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. The Dirty Dozen lists fruit and vegetables exposed to the most pesticides. I will have a lot more on the strawberry issue soon enough- California did silently pass the use of methyl iodide, scientifically proven to be very dangerous.

The take home message here is that buy organic strawberries and ask the farmer questions about their farming technique. I remember seeing one of the strawberry farmer’s last summer and spring at this market but I never talked to them. I wanted to ask them a lot more questions, because I am conflicted on  eating non-organic strawberries, but I got shy! It happens. Though, I did taste the pesticide-free strawberries and it was so good.

Smoked Salmon from Montery Bay’s Blue Ocean Smoke House

I splurged a little and got smoked salmon today ($10/6 ounces). We started eating smoked salmon much more after hiking the Kalalau trail in Kauai.  We packed smoked salmon, hard goat cheese, nuts, and grass-feed roast beef deli meat to sustain us on the two-day, 12 mile hike. Now we eat it for breakfast, a quick snack, or topped on a bed of different vegetables. Of course, we only eat wild Alaskan salmon from sustainable resources. If you are not sure about which fish are safe or sustainable check out the Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch.

Celery Root- Swank Farms

We recently had celery root dessert at Ubuntu- I had no idea it looks like this in its original form.

Cheddar Cauliflower- Swank Hill Farms

No, they don’t taste like cheddar cheese! They are higher in vitamin A (the color) and taste like white cauliflower.

Tat Soi flowers- Happy Boy Farms

The tatsoi flowers are related to broccoli family and have a really nice taste to them. They are not as delicate as they look and taste wonderful sauteed with garlic, ginger, and little soy sauce.

I was at the Ferry Building for breakfast with a friend on Tuesday morning and the Tuesday market was going on. I bought a few oranges, asparagus, and ranunculus. There were tulips too, but I just adore ranunculus. The farmer gave me an awesome tip of just putting a spoonful of sugar in the water to help them bloom. They are still blooming!

Other purchases:

Spinach (Serendipity), Meyer lemons (Hamadas), Cara Cara oranges (Ken’s Top Notch Produce), Leeks (Happy Boy Farms), Button mushrooms (Far West Fungi), and Roma tomatoes (Swank Farms). I spent a total of $32 this week at the farmers market.

 

Did you know that Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook? Follow@clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events.

Super Toxic Foods

Strawberries and other berries are known as “Super Foods”, for their antioxidant properties. These nutritional powerhouse foods are loaded with crucial nutrients, which have been proven to help prevent well-known effects of aging, including cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes, hypertension … Continue reading