10 Easy Ways to Get More Benefits from the Vegetables You Eat
Non-starchy vegetables are powerful sources of antioxidants and dietary fiber. These are components that help your body maintain a healthy immune system, balance blood sugar levels, and regulate bowel movements. Eating non-starchy vegetables will also provide more vitamins and minerals than you can get from most other foods.
Unfortunately, most people don’t eat enough of them, and you might not be getting the full health benefits from the ones you eat. Need some guidance? Here are 10 simple ways to get more health benefits from the vegetables you eat.
(1.) Eat Some Raw Vegetables to Maximize Vitamin C
There are benefits to eating both raw and cooked vegetables, but you’ll get more vitamin C from those that you eat raw. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat or light, and if you cook vegetables, particularly in large amounts of water and at high temperatures, you’ll lose 40% or more of their vitamin C content.
For example, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C. However, studies show that vitamin C levels when you cook it. For instance, boiling broccoli lead to a 54.6% drop in its vitamin C content, while steaming lowered vitamin C by only 14%.
You also lose some B-vitamins when you cook vegetables for a long time, or expose them to high heat. However, cooking can also make some nutrients, such as beta-carotene and lycopene, more bioavailable. So, eat both cooked and raw veggies. For example, a study found that heating tomatoes boosted their lycopene content by 35%.
(2.) Choose Colorful Carbohydrates
If you have a choice between a starchy carbohydrate and a colorful vegetable, choose the latter. Color is a marker of a healthy array of phytonutrients that have benefits that go beyond simple nutrition. Some have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity that you won’t get from their less colorful counterparts. So think color! Colorful vegetables are often easier on your blood sugar too. For example, potatoes cause a sharper rise in blood glucose than eating a colorful veggie like red cabbage.
(3.) Add a Source of Fat to Your Vegetables
Fat isn’t the enemy. In fact, adding modest quantities of healthy fat to a veggie plate or salad has benefits. For example, you’ll absorb more beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A from a salad, if you include a healthy source of fat. Cold-pressed olive oil, avocado, cold-water fish and flaxseed are good sources of healthy fats. Avoid processed vegetable and seed oils, like soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil.
(4.) Make Your Veggies Easy to Prepare
Food processors make chopping vegetables easier, so keep one on the counter for faster prep. Add your veggie ingredients to the food processor, and pulse until chopped into smaller pieces. This is a great way to enjoy vegetables without doing too much work! When it’s less work to prepare them, you’re more likely to eat them.
(5.) Buy Frozen Vegetables if You Can’t Eat Them Quickly
If you buy fresh vegetables and can’t eat them before they spoil, consider buying frozen ones. Frozen vegetables are harvested at their peak, providing the nutrients of fresh vegetables with added convenience. Freezing prevents further nutrient loss, so the nutrients are preserved even if you keep them in the freezer for weeks. In contrast, fresh vegetables sit on store shelves and lose nutrients, such as vitamin C.
(6.) Substitute Noodles for Veggie Noodles
Vegetable noodles are nutrient-dense replacements for regular pasta. Switch white noodles for ones made of vegetables like zucchini, sweet potato, and yellow squash that are fabulous better sources of nutrients and easier on your blood sugar. Replace white rice with cauliflower rice for more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. It’s an easy step you can take to easily meet your veggie quota.
(7.) Grow Your Veggies in a Container Garden
Grow your own vegetables in a simple container garden. You can grow quite a collection of veggies if you have a small balcony or patio. Try growing spinach, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers and herbs. With such easy access, it’ll be easy to get your veggie quota each day. You don’t need a plot of land to grow vegetables, a patio with sunlight is enough to grow many vegetables.
(8.) Make a Veggie-Based Smoothie
Start the morning with a low-sugar smoothie, but include a handful of greens, such as spinach or kale. You won’t notice the taste of the leafy greens, as the fruit will mask it. Add a small amount of ground flax seed to your smoothie. It will provide you with essential fatty acids, as well as lignans, which offer powerful anti-cancer properties.
(9.) Eat Veggies As Soon As You Wake Up in the Morning
The earlier in the day you start eating your veggies, the more likely you are to get your five plus servings. Why not start with breakfast? Switch that bagel for an omelet loaded with veggies. You’ll get hunger-satisfying protein combined with veggies such as mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, and any other colorful veggie you can include.
(10.) Add Vegetables to Other Foods
Upgrade the veggie content of mashed potatoes by replacing half the potato with pureed cauliflower. Add pumpkin to your bowl of oatmeal in the morning and to pancake mix for more nutrition, and an extra serving of fruit and veggies. Change your side dishes too. Skip the starchy side of rice or potatoes and replace it with a colorful vegetable. Easier on your blood sugar and waistline too!
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, these tips will help you get more vegetables on your plate and into your body. Enjoy the added health benefits you’ll get by eating more plant-based foods.
“(PDF) Lycopene content of tomatoes and tomato products.” researchgate.net/publication/266466884_Lycopene_content_of_tomatoes_and_tomato_products.
“Q&A: Lycopene in cooked tomatoes? – Consumer Reports.” 04 Sept. 2009, consumerreports.org/cro/news/2009/09/q-a-lycopene-in-cooked-tomatoes/index.htm.
“Cooking can alter a food’s vitamin C content | Science ….” sciencenewsforstudents.org/blog/eureka-lab/cooking-can-alter-foods-vitamin-c-content.