VALUE YOUR VEGETABLES
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7 Reasons Why Veggies are so Good For You
Your mother always said, "eat your vegetables" and she was right - maybe in more ways than she knew. While you don't have to go all veggie and become a strict vegetarian, one of the healthiest eating habits you can foster in your family is to make vegetables the centerpiece of your meals and let the other food groups accompany them. For many families this may be a switch of mindset from meat and potatoes to potatoes and meat. The animal food is more of a garnish, adding flavor and nutrition to the medley of vegetables and grains. Stirfry is a good example. (Even better would be a combination of fish and vegetables). If you aren't ready to relegate steak and meatloaf to second place, at least make vegetables equal stars in the meal. With interesting and tasty vegetable dishes on the table (and also a variety of starches), your family will gradually begin eating less meat.
1. Vegetables are nutrient dense. Vegetables pack a lot of nutrition into a minimum of calories. For a measly 35 calories (the amount in one little teaspoon of butter), you can get a half cup of vegetables that contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and health-building substances, called phytonutrients - not to mention a lot of flavor. Load up on legumes (the family of beans, peas, and lentils). Second only to soy, legumes are the best plant source of proteins, fiber, and iron, in addition to being high in folic acid.
2. Veggies are a dieter's best partner. Vegetables get top billing on any fat-control diet because most are "free foods," meaning you can eat an unlimited amount without having to count the calories. Why this lean indulgence? Because of a neat little biochemical quirk that only veggies enjoy: the body uses almost as many calories to digest vegetables as there are in vegetables in the first place. You'll use up most of the 26 calories in a tomato just chewing, swallowing, and digesting it. The leftover calories don't even have a fighting chance of being stored in a fat cell. You'd have to eat entire platefuls of most vegetables before the calories begin to add up.
3. You can fill up for less. Because of the fiber in vegetables, you get fuller faster; which is another reason why it's nearly impossible to overeat veggies.
4. Vegetables are fat-free and cholesterol-free. All vegetables by definition are cholesterol-free and for all practical purposes, fat-free. Over 95 percent of vegetables contain less than a gram of fat per serving, and even that insignificant gram is mostly unsaturated fats.
5. Variety, variety, variety. Let's face it, diversity makes life interesting. Adults, at least, like different foods prepared different ways. (Witness the diversity of ethnic restaurants in any large city. There are hundreds of different kinds of vegetables and even more ways to prepare them.
6. Vegetables provide complex carbohydrates. The energy in vegetables is in the form of complex carbohydrates. These take some time to digest and don't cause the blood sugar highs and lows that sugars do. An exception to this rule is the sugar in beets or corn. (These sugars have a high glycemic index and trigger the insulin cycle.)
7. Vegetables contain cancer-fighting phytos. On paper, a nutrient analysis of vegetables may not look all that special. Sure, there are lots of nutrients in vegetables, but most of these can also be found in other foods, such as fruits and grains. What you don't see in the nutrition charts or on the package labels are the hundreds of valuable nutrients, called phytochemicals, found in plants that have as-yet untold health-promoting properties. New research, especially in the field of cancer, is showing that vegetables are nature's best health foods.
Taking into consideration the following factors - protein, fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, B-vitamins, folate, calcium, zinc, iron, and phytonutrients - here are our top ten veggies in alphabetical order:
Honorable mention: kale, sweet peppers, chili peppers, pumpkin
Artichoke (1 medium) 16 grams
DV (Daily Value) Children: 10 grams; Adults: 25 grams
Tofu (1/2 cup) 10 grams
Sweet potatoes (1) 11.0 mg.
Sweet peppers (1/2, large) 170 mg.
DV: Children: 50 mg.; Adults: 60 mg.
Tomato paste (1/2 cup) 5.6 mg.
DV:Children: 7 mg.; Adults: 10 mg.
Tofu (1/2 cup, firm) 258 mg.
Honorable mention: Kale, beans, chickpeas, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes have 30 to 50 mg. per serving.
DV: Children: 800 mg.; Adults: 1,200 mg.
Artichoke (1 medium) 153 mg.
DV: Children under four: 200 mg; Adults and children over four: 400 mg.; Pregnant/lactating women: 800 mg
Tofu (1/2 cup, firm) 5-10 mg.
Honorable mention: Beet greens, chickpeas, pumpkin, and spinach (1/2 cup, canned) all have 1 to 2 milligrams per serving
DV Children: 10 milligrams; Adults: 12-18 milligrams.
These DV's are based upon foods of medium bioavailability, meaning that around 5 to 10 percent of the dietary iron will actually be absorbed into the body (more or less, depending on the self-regulating system of the body's total iron needs). The average child needs to get one milligram of iron into the bloodstreamGreens such as spinach, beet greens, chard, legumes, and some vegetables contain substances called inhibitors, such as polyphenols and phytates, that bind iron, thereby lowering its absorption. The figures above represent the amount of iron in the food, but because of the substances, the amount that actually gets into the body may be much less than the amount on paper. The percentage of vegetable iron absorbed can be increased by eating iron enhancers along with a meal, such as meat and vitamin C- containing foods. For practical dietary purposes, this iron-binding problem is only significant of you eat that food alone. Eating foods, such as spinach, along with a variety of other foods, especially those containing vitamin C, compensate for the theoretical problem of iron binding. Yes, grandmother was scientifically correct when she said "eat a variety of foods together at a meal."
Tofu (1/2 cup, firm) 2.0 mg.
DV: Children: 10 mg.; Adults: 15 mg.
Tomatoes make the "Top Twelve Foods" list, not only for their nutritional qualities, which are many, but because they are so versatile and they're a kid favorite in ketchup and spaghetti and pizza sauce. While some green veggies rate higher on paper than red tomatoes, try getting a cup of kale into kids. Here's why tomatoes are top:
Like that lycopene. The very nutrient that makes tomatoes red - lycopene - is also a top antioxidant. Even though beta carotene gets all the press as a health food, the most powerful cancer-kicking carotenoid is really lycopene. Lycopene delivers twice the antioxidant power of another top antioxidant, vitamin E. Yet, you'd have to eat a hundred times as many calories in vitamin E-containing foods to get the antioxidant power that's in one tomato. Even though lycopene can help lower the risk of all cancers, research to date shows that tomato-based foods are most effective in lowering the risk of prostate cancer.
Tomatoes are usually picked when green, and as they ripen off the vine in transit to your home, they make more lycopene as they get riper and redder. While lycopene is found most abundantly in tomato products, it is also found in guava, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. The body absorbs more lycopene from tomatoes when they are cooked into sauce, paste, and salsa. Lycopene in canned tomatoes is even better absorbed than in raw ones. (This is one of the few foods in which man can do something to it to improve upon Mother Nature.) Tomato processing concentrates the amount of lycopene in the final product. For salad lovers, an additional nutriperk is a bit of oil eaten with the tomato pulls more of the lycopene out of the tomato and into the bloodstream. Cancer researchers believe that this combination is one of the reasons why people on the Mediterranean diet, which combines tomato products with olive oil, have one of the lowest rates of intestinal cancer and one of the longest lifespans.
Tomatoes are one of nature's most nutrient-dense foods. Tomatoes are reported to contain around 4,000 phytonutrients, plant chemicals which pack powerful health properties. In addition to packing a powerful antioxidant profile, a tomato stores a lot of other good stuff in those pithy 26 calories, such as 1/2 gram of fiber, 25% of the RDA for vitamin A, a gram of protein, a bit of vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, almost half the RDA for vitamin C (high among veggies), and even a pinch of the minerals: zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper. It is even low in sodium and high in potassium, which is just what your body needs.
Tomato terms you should know (or may be curious about) Tomato puree is concentrated tomato juice and tomato pulp. If the tomato puree is seasoned, it's called tomato sauce. If the puree is superconcentrated, it is known as tomato paste, which is an even richer source of nutrients such as beta carotene and iron. Sun-dried tomatoes are dehydrated tomatoes. They are sometimes packed in olive oil, both to preserve them and to enrich their flavor.
Serve your family a wide variety of vegetables and from all different parts of the plant - roots, stems, leaves, and seeds. The leaves, or greens, of some vegetables, such as beets and turnips, are equally nutritious if not more so than the veggie itself. These greens are high in beta carotene, fiber, vitamin E, calcium, and iron, but they contain only around 25 calories per serving (without added butter or oil).
FRESH OR FROZEN
Steaming vegetables preserves a lot more of the nutrients and the fresh vegetable taste than boiling, which releases some value nutrients into the water. Microwaving also preserves nutrients in veggies. Consult a reliable cookbook to avoid overcooking. Cover them tightly so they don't lose moisture. Perk up the flavor with seasonings rather than salt and butter. Try lemon juice, onion juice, honey, dill, cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, curry, oregano, and garlic. A bit of olive oil, a sprinkling of sesame seeds, or grated cheese add interest.
Savvy salad. When you're creating a salad, remember that the darker the leaves, the more nutritious the salad. The paler the greens, the fewer nutrients there are. Spinach leaves are a much more nutritious alternative to iceberg lettuce. Romaine lettuce contains about three times the amount of folic acid as iceberg. Although most lettuces and salad greens are similar in the traces of B-vitamins and minerals they contain, there are differences. Here's how salad greens rank, from most nutritious to least: spinach leaves, arugula, watercress, endive, romaine, bib, Boston, and iceberg.
erseers, children can feel like this is primarily their project. They take responsibility for the planting and the care, with a little parental guidance. Of course, they get first pickings in eating the fruits of their labors. Garden-growing gives children a sense of responsibility, the pride of ownership, and they learn valuable lessons about how sun, water, seeds, and soil come together to make food. The big payoff is that kids are more likely to eat the veggies they grow. Our little 6x20 foot sideyard garden has rewarded us with not only hours of family fun, but produce we can trust. Here are some home gardening tips to help you get started:
Want to have some family fun - and teach your children about food, nature, hard work, and responsibility? Plant a family garden. While parents are naturally the ov
in your part of the country and when to plant it. Or, go to a garden store in your community for advice. They can tell you what you need to get your garden going, including gardening books, soil preparation, gardening tools, seeds, plants, and maintenance.
Will you save money by growing your own produce? It depends on what you grow and how much money you spend getting started. Even if your produce winds up costing more than what's available at the grocery store, the extra money is worth it. Gardens are great for kids. As they help the garden grow, the garden helps them grow, too.
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