I am a big meat eater! I always have been. Let’s just say I love meat! Even though I am a huge meat eater, I still understand the importance of balancing out my nutrition to meet my nutritional goals. As much as I love meat, I also understand that there needs to balance and I cannot achieve what I want nutritionally without other types of nutrients. What I’m saying is even the biggest meat eaters cannot and should not survive on meat alone!
Luckily for us evolution has made it so our systems can eat and digest a variety of foods besides meats. This brings us to today’s topic, the wonderful world of vegetables. Listen and listen very closely people, vegetables are some of the most important nutrients to a body. No one should go a day without eating some sort of vegetable at least twice a day. If you say you don’t eat vegetables then you should…period.
Let’s start as basic as basic can get. Well I’m pretty sure everyone reading this knows what a vegetable is. Well just in case someone doesn’t know a vegetable is, it is an edible plant or edible part of a plant. Veggies come in many shapes, sizes, and colors.
They provide us with nutrients and vitamins and minerals. Besides coming in a variety of colors and shapes and providing our bodies with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, veggies can aid in a variety of functions for our bodies. Some of the benefits some veggies can provide are:
- High Fiber
- Metabolic Boosting
- Energy Providing
- Anti- Estrogen Support
- Anti- Cancer Support
- Anti- Stress
- Fat Burning
- Body Detoxification
Vegetables should be consumed by everyone no matter their variety of background, age, or ethnicity. Love them or hate them they are of the upmost importance.
All Day, Every Day–
Veggies are one of those things that should be consumed a lot and often. The USDA standard recommendation is 3-5 servings of vegetables daily. My recommendations for health enthusiast or fitness buffs would be even higher. I would recommend 5-7 servings a day. For most vegetables a serving works out to be a half of a cup a day so. That would work out to be between 1 ½ cups to 2 ½ cups daily by the USDA standards. I’m willing to bet a lot of people don’t even get that much. Veggies are important to our nutrition because they provide us with tons of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients such as antioxidants and anti cancerogenic nutrients The only things veggies tend not to provide us with are an abundance of protein and fats (thank goodness for meat). Veggies are also quite versatile in the ways that they can be consumed. They can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, microwaved, sautéed, fried, baked, and grilled. However you have your veggies make sure you coat them with a little oil to preserve the nutrients when cooking. When doing this make sure you are using healthier oils like Palm Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It really doesn’t matter how you eat them as long as you are eating them.
Since vegetables do such a great job at providing vitamins, minerals, and many vital nutrients, a person is only shortchanging themselves by not consuming at least the daily recommended amount. If you want to truly improve your health and nutritional goals it should be veggies All Day!!! Every Day!!!
Fresh vs. Frozen–
How should you consume Your Vegetables is always a question for debate. Are fresh vegetables better than frozen ones? Which way is better to get your vegetables? I think my answer may surprise a few people. I think it is an individual choice and you have to do what you think is better for your lifestyle. For me personally, I prefer the frozen vegetables. Right now I’m sure fresh veggie lovers are saying “…but frozen you lose some nutrients!” In actuality though you may understand how the frozen vegetable process works. Think about this, when you go to purchase vegetables, do you go on the exact day that the veggies are delivered? Unless you are going to a farmers market to acquire your vegetables, then you probably are not getting the vegetables as fresh as they possibly can be. Say the fresh veggies are delivered on a Monday but you go shopping on a Saturday. That is six days that those veggies have sat out in the open air actually losing more nutrients than frozen vegetables. I think everyone at one time or another has picked thru fruits and vegetables and seen some that are going bad or looked not so fresh. The longer your veggies sit around the more of a chance they can go bad or receive oxygen damage. Frozen vegetables are usually chopped, processed, and frozen shortly after so in actuality they tend to retain more nutrients. Certain veggies however, are very hard to acquire frozen so it is about careful selection. If you really want fresh veggies try to find a farmers market. Farmers markets provide the freshest foods because they are brought there that day. Another option is to try and find out when the fresh veggies are delivered to your supermarket. If you know when they are delivered you stand a better chance of getting the freshest stuff.
What’s Your Function-
As we briefly stated earlier, vegetables provide many benefits to the body. Here is a mor indepth look at some of the benefits.
High Fiber-Fiber is the part of a plant that is indigestible by our digestive systems. Even though we cannot digest fiber it still is quite important to our systems. When passing through our intestines, fiber scrubs our intestinal walls helping aid in digestion. Fiber adds bulk to our stool keeping us “regular”. Fiber keeps our blood sugar stable lowering a risk of diabetes. Fiber has also been shown to aid in cholesterol lowering helping fight some types of heart diseases. Because fiber rich veggies are low calorie and keep you fuller for longer, they also make a great choice for dieters. The recommended amount is about 30 grams daily. Most people don’t even get a quarter of that daily. If you are a big protein eater you especially need extra fiber in your diet to aid with protein digestion. Good vegetable sources of fiber are: High Fiber Vegetables (based on 1 cup serving)
- Soy beans-11 grams per serving
- Kidney Beans-11 grams per serving
- Garbanzo Beans-10.5 grams per serving
- Broccoli-5 grams per serving
- Brussels Sprouts-4 grams per serving
Anti-Estrogens-High amounts of estrogen can cause serious havoc on a body. Too much estrogen can literally turn a man into a woman and make a woman a shell of herself. Many forms of cancers, especially breast cancer has a direct link with high amounts of estrogen in the body. Certain vegetables fall into a group called Cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous veggies contain a substance called Indole-3-carbinol in fairly high amounts. Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to have a very high anti-estrogenic effect. This means it binds to some of the estrogen receptors in the body, blocking the formation and binding of some estrogens. This is good because not only does indole-3-carbinole have an anti-estrogenic effect but in some cases may result in some anti-cancerous effects also. Some cruciferous veggies are:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Collard Greens
Fat Burning-Some vegetable do have the ability to help the body shed some unwanted body fat. In this category you can actually have a lot of choices. Cruciferous veggies are a big winner again in this category. They are very low calorie so you can eat a lot of them and have little impact on overall calorie consumption. They also provide a good amount of fiber so it will keep dieters fuller longer. Since estrogen levels have a direct relationship with overall body fat, these anti estrogenic veggies can help slash body fat that way. Another group of veggies that may be important to a person’s fat loss efforts may be peppers.
Certain types of hot peppers contain an ingredient called capsaicin. Capsaicin is what gives peppers that spicy kick. After a few weeks of dieting, some people’s metabolic rate tends to drop making fat loss a little harder. When capsaicin is ingested it speeds up the metabolism and heart rate, much like the way of some over the counter diet pills. Research has found that capsaicin helps stimulate some proteins in fat cells. When these proteins are stimulated they break down the fat cells. Since capsaicin increases body heat, some people even begin to sweat right away after ingesting foods with capsaicin in them. Some good pepper choices are:
Detoxifiers-Everyday our bodies are not only exposed to internal stresses but also stresses from toxins and chemicals all around us. These stresses, toxins and chemicals over time slowly begin to break our bodies down. Some vegetables can provide support against everyday damage we may be exposed to. Two organs that bear the blunt of this damage are the liver and the kidneys. Since the liver and kidneys are the natural filters and cleaners of the body, it’s pretty important that they function optimally.
Let’s look at the liver first. The liver’s main functions are to purify the blood, produce bile (which aids in digestion) and store glycogen. For the body to run optimally it need the nutrients from proper digestion. Bile from the liver is essential for fat digestion. Fats like omega 3’s are some of the most important fats a body can take in so proper liver function is key to their digestion. Vegetables like mustard greens, watercress, kale, and collard greens are all great at bile stimulation. The leafy greens are also abundant in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is probably one of the best things to protect the body from toxins. The cruciferous veggie family makes an appearance once again in this category. They are great veggie sources of liver detoxifiers. Garlic also makes a great liver detoxifier. Garlic not only strengthens the liver but also helps purify blood, normally a big job for the liver.
The other organs that can take a major beating due to stresses and toxins are the kidneys. The kidneys go thru a lot of crap…literally. The main function of the kidneys is to detoxify the body of “crap” it can’t digest. Some of the functions of the kidneys are:
- maintaining water and electrolyte balance. Regulate blood pressure
- maintain blood pressure
- help with erythropoietin production, which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells
- blood purification
- waste removal
- Regulate the body’s acid pH balance
- Regulate blood plasma volume
The kidneys are slightly different because they work better when dealing with liquids. This would be a time when it would be easier and more efficient to take your vegetables in a liquid form. For kidney health and cleaning leafy greens, celery, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, and cucumbers are your top choices. Here is a veggie juice recipe that works well as a kidney detox. You will need a high powered blender or juicer to properly juice your ingredients.
Veggie Detox Smoothie
- 1 med. apple (cored and sliced)
- 1 med. orange (peeled)
- ½ cup of chopped up broccoli
- ½ cup of leafy greens finely chopped (kale or bitter greens)
- 2 celery stalks (chopped)
- 1 cup of chopped up beets
- 1 med carrot (peeled and chopped)
- ½ cup of ice
- 1 ½ cups of water
If you are using a blender add ice and ¾ cup of water to the blender.
Next add the apple, orange, and broccoli
Blend for a minute
Next add the greens, celery, and carrot
Blend for another minute
Now add the beets and another ¾ cup of water
Blend for another minute and enjoy
If you’re a meat lover like me you will never turn into a vegetarian but that does not mean that vegetables should not have a major role in anyone’s diet. Vegetables should be eaten a lot and often. It doesn’t matter how you’re getting your vegetables just that you are getting them. Vegetables can play a major role in improving you’re overall health and wellness. This is one of those times when you should listen to your mother, and eat your vegetables.