Eat your vegetables

Isn’t that the stereotypical Mom command?

My mother never had to tell me that. My younger brother Adam, was a natural born carnivore while I was more inclined towards vegetables. There were many times where I would be pushing around the animal protein at the end of dinner, while Adam would be pushing around his broccoli.

When I was around 8, to his 5 I figured out a solution. When my Mother got up to start the dishes, and let’s face it, she was probably frustrated with us, we would swap plates! Then we ate what we wanted, brought her the empty plates into the kitchen. All was well. This worked for years or at least when she was the only adult at home.

It is now a family joke, but it illustrates how many children are not naturally inclined toward vegetables. I just happened to one of the weird kids who was.

Let’s start with what vegetables truly are: they are plants than can be eaten. For today’s purposes we are going to talk about green leafy ones, not starches or nuts. Think kale, not potatoes or seeds.

The USDA has FINALLY replaced the Food Pyramid and now recommend we fill our plate with 50 % of fruits and vegetables. The Harvard School of Public Health goes into greater detail, recommending nine servings of vegetables and fruits each day. It’s enough to make you wonder exactly why vegetables are so important to human health.

Why exactly?

Vitamins and Antioxidants

One of the main health benefits of vegetables is their high nutrient content. Vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals that contribute to growth and the maintenance of good health. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that many vegetables are high in potassium, which is important for healthy blood pressure. Various vitamins, such as C and A, help keep eyes, skin, teeth and gums healthy, fight infection and promote wound healing. Perhaps most importantly, vegetables are rich in a particular group of nutrients called antioxidants, which fight cellular damage and help prevent heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Another substantial benefit of vegetables is dietary fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient found only in plant foods. As part of a healthy diet, fiber helps scour bad cholesterol out of your arteries, thus lowering your risk of heart disease, says the USDA. Fiber also keeps your digestive system running smoothly, helps control your blood sugar levels and may help prevent cancer.

Figure Friendly Characteristics
Vegetables are a gift to those of us focused on weight management or loss. They tend to be low in fat and calories. If you substitute vegetables for other, higher-calorie foods in your diet, you’ll slash your calorie and fat intake, making weight management easier. The fiber in vegetables also helps you manage your weight. Fiber makes you feel fuller for a longer period, helping you eat less overall and aiding with weight loss or maintenance.

One last thing!
Remember starch?. The Harvard School of Public Health states that potatoes — which many people consider a vegetable — actually do NOT count toward your daily recommended servings of vegetables. When choosing vegetables, keep in mind that, in general, brightly colored vegetables are higher in nutrients than the duller choices in the produce section of the local grocery store. For example, spinach contains many more vitamins and antioxidants than iceberg lettuce.

Try to increase your vegetables every meal of the day. Double up on your servings of green vegetables at dinner, have an extra portion of salad at lunch and add spinach to your omelette at breakfast.

Your Mom will be happy and you will be making strides towards a healthier tomorrow.

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