Popeye had it right eating his spinach to gain his strength – “I am what I am”, chuckle, chuckle chuckle! We are what we eat as well. And putting emphasis on eating more veggies helps us to get the nutrients to lower the risk of getting hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity and age related eye disease. But it is not as simple as just eat more veggies. There has been more recent research on how the quality of our fruits and vegetables has declined over the years due to breeding of plant species for disease resistance and taste.
The DASH diet plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends eating a minimum of 4 servings of veggies a day. The benefit of filling half of our plates with dark leafy greens like arugula, kale, spinach are that they are high in potassium which offsets some of the damage done by sodium. It is thought that potassium makes arteries less stiff. Hypertension is caused by stiffening of arteries and having to pump too much volume (sodium makes us retain fluid, leading to increase blood volume that the heart has to pump, thereby raising blood pressure). Eating more dark leafy greens that are high in potassium helps our arteries.
Type 2 Diabetes
Vegetables are full of fiber, high in magnesium and can be low in carbohydrates. This means they will have little impact on your blood sugar and can actually slow down the usual rise in blood sugar after eating. Some studies have indicated that magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, consequently eating foods high in magnesium reduces blood sugars for those with pre-diabetes or diabetes. However starchy veggies like potatoes, winter squash and corn can raise blood sugars so for those with diabetes they should plan for them as part of their total carbohydrates for the meal.
You don’t hear of anyone gaining weight from eating too many veggies! There is nothing better for weight loss than loading up on non-starchy veggies like broccoli, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts which are low in calories, high in fiber keeping you fuller longer without all fat – provided there is no cheese topping! Vegetables have low calorie density meaning that they are a low calorie food choice that will go a long way with giving you volume without all the extra calories.
Age Related Eye Disease
Vegetables are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that benefit the lens and retina of the eye, which many studies have linked to lowering the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Breeding of Vegetables
In Jo Robinson’s article in the New York Times Sunday Review May 25, 2013 she writes about how many varieties of fruits and vegetables have lost there nutritional value partly due to natural mutation over time, but mostly due to breeding by farmers to create more disease-resistant and tastier produce. She recommends eating foods that have a stronger taste to improve nutritive value like dandelion greens, arugula, deep yellow corn, scallions (particularly the green part) and fresh herbs. She states that the more bitter the food, the higher the nutritional value. She also says to go for peruvian purple potatoes and blue cornmeal (can be found on Amazon) to boost the healthy food nutrients as well.
But What if You Don’t Like Veggies
OK, the idea of eating 4 servings of vegetables a day can be a little daunting! So how could you sneak them in? Make a Frittata (see under my breakfast recipes) or a veggie omelet with chopped broccoli or spinach. Have a glass of low sodium V8. Add frozen chopped veggies to your soups, chili’s and casseroles. Prepare some fresh veggies like carrots, celery, scallions, cauliflower and broccoli and have with some fat free yogurt dip or humus. Know that veggies are better than medicine and by eating more of them you might find yourself needing less medicine. After all, would you rather develop diabetes, heart disease, lose your vision or have weight concerns or feel and be healthier and perhaps even lose some weight? Would you rather look like Popeye or Brutus?