January 9, 2012

Veggies, Veggies, Veggies!

Jan 9
Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! It’s a new beginning and now is the time to make those changes you’ve been putting off for way too long. I encourage everyone to live healthier this year – eating right, exercising more, getting enough sleep, and optimizing this life you’ve been blessed with. So for the first post of the year, I thought I’d write a bit about nutrition. I’ve been getting a lot of requests to write about my favourite foods. I’m not a foodie but I do know what’s healthy for me and that’s what I try to eat. Since it would be impossible to list all my favourite foods, I thought I’d break it down into a series of categories. Today I will discuss some of my favourite vegetables and why I enjoy them!
  • Broccoli! This vegetable is the most nutritious of all the cruciferous varieties out there. It contains an abundance of nitrogen compounds called indoles, which are effective in helping to prevent cancerous tumours of the stomach, prostate, and breast. It also contains high levels of enzymes and nutrients such as carotenoids that fight cancer-promoting free radicals. Basically, consuming this vegetable is like having a powerful army of soldiers in your body to fight the bad guys! It is high in calcium and fiber as well as being a good source of vitamin C, folate, riboflavin, potassium, and iron. Research also suggests that broccoli is helpful in fighting cataracts, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, ulcers, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
  • Mushrooms! This vegetable is amongst the world’s most medicinal in terms of natural substances. The many nutritious compounds in mushrooms can help fight everything from infections to cancer. One of the most potent compounds it contains is terpenoids which are powerful antiviral, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory agents that work magic on many ailments. Another great compound in mushrooms is polyaccharides which are chainlike sugars that boost the immune system and can aid the body in fighting cancerous tumours. Mushrooms are low in fat and are a great source of vitamin B, vitamin D, folate, fiber, and protein. Research also suggests that mushrooms are helpful in lowering blood sugar and helping to control blood pressure amongst other things.
  • Kale! This vegetable comes in a number of varieties and all of them are nutrient dense so you can’t really go wrong. Kale contains high levels of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates.  It is low calorie while being an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber, iron, and calcium. A little known fact is that our bodies can actually absorb the calcium in kale much better than in spinach since its leaves contain less oxalic acid, a substance that can disrupt the absorption of calcium. Kale also contains large amounts of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, two powerful phytochemicals that may help safeguard your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Swiss Chard! This powerful vegetable offers amazing antioxidant protection in the form of carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxathin. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which helps to promote healthy vision, boosts immunity, and may potentially help fight cancer. It is also a great source of vitamin C and just one cup of swiss chard supplies you with more than a third of your daily recommended intake. Swiss chard is also one of the few sources of the phytonutrients called betalains which have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. Swiss chard has been shown to help regulate blood sugar and support bone health in part because of its abundance of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K.
  • Spinach! This vegetable is one of the greatest sources of vitamin K around – in fact, one cup of steamed spinach contains more than 100% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin K contributes greatly to a healthy nervous system and brain function as well as helping to maintain the strength and density of bones in our body. Spinach is also an abundant source of vitamin A, which is crucial to protect “entry points” into our bodies including mucous membranes and skin as well as the urinary, respiratory & intestinal tracts. Just as important are the antioxidant properties of spinach including vitamin C and beta-carotene that help promote cardiovascular health by preventing the harmful oxidation of cholesterol.  Overall, it is a great source of more than 20 different nutrients including dietary fiber, calcium, and protein.
These vegetables are just a few of my favourites that are always in my fridge along with asparagus, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, tomotoes, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, and carrots. I suggest that next time you’re grocery shopping, spend the vast majority of your time and money in the fresh produce section – if you buy it, chances are much higher that you will eat it.  And just a side note for my American friends – nope, pizza doesn’t cut it as a vegetable 😉
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