Are you like most Americans and don’t eat enough vegetables on a daily basis? If so, your diet may also be lacking valuable veggie variety that can lower your risk for many chronic diseases.
A Healthy Taste
From the bitter bite of arugula to the sturdy carrot, vegetables are a menagerie of flavors and textures. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t adventurous eaters of this food group. In fact, the potato—whether baked, fried, or chipped—is the most commonly consumed vegetable in the U.S. Lettuce and tomatoes also top this list.
This lack of variety means you may be missing out on this food group’s best feature: its nutritional content. Vegetables have a high water content, provide fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. Antioxidants are protective of your health and the benefits range from eye and skin health to helping to protect against heart disease and cancer. Eating many types of vegetables can give your body the healthy boost it needs. Munch on dark greens like spinach for vitamin A, vitamin K and folic acid, a type of B vitamin. Or serve up some beans or peas to give your body a good dose of protein and fiber. Vary the color of your vegetables to ensure you are getting a variety of antioxidants.
“Eating more of and a variety of vegetables can decrease your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer,” explains Caitlin Silva, a Steward Health Care registered dietitian. “Veggies can also help you stay at a healthy weight as they’re fiber content will fill you up, so you avoid overeating the other foods on your plate that are higher in calories.”
Tips for eating more
Nutritionists Dietitians recommend that adults eat 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables every day. Most adults fall far short of this goal.
You can easily measure out 1 cup of beans or chopped-up veggies like zucchini. But visualizing that cup may be harder with whole vegetables. These portion sizes are equivalent to 1 cup:
- 3 broccoli spears, about 5 inches long
- 2 medium carrots or 12 baby carrots
- 1 large bell pepper
- 1 large baked sweet potato
- 2 cups of raw spinach or 1 cup cooked
- 2 large stalks of celery
To help you fill up on more of the nutritional goodness of veggies, try these tips:
- Savor the season. Fresh vegetables are cheaper and tastier when they are eaten during their normal growing and harvesting time.
- Don’t dismiss frozen vegetables. But be sure to buy those with little or no added salt and no added sauces.
- Choose a different vegetable every time you go to the grocery store. Trying new veggies can expand your palate and your meal planning.
- Make veggies the star of your meal. A stir-fry or soup is a good way to feature many different vegetables.
- Place veggies in clear sight. Don’t bury them in a drawer in your refrigerator. You’ll be more apt to eat that cut-up broccoli, cucumber, or spinach if it’s front and center on a shelf.
- Include vegetables in your snacks and all meals, including breakfast! Spinach, tomatoes, peppers and onions make great additions to a breakfast omelet.
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