No matter what your wellness goals are for the new year, one powerful change could go a long way toward your success: eating more. vegetables. The proven benefits of including them in the diet seem to be taken from an advertisement: Improve intestinal health! Control blood sugar! Reduce inflammation! Improve immunity! Control your blood pressure! Reduce the risk of heart disease! Help maintain a healthy weight!
In this case, however, what’s too good to be true is actually true.
We know why, to a degree. Vegetables are brimming with health-protecting compounds, including vitamins Y minerals essentials, fiber and a wide spectrum of antioxidantswhich destroy harmful free radicals in the body.
Scientists have isolated and studied many of these plant compounds, but they have only scratched the surface. One thing they have discovered is that taking the compounds in pill form does not have the same benefit. It is the real vegetable that protects us. As David Katz, a specialist in preventive and lifestyle medicine, put it so cleverly: “The active ingredient in broccoli is broccoli”.
However, about 90% of Americans do not meet the recommended intake of vegetables (two to three cups a day for women and three to four cups a day for men), and about 62% of the vegetables we eat come from of the same five sources, three of which are white potato-based, and one of the most common is French fries, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2022.
This is not to say that potatoes contain something bad: they are nutritious. rich and delicious. But we also need to diversify (and fry less often).
Vegetables have unique nutrient and antioxidant profiles, so a greater variety it is key to a broader spectrum of health protection benefits. Color is a useful signal, as different antioxidants impart different hues to foods. Taking advantage of the product color wheel (including white) not only works in our favor nutritionally, it also makes our meals much more appealing.
In addition to the nutrients you get from eating more vegetables, there is a beneficial “crowd factor.” Opt for mushrooms and bell peppers on your pizza instead of your regular pepperoni, or dip sliced cucumbers instead of pita chips in your hummus, and you’ll not only get more nutrients into your diet, but you’ll also, by default, cut down on calories. calories, sodium, refined grains, and processed meats.
But it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Even if you get mushrooms, peppers Y pepperoni on your pizza, it’s even better (mushrooms aren’t vegetables, botanically speaking, but from a culinary and nutritional standpoint, they count as vegetables).
Whether you’re a beginner ready to venture beyond the occasional baby carrot or a greenie who wants to broaden your horizons, here are simple ways to eat more plants:
There is no need to change your life to incorporate more vegetables, just add them to the dishes you are already preparing. Cook pasta With tomatoe sauce? Add a handful of arugula or baby spinach to the warm sauce to wilt it gently, or pile the greens on top of the finished dish to add a burst of fresh color and flavor.
Chopped fresh baby spinach is also good to add to chicken noodle soup, minestrone, or ramen. If you’re up for something more adventurous, try the endive or dandelion greens.
Frozen beans, cauliflower or broccoli are ideal complements to macaroni and cheese. Add a handful to the cheese sauce to warm it up before adding the pasta. (Frozen vegetables are nutritionally comparable to cooked fresh vegetables; they’re also inexpensive, usually no chopping, and affordable, so take advantage of them.)
When I do a sandwich, venture beyond the usual lettuce and tomato. Pile on thinly sliced radishes or cucumbers, grated carrots, or sprouts. A handful of spinach or kale in your morning smoothie is basically undetectable, but it adds nutrient-dense dark green leaves.
Fortify meat dishes with additional vegetables to allow for a more reasonably sized portion of meat while keeping the overall portions plentiful. Mushrooms work especially well thanks to their meaty texture and savory flavor.
Sauté them first so they’re nicely browned and release their water, then add them to almost any meat dish, from burgers and meatloaf to sloppy joes or loin stroganoff . This allows you to also reduce the amount of meat you use in the preparation. Add plant power beyond the usual carrots and potatoes to meat stews, too, with mushrooms, bell peppers, green beans, and root vegetables like rutabaga, turnips, and celery root.
Don’t relegate vegetables to the realm of GarrisonThey can do much more. The cup-shaped lettuce leaves make lovely wrappers for all kinds of fillings; think of anything you can put on a taco or sandwich wrap. You can also use tougher kale or kale leaves to make bigger, heartier wraps (I like to blanch them first to soften them up).
Vegetables are also great for sauces. Beyond the usual carrots and celery, try endive, radishes, snap peas and broccoli, cauliflower, and blanched green beans.
It’s time to flip the narrative of the past, where protein gets all the culinary love, and you worship vegetables instead. Preparing vegetables in surprising and tempting ways keeps you wanting more and can turn veggie naysayers around. Doesn’t have to mean more work, just a change of focus.
Serve boldly flavorful dishes, such as braised red cabbage wedges or honey-glazed carrots with chimichurri on top of carrots, alongside simply spiced grilled chicken or fish. Broccoli haters have been known to gobble up the broccoli pesto flatbread pizzas and even those who recoil at the thought of the boiled brussels sprouts they were forced to eat as kids can’t resist when it’s roasted and crispy. , garnished with apple and sunflower seeds.
I hope these ideas encourage you to include more vegetables in your life and in more varied ways. Start small, pick a couple of suggestions that you think are doable, and build from there. It’s a habit worth cultivating, in the new year and beyond.
*By Ellie Krieger, Registered Nutritionist and Cookbook Author, Introducing “Ellie’s Real Good Food”