My weekly rite of passage had begun – a trip to the grocery store.
Trekking boldly into the produce aisle, I immediately spotted my usual purchase. I cradled it ever so gently as I placed it in my grocery cart. I smiled as I beheld that beautiful thing of nature, a miniature tree of sorts – the underrated and under-appreciated broccoli. If only broccoli could leap into your grocery cart with every pass, you can bet your health would be better.
I recently learned that soluble fiber from broccoli can prevent disease-causing bacteria from adhering to your intestinal wall. I have long known broccoli’s cancer-fighting properties. It’s a superstar for sure. Sulphoraphane, the anti-cancer plant compound in broccoli, stays in your bloodstream for two days after you eat it.
Here’s the bottom line – vegetables and fruits keep you well. They are your secret weapons. Researchers say if you don’t increase your fruit and vegetable consumption, you may be at increased risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers. Consumption of fruits and veggies in America is abysmal. Only 14 percent of adults and 10 percent of adolescents meet the recommended “five a day.” (And to really boost health, it’s more like nine-plus servings of fruits and vegetables every day.)
Eating more fruits and vegetables is the Parkview LiVe Healthy Habit No. 2 on our habit builder. Check your intake by downloading and filling out our LiVe Track It form on www.livehealthy.parkview.com. Post it on your refrigerator. For every serving of fruits and vegetables you eat, fill in one of the bubbles.
In my LiVe Weight Management classes, kids tell me they don’t like vegetables. They are hesitant to try new foods. Sometimes the process of refining a child's palate may continue until adulthood, when they finally realize the life-saving, health-fortifying properties of vegetables. Yet, when I have kids try vegetables prepared in new ways, they rave about them. A few weeks ago, kids in my classes tried spinach balls. The non-vegetable lovers delighted in these succulent creations, which were bursting with nutrition.
Flavor it, and they will come. Let’s be practical, veggies have to taste good. To put pizazz in your veggies, try a squeeze of lemon, some minced garlic or a sprinkle of sesame seeds, slivered almonds or parmesan cheese. Consider adding a dash of soy sauce, herb blends and a touch of olive oil. Experiment! You can also try adding veggies to dishes in creative ways. Shred carrots into pasta sauce, add chopped spinach to soup, dice zucchini for casseroles, or purée cauliflower into pasta or potato dishes.
Vegetables, especially the non-starchy variety, contain lots of bulk – water and fiber that keep you full. If you want to lose weight, eat volumetrically – fill up on foods that aren't full of calories – and reap the benefits. The Centers for Disease Control has a colorful and enlightening guide on how fruits and vegetables can help you lose weight.
French fries shouldn't be America's favorite vegetable! Let’s turn the tide and add the heavy hitters of the vegetable world – sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, spinach, dark salad greens and, of course, that broccoli family – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
OK now, who is filling in all the bubbles on your LiVe Track It form? Let me hear from you!