Green and Supreme: Reasons to Love Vegetables
Put the power of produce on your plate
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
Popeye knew it. Moms and dads who urged their children to eat their veggies did, too. Not only are vegetables delicious, they can work wonders for your health.
Vegetables, in all their glorious colors, are powerhouses of good nutrition -- chock full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, and "good" carbohydrates. Not only are they naturally fat free, these nutritious nuggets help prevent cancer and other diseases.
And, of course, they are the mainstay of successful weight-loss diets -- which is one reason why they're emphasized in the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic eating plan.
Over and over again, research redeems the sage advice to "eat your veggies." A study published in the February 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help lower "bad cholesterol" and improve the health of your heart. Eating plenty of produce can also reduce your risk of stroke, according to a 2003 study. It showed that eating green and yellow vegetables almost every day, instead of once or less per week, reduced the risk of death from a stroke by 26%. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein and low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol can help lower blood pressure.
And the American Cancer Society urges everyone to eat at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables -- to load up on the cancer-preventing phytochemicals and antioxidants they contain.
So simply by eating more vegetables, you can lower cholesterol, ward off stroke, cut your blood pressure, help prevent cancer, and lose weight. It's a no-brainer -- pile on the veggies!
Top of the Crop
And which vegetables should you make sure to put on your plate? Foods that reign supreme in the vegetable kingdom include:
Learning to Love Veggies
Despite their status as nutrition superheroes, vegetables rarely find themselves on personal favorite lists. Some adults still shun vegetables, setting a less-than-perfect example for children around the table while missing out on the health benefits for themselves.
The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic recommends aiming for five servings daily. If you have trouble fitting in that many, try some of these suggestions -- or come up with your own creative solutions:
Raw vs. Cooked
Raw vegetables are high in fiber and low in fat and calories. And vegetables that can be eaten raw retain the maximum amount of nutrients.
Cooking vegetables kills bacteria, renders certain vegetables digestible, enhances taste, texture, and aroma -- and, in the process, loses some of the vitamins and minerals.
To retain the most nutrients, cook your vegetables in the least amount of water and for the shortest period of time possible. Microwaving is one of the best methods, as it's quick and requires little to no water.
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