It’s summer! The growing season is at its peak. Farmers markets and grocery stores are chock full of locally grown vegetables in all colors, shapes, and sizes.
We focus so often on what we can’t or shouldn’t eat, so in this article, I want to focus on what we should eat—and eat in large quantities—vegetables! They are so good for us.
Apart from canned and frozen versions, vegetables are typically purchased whole. This is a good thing. More and more, people are aware that eating foods as close as possible to their natural state is best for their health. The nutrition found in a carrot, as opposed to the nutrients found in a standard vitamin pill, could not be more different.
The whole carrot includes a whole food complex. This means that it includes both the specific vitamins represented by the pharmaceutical counterparts in the vitamin pill AND phytonutrients and other constituents that work together to give you more nutrition that is more easily assimilated.
Variety is the key
Variety is the key…don’t just eat salad, or just raw carrots, or just tomato sauce. Variety is not only the spice of life, it also gives us nutritional balance and the best chance to experience vibrant health and vitality.
Which brings me to another important point. Fruits are not vegetables! You can’t replace your veggies with sweet-tasting fruits.
You need to eat from the following categories of vegetables to get a broad array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants:
- Dark leafy greens: kale, collards, chard, spinach, arugula, endive, escarole, mustard greens, lettuce
- Sulfur-rich vegetables: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, radishes, turnips, onions, garlic, mushrooms, asparagus
- Colorful veggies: beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, pumpkin, peppers, radicchio, red cabbage
- Seaweed: any seaweed harvested from clean waters will do if consumed a couple of times per week.
Eating a variety of organic vegetables daily will help to reduce your risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer. Vegetables are a healthy source of fiber, which promotes good digestion and helps to stabilize blood sugar.
The dense nutrition found in vegetables will help to detox your body of harmful heavy metals, chemicals, and toxins, which will result in decreased inflammation throughout the body, clearer skin, clearer thinking, and increased energy and vitality.
Make time for veggies
You might be thinking that this all sounds great, but who has the time? You need to make the time. Your health is important! All it takes is a little bit of planning, creativity, and experimentation to find out what you like, and how you can prepare your food efficiently.
When you eat out, look for salads and sides of vegetables to boost your vegetable intake. When you are at home, think about how your meals can be built around vegetables rather than protein or grains. The protein and grains should be the garnish, rather than the other way around.
You can also look for creative ways to sneak in more veggies by making things like cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles with a few fun kitchen tools. I have found that snacking on carrot sticks has made me happily reduce my intake of dark chocolate…who would have thought?
Many things don’t even take more time, if you have the ingredients on hand.
- add spinach to your scrambled eggs or black bean quesadillas
- make a salad rather than a sandwich
- sauté vegetables instead of cooking rice or boiling pasta. If you miss your starch, eat squash and sweet potatoes.
Once you start eating more vegetables, you will find you have more energy. Furthermore, you will begin to crave these wonderful jewels that Mother Nature produces for us.
What are your favorite veggies?
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
Herbs are another gift of the plant kingdom. Typically, culinary herbs are high in volatile oils that act as carminatives to settle the digestion. They add a lot of flavor to a meal, as well as help to digest it comfortably. Apart from cooking, these herbs made “famous” by Simon and Garfunkel are also useful additions to a herbal pharmacy.
Parsley is probably the most commonly used culinary herb. Aside from being a common garnish, it is used to flavor just about anything. Medicinally, it acts not only on the digestive tract, but also on the kidneys. It is a diuretic that helps to clear congestion from the kidneys, making it useful to manage gout, swelling, kidney stones, and other conditions.
Sage is commonly used to flavor meats and stuffings. I think it is also delicious with squash and potatoes. It’s super tasty when whole leaves are toasted lightly in olive oil, making a nice garnish for many dishes. Sage tea is a useful remedy for sore throats and fevers. It is also mildly astringent, making it a good treatment for bleeding gums and night sweats. Sage (specifically, the desert-grown variety) is always a part of my herbal repertoire when treating hot flashes.
Like sage, rosemary is a strongly flavored herb that is a good compliment for heavier foods like roasted meat and vegetables. It is also delicious in breads. Rosemary calms the digestion, improves circulation and relieves nervous depression. It is very useful in skin and hair treatments, and can relieve headaches.
In my mind, thyme is a little more versatile than rosemary and sage, but can also be used in the same ways. Slightly lighter in flavor than rosemary and sage, thyme works well with lighter soups and vegetables. Apart from the digestion, thyme has a strong effect on the lungs. It can treat colds, coughs, phlegm, and shortness of breath.