As a more sedentary society our caloric needs have decreased. But in our modern world, full of pollutants and mental and physical stressors, our bodies have a greater nutrient need. The irony is that modern farming and distribution have lowered the nutrient level in our food supply, making it more challenging to get in all the nutrients we need. Our highly refined pre-packaged diet provides very little nutritional value. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates, energy drinks, and packaged foods is like working a 40 hour work week without getting paid. Our bodies work over time to digest and process these foods with little to no return.
The solution is focusing on getting more fruits and vegetables into our diet. They keep our calorie intake under control and increase our fiber intake. But more important, they contain some of the most important components to our health and wellness.
Put simply, antioxidants protect the body from free radicals; atoms that can cause damage to cells that can ultimately lead to disease. They are abundant in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and herbs. Some familiar antioxidants are:
- Vitamin A and Beta Carotene
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Garlic – A powerful source of disease fighting properties. It protects cells from DNA damage, keeps blood vessels healthy and guards against radiation from sunlight.
Phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their color, flavor and their own natural disease resistance. They are especially important because they can help our body block the steps that lead to cancer. Phytochemicals are found in grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
- Tomatoes contain 10,000 different phytochemicals!
Flavanoids are powerful phytochemicals. There are more than 4,000 known flavanoids in fruits, vegetables, spices, and seeds. They are particularly powerful antioxidants that plants use to protect themselves from parasites, cell injury and bacteria. They are especially crucial in cancer prevention.
Don’t make vegetables the side dish at dinner, make them the main dish:
Saute up some of your favorite vegetables (my favorites; colored peppers, mushrooms, snap peas, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant etc.), use cooking spray to coat the pan and small amount of olive oil to add flavor and moisture. After cooking lightly (do not overcook and risk losing some of that nutrient packed punch) – lay over a bed of raw vegetables (my favorites; more peppers, broccoli, spinach, carrots, tomatoes etc.) I occasionally like to embellish with a tablespoon of nuts and raisins and/or a few ounces of cooked lean protein. Mix together and enjoy!
Make veggies the focal point of your meal. Keeping it easy, quick and healthy!