Green and Supreme: Reasons to Love Vegetables
Put the power of produce on your plate
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
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
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:
- Tomatoes, which are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that protects
against cancer, vitamins A, C, and potassium. Cooked tomato products offer more
lycopene than raw tomatoes. Pink grapefruit and watermelon also
- Broccoli, which contains a wealth of wonderful vitamins (B vitamins,
C) and minerals (calcium, potassium). It also has the compound sulforaphane,
which has cancer-fighting capabilities. Other cruciferous vegetables, such as
brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale also contain
- Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots are rich sources of
beta-carotene -- which enhances your immune system, reduces those dangerous
"free radicals" (disease-causing molecules in the body), aids vision,
and protects your skin. Dark leafy greens and peppers are more
good sources of beta-carotene.
- Spinach is thought to protect against a host of diseases, including
cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration (which can cause
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:
- Add sliced tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, sliced red peppers, or shredded
carrots to sandwiches.
- Munch pickles, jicama, baby carrots, celery, or grape tomatoes as
- Drink vegetable juice.
- Slip a variety of vegetables into salads, soups, stews, tomato sauce, and
- Enjoy salads before meals. When you start off with a large, low-calorie
green salad, you may end up eating fewer total calories during the meal,
according to research.
- Roast veggies with a little olive oil for an interesting variation in
- Try grilled vegetables, which are delicious alone or added to pasta
- Add nutrition to breads and muffins with shredded vegetables such as
zucchini or carrots.
- Experiment with new vegetables to add variety to your repertoire.
- Use leaves of dark lettuce instead of bread to hold sandwich or burrito