For starters, here are four reasons to pack more green on your plate:
- Vegetables aid digestive health. Vegetables are an excellent source of insoluble fiber, and many vegetables are rich in magnesium, both of which will help keep you regular and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disease. Vegetables to consider: Artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, edamame, peas, and spinach.
- Vegetables reduce the risk of cancer. A number of green vegetables contain lutein, a carotenoid, and other anti-oxidants that help keep cancer-causing free radicals in check. Your best bets are arugula, cabbage, kale, bok choy, turnip greens, watercress, wasabi, and spinach.
- Vegetables strengthen your bones. A health study indicates that individuals who eat more than 110 mcg of vitamin K a day (about ½ cup cooked) are 30% less likely to break a hip. A number of vegetables are high in calcium and vitamin K, which can keep your bones healthy. Top contenders to consider: Kale, spinach, turnip greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, romaine, and green leaf lettuce.
- Vegetables boost your heart health. Folate and soluble fiber come packed in a number of veggies and can lower inflammatory markers in your blood and cholesterol levels. Try these foods: Endive, brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce, okra, spinach, lima beans, avocados, and collard greens.
I’m often asked how people can increase the number of veggies in our diets. Studies show if you eat five servings of veggies at least five days a week, you reduce your risk of death at any time by 36%. That sounds like a good reason to spend a little more time in the produce section of your grocery store.
Here are some practical tips to increase the number of greens on your plate:
- Add veggies to your favorite foods. I like to grate carrots and cook them with my rice or put some fresh spinach in my smoothie.
- Substitute veggies for other ingredients. I’ve found zucchini can make a great alternative to pasta noodles. Or wrap your sandwich in lettuce rather than bread.
- Plan ahead. I like to buy lots of veggies during my weekly trip to the grocery store and then chop them up all at once, so they’re ready to use throughout the week. And keep some frozen vegetables on hand – they’re actually high in nutrients and super convenient to use.
- Try preparing veggies in a different way. Roasting brings out vegetables’ natural sweetness and gives them a very different taste compared to steaming.
So, this St. Patty’s Day, make a choice to go green – at least at the dinner table. Your body will thank you!