We are now on week #7 of our Newsletter series How to Make Healthy Living a Lifestyle – and for setting you up for a Successful New Year. I truly hope that you’ve been able to make some simple [and lasting] changes thus far! Now that you have stopped some of your not-so-great habits, let’s start adding in some new ones to get you moving further along on your journey to a more healthier you!
One of my favorites – and this week’s tip – is to eat more veggies! Everybody knows that eating vegetables is one of the greatest ways to get your body in a healthier state, but do you know why?? And no, it’s not just because your Mom always told you to – although that’s a good reason too ;)
From improving your digestion system to losing weight and even fighting disease, here are 9 GREAT reasons why you should start eating more veggies in your every day life:
1) VEGETABLES ARE NUTRIENT DENSE
I can’t tell you how many times people have commented on the amount of food that I eat (quantity-wise), and how I could still be so in shape. It’s because the majority of my diet is veggies and they pack a lot of nutrition into a minimum number of calories! For a mere 35 calories (the amount in one tiny teaspoon of butter), you can eat a half-cup of vegetables! Loading your plate with veggies will also give you a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients – not to mention a lot of flavor. Even beans (aka legumes) count as vegetables and are the best plant source of proteins, fiber, and iron you can come by. They are also high in folic acid for those pregnant ladies out there.
2) VEGETABLES ARE THE ONLY DIET FOOD YOU’LL EVER NEED
First off, I don’t believe in “diets” but rather “lifestyle changes” – because those are the only ones that are going to last. With that said, for those who do like to “diet”, vegetables are really the only foods that you can eat unlimited quantities of and still lose weight (unfortunately this doesn’t include potatoes though) – without having to count any calories! How is that possible? Because the body uses almost as many calories to digest vegetables as there are in the vegetables themselves. This means that after chewing, swallowing, and digesting a whole zucchini, for example, you’ll barely have net any calories. So, when trying to make a vegetable-filled dinner you’ll truly only have to think about the sauces and oils you use because the vegetables are being digested so quickly anyway.
3) YOU’LL FILL UP FASTER
And on the same subject as above, vegetables contain a whole heck of a lot of fiber, meaning that you’ll get fuller faster; which is another reason why it’s nearly impossible to overeat veggies.
4) SCRUB OUT THOSE TOXINS
The fiber that we mentioned above, yeah, that fibrous [cellulose] will also help to scrub your intestinal walls as it is digested, providing bulk for the stool and binding toxins to help escort them out of the body. Cholesterol, is one of these toxins. The liver, our bodies’ main filter, releases bile and attaches to vegetable cellulose, taking the cholesterol along with it. If you don’t eat enough of these fibrous foods, up to 94% of the bile (with cholesterol and toxins in tow) will be re-absorbed by the liver and the blood, raising cholesterol and increasing risk of cardiovascular disease.
5) PHYT(O) DISEASE
Vegetables are the number one source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the diet, and there’s no question that these nutrients are good for every system in the body. But did you know that one of our body’s main gateways to disease is oxidation – and all of these nutrients help neutralize this process?! When vegetable intake is low, antioxidant levels crash, allowing the fats in the blood to oxidize (think of them as hardening or even rusting; or to learn more, check out THIS article).
Low vegetable consumption is directly linked to the oxidation of LDL and, ultimately, high cholesterol and heart disease. These protective phytonutrients found in vegetables, including flavonoids and carotenoids, have also been shown to reduce heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. Plus, there is constantly new research coming out with the benefits that these cancer-fighting phytochemicals contain, so who knows what we may learn about them in the next few years!
Vegetables are extremely alkalizing, helping to keep the blood healthy and the lymphatic system moving, allowing our bodies to remain in a continuous natural detox state. This is how our bodies were designed to operate. In fact, most experts agree that our diet should be 1/3 acidic and 2/3 alkaline for optimal health. By eating the majority of our diet in plant-based foods we are inadvertently doing this. Grains and meats, on the other hand, are mostly acidic and is why you will hear Doctor’s and Nutritionists alike say that those who are sick, diseased or have cancer should stay away from meats and [the majority] of grains – because acid is what feeds these illnesses. (Here’s more on foods that are alkaline, as well as acidic foods to avoid).
7) BALANCE YOUR TASTE BUDS
Our taste buds were designed to taste 5 different flavors, including: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami (aka, savory). Unfortunately, in a society run on sugar, grains, dairy and meats, the flavors that vegetables provide are often overlooked. Do you ever wonder why you don’t like bitter, pungent and astringent flavors (aka, the ones found in vegetables)? It’s probably because you have “trained” your taste buds to prefer sweet and salty, not because you were “born that way”.
Sweet and salty flavors can overly-satisfy the senses and, in time, create a dependency on those types of foods. In fact, studies show that these foods activate dopamine receptors – the “I need it now” hormone – in the brain. Dopamine plays a part in any addiction because of its diminishing hormone affect: the more you stimulate it, the more of a substance it takes to stimulate it to the same degree. This is what happens with veggies – the natural sweet taste soon gets swapped out with the more potent, quick-acting sweet taste found in breads, dairy, and sweeteners, and we end up no longer liking the taste of vegetables.
Our bodies – and taste buds – crave variety and is why it’s important to “eat the rainbow” when it comes to our vegetables! Thankfully there are literally hundreds of different kinds of vegetables to choose from, and even more ways to prepare them!
8) PROVIDE LASTING ENERGY
While vegetables do contain a lot of water and fiber, they also contain a healthy amount of complex carbohydrates – the main nutrient our bodies use to create energy. Complex carbs, as opposed to simple carbs that you find in candy and white bread, for example, takes more time to digest and won’t cause the blood sugar highs and lows that these others do. This is because breaking down the cellulose fibers in vegetables takes time, which allows the carbohydrates to be released slowly.
Think of our bodies as a fire fueled by either twigs or with thick logs. The twigs are like simple carbohydrates and will burn quickly, while the logs take much longer to dwindle down, like complex carbs do; meaning the fire (or our energy level) will be stronger and last for much longer when fueled with these foods. The exception to this rule would be the sugars found in beets and corn – as they have a high glycemic index and trigger the insulin cycle.
9) PROBIOTICS WITHOUT THE PILLS
Clients always ask me what are the most important vitamins to take, if I had to choose just one or two. While most people would assume that it depends on the individual – because all of us have our own makeup, nutritional needs and deficiencies – I hands down always say probiotics! This is because the good bacteria that they provide help with all of our essential bodily functions including digestion, assimilation, detoxification, and intestinal waste removal, and most of us don’t have enough of them (thanks to our poor diets).
But did you know that many vegetables, especially greens, are loaded with chlorophyll which act like probiotics in the way that they “fertilize” the intestinal villi and aid in the proliferation of the good intestinal bacteria?! In fact, chlorophyll works even better than supplements do because most probiotic supplements don’t encourage the growth of your own flora but instead, only work while you take them. When you stop, so do the benefits. So why not load up on green veggies and ensure that your intestinal flora are always at their peak – and then only supplement with probiotics when you have to (or at least take less than is normally prescribed).
The truth is, while most of us know we should be eating plenty of vegetables, few of us actually do. The US Food Guide Pyramid recommends that we eat 3-5 servings of veggies a day, yet studies show that only 22% of Americans do. In the perfect world, I’d like you to make vegetables the center of your meals, and let the other food groups accompany them. And no, I don’t mean you have to become a strict vegetarian, and only eat vegetables, but rather center the “meat and potatoes” (or “chicken and rice” if that’s more your thing) around the vegetables, making them the main course, and then allowing the grains/starch and meat/fish to become the side-dishes.
However, I know this may not be easy for a lot of you who [may have] grew up thinking that an iceberg lettuce salad with a few slivers of carrot, a baby tomato and some croutons covered in ranch dressing were all the veggies you needed for the day. With that said, even allowing your vegetables to be equal stars in your meals would make me – and your waistline – very happy!
But don’t worry, I’m not saying these changes all need to be made right now! Just gradually start adding an array of different colored and textured veggies to your dishes, as well as a variety of grains and starches, and your family will begin eating less meat and start becoming more plant-based before they even know what’s happening!
Now stay tuned for next week’s Newsletter where I continue to help you make healthy living a lifestyle! And if you missed last week’s Tip (about reasons you need to turn off your cell phone), CONTACT US for the Newsletter, or check out the article on our BLOG.
EAT LIKE THE GORILLAS
Did you know that a Gorilla’s digestive system most closely resembles that of a human (compared to other mammals)? And did you know that they eat more than half their body weight in ounces of vegetables per day?! They literally spend their entire day munching on veggies! Gorillas also eat fruits, grains (in their natural unprocessed form), and a small amount of meat. Sound like a diet you’ve heard of?!
While I’m not saying that we should be eating half our weight in veggies, I do think that we’d be a lot better off if we try to turn the tables on the way we eat veggies and eat up to one, possibly even two pounds of veggies per day. I know, I know, that sounds like a LOT, but remember, veggies contain a lot of water and are very low in calories, so you’ll get well over a pound if you just add a little bit more to each meal.
You can do it!