Vegetables are the edible portions of plants.
Main nutrients delivered in Vegetables:
1)      Vitamins and Minerals.
Green-Yellow-Orange – high in Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Beta-carotene, Vitamin B-Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamin K.
Folate (birth defects) – black eyed peas, cooked spinach, great northern beans, asparagus.
Potassium (blood pressure) – sweet potatoes, tomato paste, tomato puree, beet greens, white potatoes, white beans, lima beans, cooked greens, carrot juice.
Vitamin A (skin, eyes, infection) – sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, collard greens, winter squash, cantaloupe, red peppers, Chinese cabbage.
Vitamin C (skin healing, gums and teeth) – red and green peppers, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, tomato juice, cauliflower.
2)      Phytochemicals.
Antioxidants – These help protect the body from oxidative stress, diseases and cancers. These also boost immunity.
Flavonoids – Provide benefits by acting on the cell-signaling pathways in the body.  Include red, purple, blue or orange in color vegetables (i.e. Eggplant, red cabbage, onions, broccoli, kale, celery and hot peppers).
Catechins – is a natural phenol antioxidant plant secondary metabolite.  Rich sources of these are found in cacao beans and was first called kakaool.
Carotenoids – beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and alpha-carotene.  Found in orange, yellow and red vegetables (i.e. carrots, squash, corn, tomatoes).
Phytosterols – plant-derived compounds that are similar in structure and function to cholesterol.  Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated that daily consumption of foods enriched with at least 0.8 g of plant sterols or stanols lowers serum LDL cholesterol.  Foods rich in phytosterols include unrefined vegetable oils, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
There are thousands more of these compounds still unknown in fresh fruits & vegetables.
Studies show that steaming for around 10 minutes retains more of the activated beneficial compounds than either consuming raw or over cooking.
3)      Dietary Fiber.
Fiber is a diverse group of compounds, including lignin and complex carbohydrates that cannot be digested by human enzymes in the small intestine.
Vegetables contain both soluble and insoluble fibers.  We strive to obtain both from as natural sources as possible in order to maintain health and manage weight.
Insoluble: Non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) like cellulose, gums, mucilage, pectin, etc…
Adequate fiber intake has been associated with reduction in hemorrhoids, constipation, rectal fissures, overweight/obesity, rectal and breast cancers, etc…
Soluble or Viscous fibers, such as those found in oats and legumes, can lower serum LDL cholesterol levels and normalize blood glucose and insulin responses.  This is also found in smaller amounts in
most vegetables.
Some examples of fibers found in vegetables include:
  • Lignin: Lignin is a polyphenolic compound with a complex three-dimensional structure that is found in the cell walls of woody plants and seeds.
  • Cellulose: Cellulose is a glucose polymer found in all plant cell walls.
  • Hemicelluloses: Hemicelluloses are a diverse group of polysaccharides (sugar polymers). Like cellulose, hemicelluloses are found in plant cell walls.
  • Gums: Gums are viscous polysaccharides often found in seeds.
  • Inulin and oligofructose: Inulin is a mixture of fructose chains that vary in length and often terminate with a glucose molecule. Inulin and oligofructose occur naturally in plants, such as onions and Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Resistant starch: Naturally occurring resistant starch is sequestered in plant cell walls and is therefore inaccessible to human digestive enzymes. Legumes are sources of naturally occurring resistant starch. Resistant starch may also be formed by food processing or by cooling and reheating.
4)      Low/No Calorie high satiety foods.
Contain carbohydrates; however, these carbohydrates are not readily available to the body (i.e. difficult to digest).
The high fiber and water content make these high satiety foods via delaying emptying of the stomach into the small intestine.
Satiety = time from when you’ve last eaten until you’re hungry once again.
Five things you can do tonight to get more Vegetables into your daily diet
1)      Fill your plate at lunch and supper as above with Vegetables.  If you are trying to manage weight, eat these first with your healthy protein to maximize your satiety.
2)      Keep pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables in your fridge as snacks.  You can pair with healthy dips (i.e. hummus, peanut butter, etc…).
3)      Steam vegetables for 5-10 mins (maximum) when preparing.
4)      Use vegetables in smoothies with fruit and water in order to get more in your diet.
5)      Aim for 5 or more servings of vegetables as part of your 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  Remember to focus on the non-starchy vegetables which are fibrous and very low calorie.

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