Insight II: Vegetables

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So far, I’ve introduced two out of four simple rules to follow if you want to increase your energy levels, productivity, and overall health through what you eat:

1. Go Gluten Free

Swap out grains for more nutritious, hypoallergenic carbohydrate sources like sweet potatoes.

2. Eat more of the right vegetables

Eat more vegetables…

…but also vary the vegetables you eat so that you give your body all the nutrients it needs to function properly – no two vegetables are nutritionally the same.

INSIGHT II

In this insight, I’m going to give an overview of most of the vegetables you’re likely to come across, and explain the benefits of eating them. I’ll then suggest a shortlist  for you to use in your diet, and share some recipe ideas for those shortlisted vegetables.

Vegetables: their nutritional content, and why you should eat them

Below is a table that shows the seasonality, nutritional content, and price of some of the most nutritionally rich vegetables in the supermarkets you shop at. I’ve also added the benefits of eating each into the table. (The sources of this information are all published scientific papers – get in touch for a list of references if you want them.)Image

Ok, so there’s some information about a few important vegetables that you can easily add to your diet. I’ve looked at the nutritional value of a total of 31 vegetables to find a mix of vegetables that aren’t too expensive, and that are nutritionally varied enough to give me the best chance of getting all the nutrients that I need. Here’s my vegetable shortlist, with suggested recipes for each to help you include them in your diet.

My Vegetable Shortlist:

1) Spinach

Spinach and Sweet Potato Mash

Bacon and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast

Spinach and Turkey Frittata

2) Kale

Paprika and Chili Kale Chips

Loads of Kale Recipes here from Abel & Cole….including Kale and Chorizo Soup

3) Broccoli

Steamed Broccoli

Broccoli and Bacon Salad

Lemon & Parmesan Broccoli

4) Carrots

Honey, Lemon and Thyme Glazed Carrots

Carrot Soup with Crisped Chickpeas

Roasted Carrots with Parsley Butter

5) Peas

10 Things to do with frozen peas – some of which are gluten-free!

Add into Sweet Potato mash or Brown Rice

6) Courgette

Courgette Fritters

Courgette Noodles and Meatballs – see Week 1 for alternative recipe

Sauteed Courgette with Garlic and Olive Oil

Hopefully some of those recipes appeal to you. At the very least, there are some really good other recipes on the blogs and websites that those recipes link to!

NB. I haven’t included Butternut Squash or Sweet Potato in either the list above or in my shortlist, just because they’re already a core component of my diet.

Vegetables: Best in Class

Finally, as per every Insight, here are my favourite blogger, vlogger and web resource that will help you find out more about, and implement, rule two:

Blogger:

I really like Megan Young’s blog, partly because her content is outstanding, but also because she’s got some class photos of her recipes that make you want to give them a go (she’s a professional photographer).

Megan Young’s Veggies and Me

Vlogger

I’ve given this to Jason Wrobel. Again, there are reasons beyond just knowing how to make eating vegetables interesting. The main other reason is that he’s an absolute lunatic in his videos.

Jason Wrobel’s Youtube Channel

Web Resource

This is a really simple and easy to read answer to the question ‘Why do you need to eat vegetables every day?’ by a not-for-profit Foundation

Why do you need to eat vegetables every day?

I’ll be back next Thursday with the third, and penultimate, rule for healthier eating! In the meantime, give vegetables more air time in your diet and try out some of the recipes above. If you have any suggestions for vegetable recipes that people should try out, please leave them as a comment below!

George

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule II: Eat more of the right vegetables

Paleo-Vegetable-Options

69% of us aren’t eating enough vegetables (WHO)

Welcome to the second instalment in a series of four simple rules for healthy eating.

Drawing on experience, the aim of the series is to strip away all of the gimmicks, niche diets and fads, and to present you with four simple rules for becoming healthy through what you eat.

By following the four rules, I’ve seen improvements in my energy levels, my mood and motivation, and in my skin health. They’re not difficult to follow, and even by partially sticking to them you’re likely to see benefits.

Rule One: Go Gluten Free

To recap, last week I introduced rule one – to go gluten free. Hopefully you saw how easy it is to switch pasta, bread and simple carb sources out of your diet in favour of more nutritious complex carbs like sweet potato, brown rice and butternut squash. I also published an insight into the science behind going gluten free, gave some recipes to try out, and suggested some GF-related blogs and youtube channels for you to check out.

Now onto rule two…

Rule Two: Eat more of the right vegetables

This is the most obvious rule, but probably the most important!

In this post, I’m going to give a brief introduction into why including enough vegetables in your diet is important, why you should try and vary the vegetables you eat, and give some tips on how to make them a core component of your diet rather than an added extra.

Why eating vegetables is important

We all know that vegetables are an important part of our diet. They’re high in the vitamins, minerals, and fibre that we need to keep our immune system functioning properly, metabolism well-oiled and overall health in check. Here’s a brief overview of what vegetables offer:

Vitamins & Minerals:

Benefit: Increase your productivity by improving the efficiency of your metabolism

Think of your cells  as lots of small engines. Within them, there are millions of chemical reactions going on every second – these are the metabolic processes that make up your metabolism. Your cells are working hard to convert the carbs, protein and lipids that you take in through your diet into the energy that sustains your life (catabolism), and into the building blocks of your cells (anabolism). Vitamins and minerals are like the cell’s employees – they’re the helpers, the brains of the outfit, and they run the show. Along with enzymes, they make sure that the process of converting fuel into energy runs as smoothly as possible.

Antioxidant properties of vitamins (and of precursors to vitamins like beta-carotene) may also help prevent chronic diseases by neutralising harmful free radicals – more on Saturday.

Fibre:

Benefit: Improves digestive health & wards off hunger pangs

The most obvious benefit I’ve personally experienced from eating fibre is that I no longer feel hungry all of the time. I used to crave sugary, high calorie foods, but am now able to get through an afternoon without enduring those hunger pangs. I put that down to my increased intake of fibre – fibrous foods take a long time to digest, so you feel full for longer.

Why vary your vegetables?

Very simply: different vegetables contain different nutrients. The Five-a-Day recommendation implies that any two portions of fruit or vegetables are nutritionally the same, but that’s not the case. To make sure your team of cell workers is diverse enough to cover all the specialist roles that vitamins and minerals play in different parts of the body, you need to increase the variety of vegetables that you eat.

On Saturday I’m going to push out a table of lots of vegetables, their vitamin/mineral content, and the benefits associated with taking in those vitamins/minerals.

Making vegetables a key part of your diet

It’s so easy to neglect vegetables as a part of your diet. I picked up quite a good 3-step system for working them into your diet from a couple of great internet sources and my friend Matt, who’s a nutritionist.

1) Have vegetables with every meal after breakfast…

This seems really simple and obvious, but just taking the time to plan my meals and make sure that I have vegetables with every meal has been a big first step to increasing the amount of vegetables I eat. It’s so easy to have, for example, a spaghetti bolognese, another pasta or a ready meal and not cook some broccoli, green beans, spinach or other vegetable to have with it. Alanna Kellogg at A Veggie Venture has a vast library of recipes, ideas and tips for including vegetables in every meal – go and check out her blog.

A good tip for implementing this is to have a stash of frozen vegetables in your freezer for those times when you run out of fresh veg.

2) Try one new vegetable every week

This is a cool way to experiment with food and to discover any vegetables that you haven’t tried before or haven’t eaten for a while. The best way to approach this is to try foods that are in season – they’ll be at their cheapest and most tasty. Here’s a website that shows the seasonalities of different vegetables.

Going to farmers markets, although I can’t speak from much experience, seems like a really nice way of embracing this step. These guys do veg boxes for people localto Bristol, and also have some info about farmers markets on their website: Leigh Court Farm.

3) Make your snacks vegetable-based

When 4pm comes around its natural to crave a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar. I found that just by switching out those things for vegetable snacks, I’ve stopped having those 4pm sugar cravings. There are some good ideas and leads into other sources on this thread: Chow thread. Kale chips, the recipe for which I posted in Rule One, are perfect for this.

This Week’s Challenge:

Right, so there’s my second rule: eat more of the right vegetables. The challenge this week is to:

  • Have vegetables with every meal – buy a stash of frozen broccoli so that there are no excuses.
  • Try out a new vegetable – how about kale or leeks?
  • Try one vegetable snack this week – prepare it the night before work or uni and bring it with you the next day. Kale chips, or maybe give this a whirl.

I’ll be back on Saturday with the second in the Insight series, where I delve into the science behind the week’s rule, give some in-depth ideas on how you can easily implement the rule into your daily routine, and share the best blog, youtube channel and web resource related to the rule for you to follow.