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.