There is a clear lack of vegetable consumption these days. As much as we like to lie to ourselves about it, it’s true. The vegetables I’m referring to are not potatoes, ketchup and anything made with corn, I’m referring to vegetables that are nutrient dense: greens, peppers, broccoli, beets, and so on. Also vegetables that only undergone roasting, steamed, juicing or in it’s raw form.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 47.2% of people and only 33.5% of men consumed five or more fruits and vegetables per day, and I’m willing to bet the majority was fruit. Fruit is not a bad thing, but on the spectrum of nutrition it’s important we get more vegetables in our diet.
Why are vegetables so important?
Vegetables and herbs are the most nutrient-dense food substances. They contain just about everything you need minus a few amino acids. Eating vegetables on a regular basis not only improves your appearance, energy levels, and the way you perceive the world. They also heal. By healing I mean they pull toxins out of your body, strengthen your immune system and significantly reduce the likelihood of sickness and disease. It’s not natural to be as sick as we are in Canada, but it’s no surprise with the lack of good foods in our diet.
But why do we have such a hard time eating them?
Two main reasons: taste and inconvenience.
We have taught our taste buds to respond to salty and sweet. These two flavors are usually a good indication of calories. Calories, to our genetics, usually mean long-term survival. These flavors also release dopamine in the brain, which is the feel good hormone. Start a kid young with high salt high sugared foods and the addiction will be hard to break.
The next reason is inconvenience. As our world advances, technology finds ways to make our lives as simple as possible. Along with this comes the simplicity of food. Making time to cook a good meal each day becomes difficult. As a result we seek quick and easy. Well, quick and easy usually means not fresh and bad for you, and with that comes salty and sweet. The cycle continues.
We need to decide to make a change, similar to how a drug addict decides to go to rehab. Unfortunately, there’s no rehab clinic for people addicted to bad food, unless you make it on The Biggest Loser. This battle is faced in the real world, with real distraction. Vegetable intake is incredibly important. Make time, and make it a habit.
Juicing is a great way to receive a huge surge of nutrients quickly. Juicing removes most of the fiber, which you will have to replace later; however, it’s like a secret code to get all your vitamins to recharge and heal the system. Your best juicers are the lower watt systems that claim to reduce oxidation (oxygen breaking down the nutrients) as you’ll get more out of the vegetable. If you’re not looking to spend a lot of money, I suggest the Breville 700 Watt Compact Juicer. The most important thing to remember with juicing is that it needs to be a habit. I usually half fill a colander with vegetables every morning. Get used to using and cleaning the machine on a regular basis, and remember once juiced you have maximum one hour to drink it. This is why any store bought juice is essentially just sugar.
Steaming is a great way to get vegetables because it doesn’t break down the nutrients as much and it makes it a little bit easier to digest. You can get away with pre-steaming enough vegetables for two days, and warming then adding a little bit of olive oil, or organic butter once your ready to eat it. Preparation takes two minutes, another 10 – 15 minutes to steam and seconds to enjoy.
The issue with roasting is high heat. Keep it low and allow vegetables to simmer. Use olive oil as you need, but only at the end of the cooking as it degrades. Coconut oil can be used as a substitution, since the high heats do not as adversely affect it. As with steaming you can roast enough for two days.
Although some health fanatics swear this is the only way you should eat vegetables, in their uncooked form there are some issues that affect digestion. Try different vegetables out to see how you feel. If you’re overly gassy or bloated, try steaming.
Thanks to the increasing amount of vegans and vegetarians there are an increasing number of vegetable-based powders you can mix with water. Most of these products are relatively clean, because the companies who make them are genuinely interested in health and creating good products. Look for a “Greens” based supplement or “Sea Vegetables”. You can also find vegetable-based products with added protein such as VEGA.
The biggest tip here is to make your own. My favorite is tomatoes, parsley, basil, and pinch of sea salt thrown into a Vitamix or ordinary blender. Do some Google searches and get creative.
By consuming 5-6 servings of vegetables a day for two weeks you will notice a huge difference. Make a commitment and stick to it. By the time you’ve reached two weeks, I can almost promise you your energy levels will be so high you’ll want to continue this eating style on a regular basis.