As I strive to discipline myself and practice healthier eating habits, the incorporation
of more vegetables into my diet is an ongoing struggle. My palette has become assimilated
to "Americanized" vegetables: raw broccoli becomes somewhat passable when dipped in
ranch dressing; the flavor of asparagus is enhanced by melted butter; baked potatoes
are better "loaded" than plain; sweet potatoes are best topped with brown sugar and
melted marshmallows, Thanksgiving style. You get the idea.
Following years of indulgence, I am now attempting to retrain my taste buds to appreciate
vegetables in their raw form. Okay, perhaps not entirely raw, but far less adulterated.
(I have still not ventured into uncooked broccoli territory. The very idea sends chills
down my spine.)
However unprepared I may be to shock my system with certain taste sensations, there
is no question that vegetables are generally rich in nutrients essential for the body.
Following are among the most beneficial.
While you may be dissuaded from eating it due to the florid fragrance it leaves inside
of your mouth, garlic is believed to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure while
strengthening the immune system and preventing colds. It can also decrease the risk
of blood clots and cancers, particularly of the stomach.
Although this may be a difficult idea for some to swallow (literally), it is best
to eat garlic raw.
Onions produce effects similar to those of garlic. I am not speaking merely of bad
breath (and the added bonus of teary, stinging eyes as you cut through them), but
of lowered cholesterol and blood pressure. They also increase the good kind of cholesterol
(HDL) when eaten raw.
Although widely considered a vegetable, this fruit contains lycopene, an antioxidant
that helps in the fight against heart disease and certain types of cancer (particularly
of the prostate.) It also contains significant amounts of vitamin C.
It is recommended that you cook tomatoes (particularly in oil) to derive the most
benefits from them. In our household, we would occasionally dip them in a bit of sugar,
although I doubt anyone would suggest this as part of healthy eating.
Carefully bypassing any reference to Popeye and superhuman brawn, spinach is not only
a good source of calcium and iron, but has antioxidants that may prevent macular degeneration
and cataracts. It contains a B vitamin (folate) that helps in the prevention of birth
defects. Its nutrients are also beneficial in fighting cancer and heart disease.
Containing potassium, beta carotene, fiber, and Vitamin C, squash is beneficial for
the general health of the body.
I personally enjoy it steamed with corn.
Low in calories and rich in Vitamin C, beta carotene, folate, potassium, and fiber,
this naturally sweet, non-fat vegetable can keep you full for a long time while helping
you fight cancer, heart disease, and inflammation-related illnesses such as rheumatoid
arthritis and asthma. It has also been said that sweet potatoes help protect the skin
from harmful UV rays and may lower insulin resistance.
The health benefits of mushrooms are numerous. Low in fat, carbohydrates and calories,
they are free of cholesterol while providing excellent sources of copper, niacin,
and riboflavin. They are known to fight cancer, strengthen the immune system, kill
viruses and bacteria, and help those with allergies, liver ailments, ulcers, and autoimmune
Shiitake mushrooms are high in fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, essential
amino acids, and Vitamins B2, C, and D.
In some studies, Maitake mushrooms have been shown to hinder the growth and spread
of cancer cells, enhancing the benefits of chemotherapy while reducing its side effects.
They also decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease by reducing blood and liver
Deemed by some as a "super food," this fat-free, low calorie vegetable helps keep
the bones strong with its offering of calcium and Vitamin K. It is also a great source
of protein, lutein, Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, fiber, and folic acid. Studies
have shown that it produces cancer-fighting enzymes, improves the immune system, regulates
insulin and blood sugar levels, and reduces the risk of diabetes, infections, and
Steaming broccoli or eating it raw are your best options. Cooking broccoli immersed
in water robs it of many essential nutrients.
I confess that I have resisted tasting beets, yet after reading of its marvelous qualities,
I have now changed my mind. They contain folic acid, iron, calcium, and a great deal
of fat-fighting fiber. They also protect against birth defects, heart disease, and
certain types of cancers (specifically, colon cancer.)
While I may prefer my cabbage stuffed into an egg roll, this vegetable is great all
on its own with its cancer fighting nutrients. It is a good source of potassium, fiber,
and Vitamin C. Both savoy and bok choy (two types of cabbage) contain beta carotene,
while the latter provides calcium that is invaluable in preventing osteoporosis and
regulating blood pressure.
Impressed by this voluminous list of qualities, I am newly inspired to eat a wider
variety of vegetables. Just keep the raw broccoli away from me.