Why The Vegetable Challenge??Experience Momentum | Food & Nutrition, | June 01, 2018
For the month of June, Experience Momentum is challenging everyone to eat 5 servings of vegetables each day. Learn from Registered Dietitian Crystal Franck on why eating more vegetables is so important!
Vegetables are full of health-promoting properties, such as insoluble and soluble fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals including potassium, folate, and vitamins A, E, and C. Eating a diet high in vegetables has been shown in research to help lower blood pressure, lower harmful cholesterol, and lower risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. A high vegetable diet has also been shown to reduce inflammation, protect against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, as well as aid in weight loss.
Many of the beneficial compounds in vegetables are found in their pigmentation. Therefore, it is to your advantage to eat a rainbow of brightly colored vegetables for optimal health. If you find yourself eating predominantly green vegetables, for example, try stocking up on some red, yellow, and purple vegetables options the next time you visit your local grocer. Or, if you always opt for pale colored produce, such as iceberg lettuce, opt for a more boldly colored choice next time, such as spinach or arugula.
One easy way to add variety to the colors of vegetables you and your family consume is to experiment with vegetables that come in many different color varieties. Even though the colors look different, you may be surprised to discover how similar different color varieties of the same vegetables taste. For those of you with picky eaters, finding a different color option of a vegetable your child will eat can be a way to help them obtain a more broad variety of nourishing plant compounds. As an example, if you typically gravitate towards red bell peppers, try using orange and yellow bell peppers as well. Similarly, consider trying a Yukon gold, baby red, or Peruvian purple potato. Carrots, radishes, cauliflower, tomatoes, beets, asparagus, and chard all come in a rainbow of colors.
Vegetables that are green contain phytonutrients such as chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene. These nutrients support retinal health and vision, fight harmful free radicals in the body, boost your immune system, lower blood pressure, and help keep your GI tract healthy. Green veggies we enjoy include spinach, broccoli, artichokes, asparagus, celery, peas, green beans, green peppers, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, and a variety of leafy greens.
Red vegetables are high in lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin, hesperidin, anthocyanins, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Red veggies offer many health benefits including helping reduce the risk of diabetes and osteoporosis and helping to lower cholesterol. Red vegetables have also been shown to help protect against prostate cancer and other tumors. Anthocyanins are believed to protect the liver, improve eyesight, and reduce blood pressure and inflammation. Red veggies include radicchio, red peppers, rhubarb, radishes, red onions, tomatoes, and red cabbage.
Yellow and orange colored vegetables contain zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, vitamin C and beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A. These nutrients help keep our eyes healthy, reduce the risk of prostate cancer, promote healthy joints and collagen formation, encourage pH balance of the body, and help us build healthier bones by working with calcium and magnesium. Yellow and orange veggies include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut, acorn and summer squash, corn, orange and yellow peppers, and golden beets.
Blue and purple veggies have a variety of nutrients, including lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, Vitamin C, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin. These phytonutrients may help slow cognitive decline, improve motor skills and reverse memory loss. In addition to keeping our brains healthy, blue and purple veggies have been shown to promote heart health, reduce risk of some cancers, reduce risk of diabetes, and aid in maintaining a healthy urinary tract. Try these blue and purple vegetables: eggplant, shallots, purple cabbage, endive, purple asparagus, purple carrots, purple potatoes, and beets.
Even though some people think that white is not a color, white vegetables have many nutrients, including beta-glucans, EGCG, SDG, and lignins. These nutrients help to balance hormones, which in turn reduces the risk of many cancers. Additionally, they aid in activating B and T cells, which help battle cancer in the body. They also help fight inflammation, improve the body's ability to absorb calcium and other nutrients, and support healthy digestion. Some of our favorite white and brown veggies include mushrooms, onions, parsnips, turnips, jicama, and cauliflower.
Make it a goal during the veggie challenge to explore new colors of some of your favorite vegetables, add more veggies to your favorite recipes, and include more than one color of vegetables at every meal. Check out our recipes page and Nutrition Instagram for healthy recipe ideas, resources, and recommendations.