If you were one of those individuals, you wouldn’t even think of consuming one of those mushy, tasteless “items” that were in the classification of vegetables. In fact, the word “vegetable” had all the connotations of misery, pain, torture and anguish.
Fast forward to today. Today you have as many options for flavorful vegetable preparations as Baskin Robbins has ice cream flavors (hey, I know, I’m dating myself here). You can now officially say “Goodbye” to those vegetable wars!
Please keep in mind that I am sharing all of these nutrition/culinary tidbits with you because it was a true revelation to me. I truly thought food that was good for you had to taste bad, like medicine. Remember all those childhood experiences of boiled vegetables with no flavor? Enough said.
As an important side note to this story, before I dazzle you with vegetable preparation options, a little nutritional reflection is in order. There is yet another study touting the health benefits of consuming your fruits and vegetables. A study from the University College of London compared those consuming greater than 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day to study participants that ate less than 1 serving per day. The results showed a 42% greater risk of death (including cancer and heart disease) for the no-go non-fruit and vegetable eaters.
The surprise in this study though was that vegetables had the strongest protective effect. Each additional daily vegetable portion reduced the risk of death by 16%. Each additional portion of fruit only yielded a 4% risk reduction (Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 3/31/14).
I’m just going to give you one example of the power of just one class of vegetables (the cruciferous family) in combating a top chronic disease: cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are kale, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and swiss chard. Two naturally occurring phytochemicals in this family are Indole 3-Carbinol and sulforaphane, proven life-savers. Indole 3-Carbinol has been been found to have special anti-carcinogenic “sniper” abilities by eliminating rogue cancer cells that don’t follow the regular path of cancer cell death (apoptosis). Indole 3-Carbinol also significantly reduces the risk of breast and cervical cancer by increasing the amount of “good” estrogen metabolites (2-hydroxyestrone) to outweigh the carcinogenic estrogen metabolites (16-alpha-hydroxyestrone and 4-hydroxyestrone). It even is sold in pill form for it’s breast and cervical cancer reducing abilities (DIM), but I always recommend getting it from a healthy intake of cruciferous veggies first. For those who are easing into broccoli and its sibs, but want to take advantage of this powerful phytochemical in a supplement, check out EstroDIM in our store. Sulforaphane is noted for it’s detoxifying anti-carcinogenic properties in reducing the risk of prostate cancer. Please note, this is just one class of vegetables . There are many more with life-saving properties with still many more that have yet to be discovered!
Vegetables are also the well kept little secret necessary for health, vitality AND weight maintenance. Please don’t get me wrong, fruit is great for you. Fruits are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, however, they need to be eaten in smaller doses because of their calories, but more importantly, their sugar content. That isn’t true of the non-starchy vegetables. Their sugar content is very low. Hey, I know it’s not all about calories either, but it is about consuming enough to receive that feeling of satiation that doesn’t leave you starved. Sugary foods in general, especially processed sugary foods, i.e. white bread and soda, mess with your hormone chemistry, prompting you to take in more calories than you really need. Highly fiber foods (like non-starchy vegetables) fill you up, without all the “sugar” baggage.
Another fact to keep in mind with vegetables, if you can: buy “in season” to get the maximum nutrient punch for your money!
Below are just a couple of ideas for different vegetable preparations. Note that the vegetables should be the stars in each of your dishes. All the extras, i.e. cheese, nuts, dressing, should only complement the stars, not overwhelm them.
Here are my picks for the top methods of healthy vegetable dishes:
1. Sauteing- Saute is derived from the French word “sauter”, meaning “to jump”, and that is exactly how you cook it, continually tossing it quickly in the pan until it is done. This is a dry heat method of cooking that requires a small amount of oil before adding the food. The vegetable cuts should be about the same size and the same texture (notice these are all soft vegetables) so the cooking time is the same.
2.En Papillote- This is a moist heat cooking method of steaming. Only delicate foods can be utilized with this method. The food is wrapped in parchment paper or foil and is then placed in the oven, steaming in it’s own juices. Below is a fish, red pepper, snap pea, herbs, lemon and quinoa preparation.
3. Braising- This is a combo method of moist heat and dry heat. This is red cabbage that was first browned in a small amount of fat then simmered slowly in a flavorful liquid including onions, broth, wine, apples and a sachet of spices while covered.
4. Blanching-This is a moist heat subset method of boiling, used only for soft vegetables to maintain their crunch. Once the water is boiling you briefly put the vegetables in the boiling water then drain them quickly, then “shock” them in a bath of icy cold water to stop the heating process. This is one of my favorite snacks for guests: asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and phyllo served with a spanish aioli.
5. Salads-Dress your salad with small amount of light vinaigrette and a large amount of vegetables.
6. Soups- You can make a stew, a hearty soup, or what I have pictured, a pureed soup (cauliflower). This soup is made of leeks, cauliflower (including the core), broth and a very small amount of butter. That’s it! Very simple! As a side note, kids love pureed soups, they are very sweet!
7. Grilling- This is a dry heat method of cooking, made simple by simply rolling the vegetables directly on the grill. I usually allow it to marinade first for extra flavor.
8. Sauces- There is no better addition to your meats or starches than a flavorful sauce that happens to be chock full of healthy vegetables, like this Spanish Sofrito sauce with tomatoes, garlic, onions and peppers.
9. Raw-There is nothing better for a quick snack or quick meal when you don’t have the time to cook than raw vegetables with a little hummus.
10. Roasting-This is my favorite method of cooking vegetables utilizing a dry heat method of cooking. I usually set the temperature at 400 degrees, add a little olive oil and seasoning, then I wait for the sugars in the vegetables to caramelize, turning that golden seared color, yielding a sweetness and crispness that is mouth watering. The large pan of unending kale you see is my go-to meal when Randy can’t make it for dinner. I love it!
These are my favorite vegetable preparations today. There are so many more I have yet to explore, and I encourage you to do the same!
Recap of Why Vegetables Are A Well Kept Secret:
1. In a recent UCL study, vegetables edge out fruits for lowering your risk of death from chronic disease.
2. The entire spectrum of vegetables have life-saving properties, some we have discovered, some waiting for discovery!
3. Vegetables are the well kept little secret necessary for health, vitality AND weight maintenance.
4. Buy your vegetables “in season” to get the maximum amount of nutrients for your money!
5. There are so many delicious vegetable preparation ideas, these are just a few of my favorites:
-Sautéing, En Papillote, Braising, Blanching, Salads, Soups, Grilling, Sauces, Raw and Roasting
Declare a truce on the vegetable wars by embracing new ways to prepare them. The choices are endless!
Your greatest personal dividends will definitely be you and your family’s health and wellness!