By Lauren Denos: 8/12/2014 (Nutrition)

Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals, and they are a great source of carbs and other nutrients. Veggies are great because so many more of them can be eaten for our calories allotted. Veggies are one of those foods that you can eat as much of as your heart desires.

Some vegetables can be higher in sugars such as carrots and corn. But for many people even these vegetables are a huge step up compared to the other garbage being eaten. Vegetables contain healthy fiber, calcium, vitamin C and a host of other vitamins and minerals. Here are examples of 3 of the important ones we need in our diets.

Fiber
Veggies can give you the fiber you need. It is true that by eating whole grains you will get more fiber, but when you are eating plenty of veggies throughout your day, getting enough fiber should not be an issue. For an example:

1/2 cup cooked beets have 2.5 grams of fiber
3/4 cup cooked broccoli has 7 grams of fiber
1/2 cup cooked spinach has 7 grams

Calcium
1 cup cooked okra has 135 mg
1 cup collard greens 357 mg
1 cup cooked Spinach 245mg

Vitamin C
1 cup of raw bell peppers has 117mg
1 cup broccoli has 81 mg
1 cup brussel sprouts have 75mg

Vitamins and minerals are obviously very important but if that was not enough of a reason to eat plenty of vegetables, they also have phenolic compounds in them. Phenolic compounds are what give plants their beautiful colors but more importantly they are very important to our health. You should aim to get in as much variety of colors of veggies as possible. Explaining the nutrients of each specific color and the different vegetables within that category can be very long winded and detailed so we are going to look at a shortened version of this information.

We will break down these colors into Reds, Purples and Blues, Yellow and Orange, White and Green. Some of the phenolic compounds cross over into multiple groups and they are all important for different things. Lets go over these.

Reds

Examples- Tomatoes, red bell peppers, beets, radishes and red onions. Red vegetables contain Lycopene and Anthocyanins:

  • Lycopene has been said to help protect against prostate and many other types of cancer, some research suggests that lycopene may help with infertility by increasing sperm in men and it helps diabetes. It is known as an eye protector since it helps prevent the eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts. It also works as an internal sunscreen, and helps against osteoperosis
  • Anthocyanins helps fight heart disease, cancer and have anti-aging qualities. It is an antioxidant that may help with visual issues as well as circulation and it has possible anti-inflammatory anti-diabetic properties and may help fight ulcers.

Purples and Blues

Examples- Eggplant, endive, purple cabbage and asparagus. Purples and blues vegetables contain Phenolics, Anthocyanins, Resveratrol:

  • Phenolics help protect against free radicals, they are anti-inflammatory, help with allergies, protect against tumors and they also help protect the heart. Phenolics are also found in olive oil.
  • Anthocyanins help fight heart disease, cancer and have anti aging qualities. It is an antioxidant, and may help with visual issues as well as circulation. They have possible anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties. They may also be helpful for fighting ulcers.
  • Resveratrol has been suggested to be anti aging, anti cancer and anti-inflammatory. It is associated with increased cardiovascular health and may help lower blood sugar.

Yellow and Orange

Examples- squash, carrots, golden beets, yellow bell peppers. Yellow and orange vegetables contain alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptothanxin:

  • Alpha and Beta Carotene are both part of the Carotenoid family. Carotenoids are antioxidents so they help with inflammation and reduction of free radicals and cancer prevention. They are also precursors to vitamin A, meaning that it can be helpful for eye issues.
  • Beta Cryptoxanthin is also a precursor to vitamin A meaning it can possibly help with eyesight and immune system. It is an antioxidant, which means it helps with fighting free radicals in the body. It has a possible protective effect against lung and colon cancer. Some studies have shown that Beta Cryptoxathin can reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

White

Examples - Cauliflower, garlic, ginger, jicama, mushrooms, onions. White vegetables contain- Allicin, Quercetin, and Kaempferol:

  • Allicin is said to be protective against cancer, heart disease and is a good anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. This is found very prevalent in garlic and onions, which is why many experts on fugal issues in the body suggest eating garlic every day! Garlic may just be the real snake oil, the wonder cure all!
  • Quercetin is an antioxidant and is reported to support the immune system. It is said to work like a antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory and therefore helps with allergies. It is said to support bone health, protect against heart disease and cancer and may also clear some congestion. Quercetin in supplement form is often taken by people with environmental allergies.
  • Kaempferol studies have found a positive link between foods rich in this nutrient and a reduced risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular disease. They are said to possibly help with reducing free radicals, reducing inflammation, protecting the brain, helping with diabetic conditions, osteoporosis and estrogen imbalance.

Greens

Examples- A variety of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, green beans, avocados, celery. Greens vegetables contain Lutien, Indoles, and Kaempferol:

  • Indoles are found in cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, arugula and brussel sprouts. Indoles are said to be able to bind to cancer causing chemicals and destroy them.
  • Kaempferol studies have found a positive link between foods rich in this nutrient and a reduced risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular disease. They are said to possibly help with reducing free radicals, reducing inflammation and protecting the brain. They also may help with diabetic conditions, osteoporosis and estrogen imbalance.
  • Lutien is known to help prevent many issues pertaining to the eyes, such as macular degeneration, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa. Lutien may also protect against cardiovascular disease.

Raw vs Cooked. Which is Better for You?

Both raw foods and cooked foods have their benefits. Raw food tends to have more of their enzymes in tact. Raw Vegetables tend to keep more of their vitamin B and C. They also retain some of their minerals better such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. This is a great reason to eat some of your veggies raw every day.

When you cook vegetables you break down the cell walls making many nutrients more absorbable into the system. Cooking also brings out some of the flavenoids making them more bioavailable for your body. When you do cook vegetables you should aim to keep them a little firm. You do not want to cook them to death or to a mush (unless you are specifically making a soup that way). Steaming and light sauteing is a good option.



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-Lauren