Having all this veg and also the arrival of my weekly veg box (full of the most wonderful fresh vegetables), has reminded me that I haven’t really paid enough attention to the green stuff in this blog yet. So here goes…..
Vegetables are the backbone of this detox programme. Being full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre, they really are the wonder foods of a healthy diet, and are reported to have a protective effect against many chronic illnesses including cancer, bowel disease, heart disease and stroke - this article from Harvard University gives a great summary of the association between vegetables and chronic disease. This is why it is so important to get your 5-a-day.
What makes them so important with regards to this programme is due to the nutrients they contain:
Vitamins – such as vitamin A (found in carrots, red peppers and sweet potato), the B vitamins (found in green leafy veg, mushrooms and asparagus), vitamin C (sweet potato, spinach and red peppers), vitamin E (found in avocados, as well as nuts and seeds) and vitamin K (found in green leafy veg). All of which are important anti-oxidants and /or play a vital role in detoxification processes, immune system and energy metabolism.
Minerals – such as calcium (found in green leafy veg), copper (found in mushrooms), magnesium (found in spinach, butternut squash and artichokes), manganese (found in spinach and sweet potato) and potassium (found in sweet potatoes, tomatoes and broccoli). All of which are vital for many enzyme reactions and detoxification processes and energy metabolism.
Phytonutrients – These include flavones and lycopene (found in red vegetables such as tomatoes, red peppers and various fruits), beta-carotenes, flavonoids and curcumin (found in orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potato and butternut squash), lutein and zeaxanthin (found in yellow vegetables like corn, pumpkin and yellow peppers), chorophyll, silymarin and folic acid (found in green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach) and glucosinolates, allyl sulfides and theobromines (found in white vegetables such as onions, garlic and cauliflower). All of which have various anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, as well as having important for roles in detoxification processes, liver support, energy metabolism and to protect against toxin exposure.
And also, what they leave out:
No refined sugars
No bad fats
No additives, artificial colouring, preservatives or flavours
All of which are detrimental to health and can increase your toxic load.
So how can you get the most out of your veg:
- Make sure you have at least 3 portions of different vegetables at lunch and supper. Your total vegetables serving should fill up ½ the area of your plate, with starchy carbohydrates and quality protein (lean meat, fish, poultry, beans and pulses) taking up a quarter each.
- Ensure you eat a variety of different vegetables by aiming for a rainbow of colours.
- Get into the habit of asking yourself what can I do that will add at least one portion of vegetables to this meal?
- Choose the freshest veg possible and don’t leave them festering in the bottom of the fridge. Vegetables start losing their nutrients as soon as they are harvested.
- Organic vegetables tend to have higher nutrient levels as well as lower levels of pesticides, not to mention they taste better. However, avoid those that have has been grown abroad and has therefore travelled many airmiles. More on this later….
- Chose locally produced vegetables that are in season – a good way of ensuring all this is to use a local veg box scheme which delivers a variety of fresh, organic and seasonal fruit and vegetables to your door every week, see my local heroes page for information.
- Or better still – try growing your own. Salad vegetables / lettuces and/or herbs are a great starter veg.
- Cook your vegetables by steaming, stir-frying, in soups and smoothies / juices or baking – this will help to reduce the amount of nutrients lost whilst cooking, and do not overcook them - no mushy peas or soggy Brussels sprouts please!
- Or even better eat them raw.
“Make a rainbow every day”