Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kitchen Reform, Tip six: Vegetable Matters

In my experience, it is far easier to add than subtract. The simple act of withholding makes the forbidden instantly sexy: your mind focuses in, building it into a thing far greater than it ever was. 

So instead of less as a nutritional strategy, focus on more. This week? At the risk of equating Johnny Depp (or Julianne Moore, depending on how you swing) to produce -- vegetables.

Better educated people than me have advised you to eat more vegetables. Your MD. Michael Pollan. Your mother.

And they are right. Researchers have linked increased vegetable consumption with decreased rates of high blood pressure, cardiovascular and coronary heart disease. Specific components of vegetables are thought to protect against certain kinds of cancers, vision, and even boost gastrointestinal health. [Source: Harvard School of Public Health]

But did they add that they should be the best quality you can manage? Local, organic, at the very least fresh, or frozen fresh -- that is the hierarchy to follow. And if you want to keep that cost-efficient, look at what is currently in season. Some vegetables, like mushrooms, are cultivated year-round and can be a good way to bust the winter rut. Luckily, the vegetables researchers advocate as most healthy (though with the exception of the unlucky potato, the consensus is pretty much all of them are beneficial), green leafies such as spinach and Swiss chard, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, are now widely available year-round.

The 2010 dietary guidelines suggest 2-3 servings of vegetables a day; Harvard's School of Public Health agrees, counting a serving equal to one cup, the exception being leafy greens, which generally take 2 cups to get the nutritional value of a serving. Don't raise your hand to order French fries just yet; potatoes are an exception. Due to their high starch content they should be used sparingly. And try not to add too much to your vegetables when you prepare them; the closer they are to their real state the more healthy they are.

There are lots of strategies for fitting in more vegetables. I have one friend who has had many health challenges thrown at her, and she likes to pre-load the plate with vegetables, treating meat and or starch as sides. Another pal, who grew up in Panama, creates salads with nary a leafy green in sight from lovely combinations of colors, and tops them sparingly with cheese. We add a salad to most meals, and when it is left over I put it in a bowl in the fridge to pull out for lunch or snack the next day.

We've added a lot of really simple vegetable recipes here in the past you can revisit: like cauliflower puree, roasted toasted Brussels sprouts, and frissee salad with lardons. I'll post a few ideas to get you started this week, and we'll spotlight them in months to come.


1 comment:

  1. Lydia,
    Found your blog from Farmer Girls. Enjoying your post and your style of writing. Look forward to reading more!