Expand your Vegetable Repertoire
Everybody knows that veggies are good for you. While your mother (and grandmother!) likely encouraged you to finish your peas and carrots, she probably didn’t fully understand why it mattered. But in the last few decades, scientists have built up their knowledge base on the health potential of vegetables, discovering that they are packed with compounds called phytochemicals, which act as a natural defense system for the plant. If you were a leafy green vegetable, you could not just get up and run away from threats; you had to develop your own protection system. That’s exactly what vegetables have done—over thousands of years they evolved a complex system to protect themselves against environmental threats, such as UV damage, viruses and predators. These compounds are usually concentrated in the outer skin of the flesh, and they are often responsible for the color of the vegetable, from the scarlet of tomatoes to the yellow of corn. When we eat these vegetables, we seem to gain similar protective effects. Phytochemicals possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help protect you against the diseases of aging, such as heart disease and cancer. There are thousands of different phytochemicals that have been identified in vegetables and fruits, with new ones being discovered all of the time. Your best bet for health protection is to get a diverse array of phytochemicals in your diet by eating a rainbow of vegetables, from white, yellow and orange to red, blue, purple and green.
Tips for Diversifying Your Vegetable Color Palette
- Think beyond the ordinary. While green beans and carrots are healthy choices, get creative! Push your vegetable envelope by trying less common plants, such as Swiss chard, turnips, artichokes, and fennel. You’ll be rewarded with flavor and diverse nutrients.
- Visit a farmers market. If you want to be inspired by a variety of fresh, colorful vegetables at their seasonal peak, visit your local farmers market, which is home to heirloom vegetables, such as purple carrots and yellow tomatoes.
- Get colorful. Try to paint your plate with as many colors as you can. For example, choose a green leafy vegetable every day, for a bonus of vitamins and minerals, as well as phytochemicals. And include red vegetables every week for a rush of antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Honor the Seasons. Try to focus on fresh produce in season—that means winter squash, cabbage and root vegetables during the fall and winter; and green beans, summer squash, eggplant and peas in the spring and summer. Don’t be afraid to rely on preserved produce—frozen, canned, or sun-dried (without added salt)—which is often picked at its peak in season.
Reading: Follow along with The Plant-Powered Diet, pages 106 – 130.
Try my recipe for Radish Jicama Salad with Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette for a delicious, crunchy dose of vegetables.
You Can Win a Prize!
We will be watching your comments on the blog and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) during the challenge, so be sure to let us know how you are doing. We are going to select one winner at the end of the challenge on January 21, 2018 based on participation and comments on the blog and social media.
- Prize: An Organic Plant-Powered Farmers Market Bag filled with Plant-Powered Goodies! (Value $75)
Read the full rules here.
Previous Go Plant-Power Challenge posts:
Main image: produce at a local farmers market, Sharon Palmer, RDN