By Nina Radlciff, MD
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, Brown paper packages tied up with strings, These are a few of my favorite things” –Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music
I would like to share some of my favorite healthy, yummy things….vegetables! The studies continue to pour in — singing loud and clear to all of us that a diet rich in veggies can decrease our risk for a number of chronic illnesses and serve as a top-of-the-line fuel for our bodies.
Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About Some of Our Favorite Veggies
Spuds are the most consumed vegetable in our country! The good news is that potatoes are rich in fiber and a number of nutrients. However, because they are often fried, mashed with oodles of unhealthy additives (sour cream, butter), or their skin (jam-packed with good-for-us items) is removed, their healthful benefits are negated.
Fiber helps us feel full faster resulting in less total calories consumed. It also has been linked to a decrease in colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women. Additionally, potatoes contain tons of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Some tips and tricks to get the most out of our spuds: try red, sweet, or purple potatoes which have been shown to contain many more antioxidants and nutrients; eat the skin to optimize fiber content; and bake or stir fry potatoes (frying these delectable delights will often negate any health benefits).
This green veggie may quite possibly take home the all-around, individual gold medal when it comes to healthiness. Broccoli is low in calories and sodium, and just so happens to be fat-free. Additionally, it contains protein and is high in fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by free radicals (akin to nuclear waste) that are formed by normal bodily processes.
All of these properties can decrease our risk for cancer, blood cholesterol levels, heart disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, constipation, and osteoarthritis. And to maximize these benefits, avoid boiling broccoli because a number of cancer-fighting nutrients are lost into the water. Whenever possible, opt for raw or prepare by steaming, microwaving, or stir-frying.
Bugs Bunny knew what he was doing with this crunchy, orange vegetable. Carrots have been shown to decrease our risk for lung, breast, prostate, and colon cancer; cardiovascular disease; and vision trouble.
The benefits to our visual acumen first came to light during World War II when the British Royal Air Force claimed that eating carrots was behind their pilots clear, sharp vision. Although the fighter pilot’s accuracy was likely due to a new radar system, there was more than a kernel of truth to the rumor. The science behind this is that beta-carotene is converted by our livers into vitamin A, which in turn is converted by our retinas into a purple pigment necessary for night vision.
Because the vitamins and nutrients in a carrot are encased in protein sacs, the heat from cooking or mechanical breakdown (chewing, grinding, juicing), help to release it. The crunch in carrots can be a great substitute for chips or other items used for dipping into salsa, hummus, or dip.
Its numerous health benefits qualify this cousin of the broccoli as a superfood. Cauliflower has been shown to have compounds that can help fight cancer, improve heart and brain health, and decrease inflammation. This white veggie contains choline, a B vitamin that is believed to boost our thinking, learning, and memory. So despite the health trend to stay away from “white” foods—rice, sugar, pasta, bread—cauliflower is an exception to the color rule.
Cauliflower seems to have no limits in its versatility. It is great to use for dipping, can stand on its own as a dish or side dish, and serve as an alternative to mashed potatoes, bread, and rice. As a result, some have deemed it the “it” vegetable.
With its vitamins, protein, fiber and a slew of minerals including copper, potassium, iron, and phosphorus, this green leafy veggie is considered healthier than spinach! Research has shown that it can help diabetics better control their blood sugars, as well as decrease our risk for heart disease, cancer, bone fractures, and stroke. Some ways to incorporate kale into our meals include substituting it for other greens in salads or sandwiches, blending it to make a smoothie, sautéing it with olive oil and garlic, or baking it to make chips.
Living longer, healthier lives is worthy of song–so join me in making vegetables sing as one of your favorite things to help get you there. Above are just a few of my favorite veggies, but there are many, many more. Let’s challenge ourselves to become creative at grocery and produce markets. Veggies are not just great for our bodies, they can be a treat for our taste buds as well. I’ll sing to that!