According to the CDC, less than 25% of Michigan residents consume the recommended 3 servings of vegetables daily. Michigan is one of the top 10 agriculture states and our Farmer’s Markets are gearing up for a great harvest this year. Today’s “In Your Cart” explores why vegetables are so good for you and the importance of shopping with color in mind.
Vegetables are low in calories. Here’s what 100 calories looks like.
- Asparagus 33 medium spears
- Broccoli 2 stalks
- Brussels Sprouts 12 sprouts
- Carrots 4 medium or 26 baby carrots
- Cauliflower ¾ medium head
- Corn 1 ¾ ears
- Cucumber 2 cucumbers
- Green Beans 58 beans
- Lettuce, Bibb 4 heads
- Mushrooms 25 medium
- Onions 2 medium
- Peas 70 pea pods
- Potatoes 2/3 medium
- Tomatoes 5 medium or 4 cups cherry
- Peppers 3 medium
- Spinach 14 cups, loosely packed
- Zucchini 3 medium
Vegetables are a good source of fiber. Fiber helps us keep us fuller longer in addition to slowing down the rise in blood sugar, lowering LDL cholesterol and helping to keep our GI tract healthy by acting as a toothbrush.
Vegetables are rich in phytochemicals and to get the full benefit you need to eat all of the different colors. Researchers estimate there are over 4,000 of phytochemicals. Here is the Top 5 you may be familiar with.
- Beta-Carotene is found in orange and leafy green vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato, spinach and broccoli. It helps keep your immune system strong, supports healthy vision and is being studied as means to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Lycopene is found in red peppers and tomatoes. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and as a result is being studied for its ability to reduce your risk for heart disease or hardening of the arteries. There is also a lot of research presently being done on how lycopene may reduce men’s risk for prostate cancer.
- Lutein is found in green vegetables such as spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli and lettuce. There is strong evidence that low blood concentrations of lutein are associated with an increase risk for developing age related macular degeneration. It also may improve heart health and reduce your risk for cancer.
- Quercitin is found in white vegetables such as onions helps eliminate free radicals that causes cells to age and plaque to build up in arteries. They also have anti-inflammatory effects.
- Anthocyanin is found in purple vegetables such as eggplant, purple asparagus, peppers and potatoes. In addition to preventing cell damage, they have antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Including vegetables at breakfast, lunch and dinner is key to obtaining your recommended three servings per day. Some of my favorite ways to increase my intake of vegetables is to add them to my omelets, use them as sandwich toppers or wrap rollups, and grill or kabob a colorful array. Freezing vegetables is very easy, just wash and pat them dry, compress the air out of a freezer bag and enjoy local flavor, year round.