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Vegetables to the Rescue

David Spero

July 18, 2012

Many experts say that people with diabetes shouldn’t eat much flour or sugar. I agree. But other nutritional authorities don’t want you to eat saturated fats, either. So what CAN you eat? My answer: Try vegetables!

For 30 years I’ve been preaching to people to eat more vegetables. I even wrote songs about them. Nobody listened. Until now.

All of a sudden, vegetables are becoming trendy. Michelle Obama says cover half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Holistic doctor Terry Wahls, MD, says eat three full plates of them a day. As a vegetable advocate, I’m in heaven. But why should you eat vegetables? Which ones are best, and why aren’t you eating them yet?

Types of Vegetables
Few Americans grew up eating many green things, and most don’t know anything about them. Did you know there are multiple different categories of vegetables, each with different nutrients and flavors?

Here are some types, courtesy of Wikipedia and the excellent Nutrition Data Web site.

Flower buds. These include broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes. Broccoli is very high in vitamins A, C, E, and K; cooked broccoli has a glycemic load (GL) of 3 (a GL of 10 or under is considered low), is considered anti-inflammatory, and contains proteins and lots of fiber.

Seeds. Includes sweet corn, peas, and beans. Green peas are high in B vitamins and many minerals. They have a GL of 7, but are considered mildly pro-inflammatory, unlike most other vegetables.

Leaves. Leafy greens are my favorite, and include kale, collard greens, spinach, arugula, beet greens, bok choy, chard, and many others. Kale, in particular has become the rock star of vegetables. I see it featured in supermarkets all the time.

Boiled kale has an almost non-existent GL of 3 and a sky-high anti-inflammatory score of 439. It is high in fiber, has huge amounts of vitamins A, C and K, and it contains minerals such as magnesium that can be hard to get in other places.

Some of the kale fad is probably hype, though, because many other leafy greens have similar benefits.

Buds. Brussels sprouts. I’m not sure how they differ from the “flower buds,” but they are high in the minerals iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus, as well as vitamins A, C, and K.

Actually, most of these green things are pretty similar in nutrients. Other types include:
Stems of leaves, like celery and rhubarb.
Shoots, such as asparagus.
Leaf coverings, such as leeks

Then there are the non-greens, such as:
Tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are highly anti-inflammatory, white potatoes are more pro-inflammatory. All have moderate to high GL, but as discussed last week, baking makes their GL go up.

Sprouts like soybeans and alfalfa. Alfalfa sprouts have the ultimate glycemic load of 0. They won’t fuel you for exercise, but they do contain protein, vitamins B, C, and K, fiber, and a bunch of minerals.

Roots, including carrots, beets (another current star), and radishes. Boiled carrots have a GL of 2, a good anti-inflammatory score, tons of vitamin A, potassium, and manganese.

Bulbs like onions and garlic. These are worth a whole other blog entry.

Fruits in the botanical sense, but used as vegetables. These include tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, peppers, and avocado. These foods are less sweet than regular fruits and have a variety of nutrients, including proteins, fats, and vitamins.

Obviously, there are a lot of choices. But which ones taste best, and how do you prepare them for pleasure and health? Most Americans boil vegetables to death, so naturally they don’t taste good. Fortunately, wonderful options exist.

Our Web site has published many vegetable recipes that look tasty. You can see them here. (The roasted winter vegetable blend, roasted vegetable and barley salad, and creamy colorful vegetable salad are among my favorites.)

A Google search for vegetable recipes will give you thousands more ideas. I like the Web site What’s Cooking America, which gives recipes for individual vegetables.

In general, you can season vegetables like crazy without overdoing it, so don’t be shy. You can bake, boil, stir-fry, microwave, or eat them raw in many cases.

Another great option is to juice them, which gives you all the nutrition without all the chewing, but frequently leaves a lot of cleaning up to do. I would like to hear from readers who are juicing vegetables and/or fruits, to see how that’s going. I’m thinking of doing it for myself.

When it comes to taste, Americans are spoiled by all the sugars, fats, and salt we get. It’s hard for vegetables to compete. Jim Healthy of My Healing Kitchen says that trying to enjoy vegetables or fruits while eating a sugary diet is like going to a loud rock concert and not being able to hear your sweetheart whisper “I love you” in your ear. The delicate flavors of vegetables are the loving whispers we can’t hear over the din of the sugar concert.

But if you give them a try, you might find them more delicious than you thought possible. Let us know.



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