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Veggie-ing Out

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Whether it’s a salad before the main meal or greens in a glass, research shows that eating fresh vegetables can help you shed unwanted pounds and improve your health.

Whether it’s a salad before the main meal or greens in a glass, research shows that eating fresh vegetables can help you shed unwanted pounds and improve your health.

It’s Easy Being Green

Vegetables are nutritional super-foods that play a key role in a healthy diet. They are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre and are low in fat and calories. They help fight disease and boost immunity and energy.

A diet rich in vegetables–especially green foods such as broccoli, peppers, kale, spinach, cucumbers, and cel-ery–can help reduce the risk of developing diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. In fact, if everyone ate the recommended five to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, cancer incidence rates could drop by 20 percent.

Calorie Cutters

Eating vegetables can also help you achieve a healthy weight because they have a low glycemic index. In other words, veggies are broken down slowly in the body, causing less of a rise in blood sugar levels, less insulin secretion, and ultimately, less fat storage. Vegetables also have a high water and fibre content, which helps to promote the feeling of fullness, reduce hunger, and decrease caloric intake.

In a recent study undertaken by Pennsylvania State University, researchers gave 42 women a large (three cups), low-calorie salad 20 minutes before a meal of pasta to help reduce caloric intake. The results showed that the women ate about 100 calories less compared to when no salad was served.

Portion Size

In the university study, salads half the size, which are more typical of standard portions, reduced calories by only about half as much (seven percent for the smaller portion versus 12 percent for the large). Before your main meal, try to eat a large portion of leafy greens with low-fat dressing to enhance satiety and reduce caloric intake.

Keep It Lean

The three-cup salads in the university study included lettuce, grated carrots, tomato, celery, and cucumber with small amounts of reduced-fat dressing. When the salads were higher in fat and calories after altering the amount and type of dressing and cheese, caloric intake at the meal increased by eight percent for the smaller portion and 17 percent for the large. The bottom line: stick to basic vegetables. Adding toppings such as cheese, bacon, and high-fat dressings packs on the calories.

Slow and Steady

Eating slowly not only aids with proper digestion, it also helps you eat less. In the university study, the salad was served 20 minutes before the meal. The gap between the salad and the meal gave the women time to realize how much they had already eaten and to get a sense of fullness. If you eat too fast, you may eat too much, even with a large salad.

Crunch Time

Getting five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day is a challenge. According to the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, 70 percent of Canadians are well aware that eating fruit and vegetables has a protective effect, such as reducing the risk of cancer, but only 36 percent eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. The most common reasons given for not eating fruit and vegetables are time, cost, and taste.

If you have trouble eating your veggies, look to a green food supplement for help. Available at most health food stores, a green food product is like a salad in a glass; it contains a mixture of herbs, alfalfa, barley grass, wheat grass, and other nutritional super-foods vital for good health. Mix greens with water and drink up.

If your goal is to keep lean and healthy, you could do much worse than to colour your diet green.

Get Your 5-10 a Day

It's not difficult to get the recommended 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

Examples of one serving include:

  • 1 medium-sized vegetable or fruit
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) of chopped vegetables or fruit
  • 1 cup (250 mL) of salad greens
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) of dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) of vegetable or fruit juice
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