Note to Reporters: The following column is written by Shirley Perryman, an Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The department is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University.
Aim to be different from the average American who eats only two servings of vegetables a day — and counts French fries as a vegetable (they really don’t count!).
Fall is a great time to fill at least a quarter of your plate – the recommended servings — with fresh, colorful, tasty vegetables. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kale, pumpkins, winter squash and yams are plentiful and affordable. Fall veggies include a spectrum of dark green and deep orange veggies known for healthfulness. Adding variety to your vegetable menu makes the mealtime an experience and can entice you to include more of them more often.
If you’re fortunate enough to have farmers’ markets in your area still open, check for new varieties of familiar veggies in different colors, even with odd shapes and unusual names.
New purple varieties of common veggies such as potatoes and carrots are rich in anthocyanin and provide the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties similar to the beneficial health effects from blueberries and purple grapes:
• Studies link anthocyanin to a reduced risk of dying from heart disease and lowering blood pressure.
• The anthocyanin content of purple fleshed potatoes is retained better when baked rather than fried.
• Purple sweet potatoes have the health benefits of beta carotene. When you eat either purple or other deep orange veggies, beta carotene is converted to vitamin A.
• Maroon carrots have the dual benefits of beta carotene and anthocyanin. They are purple on the outside with orange flesh and make a healthful AND pretty plate when grated on a salad of dark greens.
You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy unusual varieties found in the grocery stores:
• Broccoflower is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, which makes it sweeter than broccoli.
• Swiss chard also comes in a rainbow of colors including gold, pink, orange, purple, red and white.
• Tomatoes that are sunshine yellow and bright orange come in large and small sizes.
Vegetables are a nutritional bargain loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber naturally without a high-calorie load. If you need to be coaxed to eat your veggies, here are some easy ways to get veggies in your daily diet:
• Save time and take a short cut. Buy ready-to-eat veggies, such as bags of spinach and other leafy greens that are pre-washed. Packaged, ready-to-use baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower florets and sugar snap peas make quick snacks.
• If you grew up eating only boiled, mushy, bland vegetables, try roasting them in the oven or on the grill. Peel and cube butternut squash. Toss with olive oil and roast in a moderately hot oven until tender. Combine with whole grain pasta, fresh herbs and green onions for a tasty and hearty main dish.
• If your kids won’t eat anything green, get kids involved in growing, selecting and preparing veggies and they’re guaranteed to eat more of them. You can shop online and buy seeds for unusually colored vegetables. Let your kids shop for veggies in their favorite colors. Even young children can help select and wash them. Caregivers can include a fun math lesson for the younger set during prep time.
• Choose frozen and canned vegetables without high-calorie sauces and added salt and sugars.
• Experiment with different fresh herbs and dried salt-free herb seasonings to enhance the natural flavors of veggies.
• If filling that plate with more veggies is still challenging get an extra serving in your day with vegetable juice. While eating the whole vegetable is preferable, studies have shown that drinking vegetable juice is an acceptable way to increase vegetable consumption.
Have you wondered if fresh produce is better than plain frozen or canned vegetables? Canned vegetables tend to be high in sodium. Good quality fresh produce likely has more nutrients than canned or frozen forms with one exception — canned tomatoes. Lycopene is recommended for its antioxidant properties and role in prostate cancer prevention and other chronic diseases. Lycopene is absorbed more readily in cooked tomato sauce.
Some consumers are concerned about pesticide residue on foods. This is a personal choice but more of the time most of us would benefit if we just ate more veggies. Research has shown that organic foods do not provide us with extra nutritional benefits compared to traditionally grown vegetables. If you still have concerns about pesticides in fresh produce stretch your dollar and buy only organic produce that cannot be peeled.