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Research substantiates the claim that populations who consume plant-based diets have less chronic disease, such as hardening of the arteries, heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and obesity, says Anne VanBeber, PhD, RD, a nutrition professor at Texas Christian University. In addition, plants contain vital health-promoting compounds in the form of pigments, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that reduce the onset of disease.
I'm not suggesting that everyone become a vegetarian; however, we all could benefit from eating more vegetables. So here are 10 ways to increase the veggies in your diet.1. Join Something
Look into a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) where you support a local farm and get shares of the produce. Or look for an organic buying club.
Or try one of the following:
Use part of your yard to plant a vegetable garden. You'd be surprised at how many types you can grow. Also, look into starting a community vegetable garden on unused or abandoned plots. Here are a few Web sites to get you started:
Burpee: A family-owned gardening and seed company that's been around since 1876.
Renee's Garden: Seeds in unique packets, including watercolor illustrations and planting instructions. Also sells organic seeds.
Planet Natural: Provides quality natural and organic products, including fertilizers, seeds, and gardening equipment.
Park Seed: Offers untreated, non-genetically-modified seeds, including certified organic.
Seeds of Change: Open-pollinated, organically grown, heirloom, and traditional vegetable and herb seeds.
Smith & Hawken: High-quality but expensive gardening products.
Gardens Alive: Environmentally responsible pest control.
Cut up vegetables such as onions, broccoli, peppers, and asparagus in advance. Put them in pre-portioned baggies and store them in the fridge.
Get bags of prewashed lettuce (try for organic), broccoli and cauliflower florets, or precut mixed vegetables. Check out the salad bar to stock up on other precut veggies. Yes, this can be more expensive, but it still costs less (and is a lot healthier) than fast food. Also, get veggies that don't require much preparation, such as baby carrots, celery, and cherry tomatoes.
Most people put their vegetables out of sight in the crisper drawer of the fridge to keep them fresher longer. But you can forget you have them, which defeats the purpose. Keep your cut-up vegetables out in the open in the main part of the refrigerator for fast, crunchy, healthful snacks. They're also great for making a quick salad, tossing into soups and omelets, or sauteing with garlic.
Learn how to cook your vegetables with flavor. Seek out fresh herbs such as basil, dill, and parsley, and spices such as oregano, salt, pepper, curry powder, cumin, and -- most of all -- fresh chopped garlic. Not only does garlic make vegetables taste amazing, it's an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamins B6 and C, and a good source of selenium. Chopping garlic releases the enzyme that activates its phytochemicals. Cooking it too much, however, destroys that enzyme, so chop garlic and let it rest for about 10 minutes while you prepare other ingredients, then add it toward the end of the cooking process.
There are several databases with healthy vegetable recipes, and they're free.
Allrecipes.com: Go to the search box and put in "healthy" and "vegetarian" or "vegetables." Or you can click on the Healthy Living tab.
EatingWell: A Vermont- based Web site and magazine.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: You pick the vegetables and/or fruits and the meal type, and presto -- it spits out recipes.
Recipezaar: Click on the Recipes tab, go to Browse Recipes By and select Diet.
Veggie Life: Find veggie-friendly restaurants and recipes.
Organic Gardening: Info and tips about soil, landscaping, and growing your own vegetables.
Buy frozen veggies. It's not fresh or nothing. Frozen vegetables retain most of their nutrients, so they're an alternative for people who have trouble keeping their fridge stocked with fresh. Look for frozen spinach, bell peppers, asparagus, peas, broccoli, mixed vegetables, and green beans.
Eat Chinese or Indian, but make sure that you order your veggies steamed, and get brown rice.
Make a big pot of delicious veggie soup. It's easy.
Learn how to buy quality vegetables. Discover tricks of the trade, buy in season, and buy organic. Learn about the dirty dozen -- foods you really should buy organic.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, founder and editor of DietDetective.com, the health and fitness network, and author of The Diet Detective's Calorie Bargain Bible. Copyright 2008 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission from www.dietdetective.com, April 2008.