“You have to eat all of your vegetables before you can have dessert.” - an infamous phrase from parents worldwide.
September is 'More Matters Month,’ which is all about raising awareness around eating more fruits and vegetables. In honor of this, we're taking a look at the wisdom behind this parental discipline. In this day and age, the power of plant-based eating is becoming more and more prevalent and there’s no wondering as to why once we look at the importance of fruits and vegetables in our diets.
High Water Content and Vitamin-Rich
We all know how important water consumption is for optimum health; after all, the human body is mostly water. Many fruits and vegetables contain a high water content, which reduces the amount of water you need to drink. Being rich in water, they also contain water soluble vitamins, which are needed daily. The human body excretes waste multiple times a day, and with it go these vitamins; unlike fat soluble vitamins, they are not stored in the body. This group of vitamins includes vitamins B, C and E: otherwise known as antioxidants, which may help reduce cancer risks.
Fiber is the tough wall of plant cells that the human body cannot digest. However, it works miracles on health. As it moves through the intestines it scrapes buildup off the lining, so that nutrients can be properly absorbed, and polyps are prevented. It also regulates bowel movements so that toxins can be purged from the body. Fiber balances blood sugar levels by promoting slow release of sugar instead of spikes so you don't get intense bursts of energy and then crashing shortly afterwards. It also regulates cholesterol absorption, which is great for heart and circulatory health.
Due to high fiber content, fruits and vegetables are very satiating. Fiber is bulky, so it hits the censors in the stomach that tell the brain when the body has had enough to eat. They are easy to digest so you don't feel heavy and bloated, and are low in calories, which prevents overeating.
The great thing is that incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is not as difficult as you may think! For a little while it will take more awareness and conscious effort, but stick with it. It takes 21 days to form a habit! Below are a few easy tips and tricks on how you can add in more plant-based foods into your diet.
Breakfast, the Most Important Meal of the Day
It is extremely easy to kickstart your day with healthier habits. Try topping yogurt, oatmeal and cereal with berries—it provides a sweet, tasty and nutritious kick first thing in the morning that is almost guaranteed to put you in a great mood to tackle the day. You can also chop up some fresh veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach and/or kale and mushrooms to throw into an omelet or scrambled eggs.
My personal favorite breakfast is making a smoothie, as it can be made the night before, and grabbed as you’re walking out the door in the morning. The varieties are endless with smoothies; maybe you want to go tropical with some pineapples, mangoes, bananas and coconut milk, or go a more super greens route with a squeeze of lemon, coconut water, kale and cucumber.
Unfortunately, when midday rolls around and the work is piling up, we get stressed. The snacks with the highest sugar and salt content at that time sound the most appetizing but a healthier diet can help manage stress better because a nutritionally balanced body will have a less severe biological reaction to stress. Instead of reaching for chips and cookies, try apples, celery and carrots with some nut butter and/or hummus.
Throw Some Greens In It
One of my favorite tricks for increasing veg intake is throwing leafy greens into Buddha bowls, soups, smoothies—almost anything. There’s a whole variety of greens to choose from, and while my favorites are spinach and kale, don’t shy away from chard, mustard and collards. In addition to being antioxidant loaded, greens are high in protein.
Sneak Them In… Dessert?!
Everyone’s had banana and zucchini bread, but I encourage you to take it a step further and try sweet potato brownies—you won’t be disappointed. Here's a recipe we love. If that seems a bit too adventurous, you can always add some fresh raspberries on top of a regular brownie or go heavier on the strawberries than the cream in a strawberry shortcake. Even bananas in an ice cream sundae count!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Madison Eubanks is Holistic Wellness Practitioner and a graduate of Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. Nutrition and Urban Farming are not only her areas of expertise, but her passion; she loves educating people on the healing powers of food and how they can allow it to “be thy medicine”. Madison also has certifications as a health and life coach and is a 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher. She has been a dedicated vegan for over four years, believing it to be one of the best choices she has ever made: ‘there is no better diet that takes in consideration for human health, the environment and animal welfare’.