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Why eat vegetables.

Eating a diet with plenty of vegetables has been linked to improved health, and for good reason. Veggies (both fresh and frozen) are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants which have been shown to protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. They are also low in calories, making them a great choice for your waistline. Choosing a colorful assortment vegetables is best, as different benefits exist in the different color spectrum. The orange pigment found in carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, for example, contain the antioxidant beta carotene. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene linked with prostate health.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that we eat a diet plentiful in vegetables. And for some great news, here is  food group where you can eat a large portion and not have to worry about weight gain. (just watch your portion of starchy veggies such as corn and potatoes.)

While all vegetables are healthy, below are several pointers on some nutrition powerhouses.

VEGETABLES

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family that also includes kale, collards, cabbage, bok choy, brussel sprouts, turnips, and cauliflower. Members of the brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties. Broccoli is a true nutrition powerhouse; it is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can fight cancer.

Carrots are a good source of fiber, which helps to maintain bowel health, lower blood cholesterol, and aid in weight maintenance. The orange pigment found in carrots are due to the antioxidant, beta-carotene, also found in other deep orange foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, papaya, and cantaloupe. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, helps to maintain healthy eyes, support your immune system, keep your skin healthy, and protect against certain cancers.

Spinach is available year-round in grocery stores around the country, offering a readily-available, source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, and vitamins A, K, C, and the B vitamin folate.  Spinach also contains phytochemicals which may boost your immune system and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may be preventative against certain cancers.

Sweet Potatoes are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene and are also full of fiber, vitamins B6, folate, and C and the mineral potassium. They are especially nutritious when eaten with the skin on, and contrary to a popular dieting myth, they are not fattening!

Beets contain healthy doses of iron, the B vitamin folate, and fiber. Red beets offer betacyanin, a plant pigment which may protect against colon cancer.

HEALTHY TIPS:

It is best to EAT your fruits and vegetables from WHOLE foods. Popping a pill–such as taking a beta carotene supplement–does not do the trick. Fresh and frozen vegetables offer a combination of many health benefits that you will not find in a pill. So, remember to chew!!

Go LOCAL and eat what’s in season. When you can, opt for local produce that’s in season. Chances are it did not have to travel too far to get to you.

Go ORGANIC when you can.

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