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5 Unexpected Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Healthy

5 Unexpected Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Healthy

You sneak a quick peak at your latest grocery haul while you’re queuing up at the check-out: your basket’s full of good-for-you greens, everything organic and not a pack of chips or chocolate cookies in sight. If you could give yourself a pat on the back, you would, but your hands are full, so you settle for a knowing smile. This week’s dinners are going to be super awesome, healthy and guilt-free, with all the veggies you’ve got lined up on your menu.

But wait.

As you stock up your fridge with plant power, you wonder if they’ll keep until the end of the week (after all, the flowers you bought 2 days ago are already starting to wilt and brown), and if how you’re cooking them IS in fact, the right way to cook them. Here’s my definitive list of boo boos you could be making with your vegetables, and what you can do to fix them.

Mistake #1: You only eat your vegetables raw

Raw food advocates claim that eating your vegetables uncooked can preserve the phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that they’re rich in, while cooking destroys them. Not 100% true. While it’s correct that baking, frying and barbecuing vegetables at extremely high temperatures for long periods of time can destroy nutrients and even trigger the formation of toxic compounds, cooking most varieties the right way actually ensures that more of their valuable compounds are absorbed by your body.

In fact, many people end up with a lot of discomfort and gastrointestinal distress in the form of bloating and poor digestion when they eat raw vegetables simply because they’re bodies aren’t able to break the stuff down. The solution to this problem is simple: Cook your vegetables.

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    *Image courtesy of Zlatko Unger

    Cooking helps break down the cell walls of your greens, making them easier to digest and their nutrients more readily available for absorption. For example, a Cornell University Study showed that cooking tomatoes helped increase the availability of cancer-fighting lycopene for use by your body. Your alternative to cooking? Spending 5 hours a day chewing on your raw vegetables, the way chimpanzees (our closest living relatives who share over 98% of our genetic blueprint) break down the cellulose in their food which allows them to digest it.

    Your veggie fix: Preserve water-soluble nutrients like vitamins B and C by cooking your vegetables in as little liquid as possible, such as steaming, stir-frying or roasting. If you do decide to boil your veggies, save the liquid for making soups and sauces. Drizzling your veggies with oil while you’re roasting or pan-frying will help increase the absorption of oil-soluble vitamins A, D,E and K.

    Mistake #2: You’re not washing your veggies

    If you’re buying conventionally-grown vegetables, chances are they’re laden with chemicals in the form of pesticides. In fact, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research organization based in Washington D.C. states in their 2015 Shopper’s Guide To Pesticides In Produce that nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residues.

    This means that not running your vegetables under the tap could leave you vulnerable to toxic chemical ingestion, gut inflammation, stomach pain and diarrhea. Plus the long-term, cumulative effects of consuming these chemicals? Unknown.

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      *Image courtesy of Emily

      Your veggie fix: Soak your vegetables in water for at least 20 minutes and give them a final rinse just before you cook them. Even better, buy organic, advises the EWG.

      Mistake #3: You don’t do frozen

      Here’s the problem with buying only fresh vegetables: the longer you keep them, the more time you give their nutrients to fade and break down. Frozen produce is actually harvested and packaged at its peak – this ensures that their precious vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are locked in and preserved until you’re ready to cook them.

      In some studies, frozen vegetables have actually been shown to be superior to fresh ones. Case in point: Researchers from Leatherhead Food Research, a non-profit food research organization, and University of Chester, both in the United Kingdom, discovered this when they performed 40 tests to measure nutrient levels in produce that had been refrigerated for three days, in contrast to those that had been frozen.

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        *Image courtesy of Steven Depolo

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        Their findings? There were more beneficial nutrients in the frozen samples, which ranged from broccoli to blueberries. In 67% of the cases, frozen fruits and veggies contained higher levels of phytonutrients, including beta-carotene, polyphenols and lutein.

        Your veggie fix: Have a good balance of fresh and frozen produce – which are particularly handy on days when you’re pressed for time – at the ready in your refrigerator. Frozen options let you whip up quick and easy meals without compromising on taste or nutrient content.

        Mistake #4: You’re not eating in color

        While there’s no doubt that broccoli and bok choy are good for you, eating just a handful of vegetable varieties day in and day out means that you’re missing out on a whole lot of plant goodness.

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          *Image courtesy of Jeanette

          Other than helping you stave off meal boredom, going for a rainbow-colored line-up of vegetables gives your body a bigger boost of heart disease- and cancer-preventing phytonutrients like lutein, lycopene, flavonoids and tannins.

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          Your veggie fix: Step out of your green zone and into the oranges, reds, yellows and blues for maximum nutrient exposure and benefits. While researchers have not been able to pin-point what proportion of phytonutrients make up the right balance for disease prevention, their recommendations are simple: Eat what you love and can afford.

          Mistake #5: You’re juicing fiber away

          Juicing your veggies may seem like the easiest solution to getting your daily produce fill (until it’s time to clean out the juicer), but picking juice over whole vegetables means you’re eliminating a very important part of your diet: fiber; you know, the stuff that keeps you regular, your appetite in check, overall calorie intake lower and you fuller for longer – especially crucial if fat loss is what you’re after.

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            *Image courtesy of Shandi-lee Cox

            Your veggie fix: Instead of juicing, try blending your veggies with chicken stock and spices to turn it into a hearty soup. That way, the fiber content of your chosen veggies stays intact while you still get to enjoy all the amazing health-enhancing compounds. Bonus: A soup keeps you fuller for longer than a glass of juice will.

            Bon appétit!

            Featured photo credit: KaboomPics via kaboompics.com

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            Michele Lian

            Food Coach

            5 Unexpected Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Healthy 10 Reasons You Should Love Your Body No Matter What Others Say

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            Last Updated on January 21, 2020

            The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

            The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

            Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

            your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

              Why You Need a Vision

              Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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              How to Create Your Life Vision

              Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

              What Do You Want?

              The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

              It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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              Some tips to guide you:

              • Remember to ask why you want certain things
              • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
              • Give yourself permission to dream.
              • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
              • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

              Some questions to start your exploration:

              • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
              • What would you like to have more of in your life?
              • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
              • What are your secret passions and dreams?
              • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
              • What do you want your relationships to be like?
              • What qualities would you like to develop?
              • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
              • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
              • What would you most like to accomplish?
              • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

              It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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              What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

              Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

              A few prompts to get you started:

              • What will you have accomplished already?
              • How will you feel about yourself?
              • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
              • What does your ideal day look like?
              • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
              • What would you be doing?
              • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
              • How are you dressed?
              • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
              • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
              • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

              It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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              Plan Backwards

              It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

              • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
              • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
              • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
              • What important actions would you have had to take?
              • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
              • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
              • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
              • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
              • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

              Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

              It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

              Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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