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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

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            Last Updated on September 25, 2019

            How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

            How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

            As it appears, the human mind is not capable of not thinking, at least on the subconscious level. Our mind is always occupied by thoughts, whether we want to or not, and they influence our every action.

            When we were still children, our thoughts seemed to be purely positive. Have you ever been around a 4-year old who doesn’t like a painting he or she drew? I haven’t. Instead, I see glee, exciting and pride in children’s eyes. But as the years go by, we clutter our mind with doubts, fears and self-deprecating thoughts.

            Just imagine then, how much we limit ourselves in every aspect of our lives if we give negative thoughts too much power!

            We’ll never go after that job we’ve always wanted because our nay-saying thoughts make us doubt our abilities.

            We’ll never ask that person we like out on a date because we always think we’re not good enough.

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            We’ll never risk quitting our job in order to pursue the life and the work of our dreams because we can’t get over our mental barrier that insists we’re too weak, too unimportant and too dumb.

            We’ll never lose those pounds that risk our health because we believe we’re not capable of pushing our limits.

            And we’ll never be able to fully see our inner potential because we simply don’t dare to question the voices in our head…

            But enough is enough! It’s time to stop these limiting beliefs and come to a place of sanity, love and excitement about life, work and ourselves.

            So, how can we tap into the power of positivity?

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            “Happiness cannot come from without, it comes from within.” – Helen Keller

            It’s not as hard as it may seem; you just have to practice, practice, practice. Here are 4 simple yet powerful ideas on how you can get started.

            1. Learn to substitute every negative thought with a positive one.

            Every time a negative thought crawls into your mind, replace it with a positive thought. It’s just like someone writes a phrase you don’t like on a blackboard and then you get up, erase it and write something much more to your liking.

            Just take a look at these 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life.

            2. See the positive side of every situation, even when you are surrounded by pure negativity.

            This one is a bit harder to put into practice, which does not mean it’s impossible.

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            You can find positivity in everything by mentally holding on to something positive, whether this be family, friends, your faith, nature, someone’s sparkling eyes or whatever other glimmer of beauty.

            If you seek it, you will find it.

            3. At least once a day, take a moment and think of 5 things you are grateful for.

            This will lighten your mood and give you some perspective of what really is important in life and how many blessings surround you already.

            Here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life that can inspire you.

            4. Change the mental images you allow to enter your mind.

            How you see yourself and your surroundings make a huge difference to your thinking.

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            Instead of dwelling on dark, negative thoughts, consciously build and focus on positive, light and colorful images, thoughts and situations in your mind a few times a day.

            Learn from this article how to change your mental images: How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

            If you are persistent and keep on working on yourself, your mind will automatically reject its negative thoughts and welcome the positive ones.

            And remember:

            You are (or will become) what you think you are.

            This is reasonable enough to be proactive about whatever is going on in your head.

            More About Staying Positive

            Featured photo credit: Lauren Richmond via unsplash.com

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