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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 March 13, 2019

            How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

            How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

            Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

            You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

            Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

            1. Work on the small tasks.

            When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

            Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

            2. Take a break from your work desk.

            Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

            Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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            3. Upgrade yourself

            Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

            The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

            4. Talk to a friend.

            Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

            Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

            5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

            If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

            Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

            Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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            6. Paint a vision to work towards.

            If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

            Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

            Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

            7. Read a book (or blog).

            The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

            Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

            Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

            8. Have a quick nap.

            If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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            9. Remember why you are doing this.

            Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

            What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

            10. Find some competition.

            Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

            Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

            11. Go exercise.

            Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

            Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

            As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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            Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

            12. Take a good break.

            Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

            Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

            Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

            Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

            More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

            Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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