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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 December 2, 2019

            10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

            10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

            Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

            In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

            These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

            1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

            Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

            But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

            Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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            2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

            You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

            The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

            3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

            If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

            Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

            If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

            4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

            Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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            To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

            In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

            5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

            We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

            If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

            Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

            “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

            6. Give for the Joy of Giving

            When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

            One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

            So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

            7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

            Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

            Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

            8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

            When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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            So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

            9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

            Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

            It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

            It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

            10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

            There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

            But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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            Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

            More About Living a Fulfilling Life

            Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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