Vegetables contain important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants - all known to help fight disease and allow your body to perform at its best. The nutrients (carbohydrate, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins such as folate) work together to provide the overall health benefits. Vegetables are also low in fat and calories (the exception being olives and avocados) making them a great snack any time of the day.
If you look at Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Living, Vegetables and Fruit make up the largest arc and thus represent the largest proportion of servings in a healthy eating pattern. One Food Guide Serving is equal to 1 medium vegetable OR 125 mL (1/2 cup) of cut up fresh, frozen or canned vegetables OR 250 mL (1 cup) of green salad OR 125 mL (1/2 cup) of 100% juice.
How can you get the most nutritional bang for your vegetables? Choose dark green and orange (yellow, red) vegetables daily, prepare them with little or no added salt or fat, and choose the actual vegetable more often than a vegetable juice. The dark green and orange ones include asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green peas, romaine lettuce, spinach, carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. Pale coloured vegetables (such as iceberg lettuce) are generally lower in nutrients, so put your efforts into the richly coloured varieties.
Tips to add more vegetables to your day:
- Experiment with different leafy greens in your salad – beet greens, kale, collards, spinach, or arugula.
- Buy pre-washed vegetables such as baby carrots or broccoli if you know you'll be rushed and add to a stir-fry, salad, casserole, stew, or eat raw.
- Toss chopped vegetables with a small amount of olive oil and bake in the oven.
- Add extra vegetables to sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, and pitas.
- Enhance your pasta sauce by adding spinach or peppers.
- Keep frozen vegetables on hand to quickly steam and add to your meals.
- Aim to make half of your plate vegetables so that they become the star rather than the side dish.
Stephanie Wheler, RD
Something Nutrishus Counselling & Coaching
Colour your Choices With Vegetables and Fruit.Dietitians of Canada, Nov 2010
Nancy Clark's Food Guide for New Runners,Nancy Clark, Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2009