A Radical Change

Approximately 12 million Americans consider themselves vegetarians, or at least ovo-lacto vegetarian (one who eats milk and eggs).

This food trend is pursued for a variety of reasons from religious to the belief it is a healthier form of eating.

While vegetarianism can be a way of achieving a healthier diet, it is a radical change and one that is not easily adhered to. There are sufficient studies and evidence that do provide us with proof that even a modified vegetarian diet is beneficial and results in a healthier life.

Vegetarian Food Facts

Many vegetarians are concerned about protein intake. There are many vegetable sources that can provide a person with sources that can supply all of your amino acid (protein) needs. One of the best plant sources of protein is soybean, which contains 30 to 40 percent protein and is closer to meat protein than vegetable when examined under amino acid patterns.

The question of B12 also arises for vegetarians. Most vegetarians do eat some form of dairy product, which takes care of this need.

If you are planning to change your dietary patterns to eating vegetarian, it would be wise to purchase a book on vegetarianism and learn to do extensive meal planning, especially for the first six months.

  • B12 is usually taken as a supplement, since it is found only in sufficient quantities in animal products.
  • Most vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels than meat eaters.
  • Vegetarians have fewer cases of colon cancer and digestive problems.
  • Soy products contain high levels of phytoestrogens which scientists now think will reduce the risks of breast and prostate cancer.
  • Tofu products may vary significantly regarding nutritional content, best to read the labels.
  • Tempeh is a chunky, chewy soybean product that has been mixed with rice or millet.
  • Miso is a combination of soybeans and a grain. Has very little fat and usually used as a seasoning for soups, dips and stews.
  • Iron and zinc are not as easily absorbed by true vegetarians and may have to be supplemented.
  • Beans and rice are one of the best combinations to acquire all the essential amino acids.
  • A good source of calcium is dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Vegetarian products made from soybeans have a lower fat content and still provide an excellent source of protein.
  • Most vegetarian foods contain too much sodium. When preparing vegetarian foods, try to omit the soy sauce which seems to be the high sodium source.

Types of Vegans

  • True Vegetarian:  Eats nothing from an animal, fresh or processed.
  • Lacto-Vegetarian:  Includes dairy products in their diet.
  • Ovo-Vegetarian:  The only animal product in this diet is eggs.
  • Pesco-Vegetarian:  Includes fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products, no red meat.

Greens in the order of most nutritious:

  1. Dandelion: use young leaves.
  2. Arugula: Slight mustard green flavor.
  3. Kale: Use young leaves.
  4. Parsley: Helps bring out the flavor of others.
  5. Romaine: Somewhat strong taste.
  6. Spinach: High in nutrients but contains oxalates.
  7. Beet: Best if you use young and small leaves.
  8. Butter: Lettuce
  9. Endive: Contains oxalates. May affect calcium absorption.
  10. Iceberg: Most popular lettuce, least nutritious.

The top 10 fruits and vegetables in overall nutritional content

01.  Broccoli – Broccoli is a vegetable very much like spinach. Broccoli is the superhero of the vegetable kingdom!

02.  Cantaloupe – The orange color of cantaloupe’s flesh reflects its extremely high beta-carotene content, which converts to vitamin A in the body.

03.  Carrots – Carrots are nutritional heroes, they store a gold mine of nutrients.

04.  Kale – Unusually rich in the minerals and vitamins provided by green leafy foods.

05.  Mango – Cholesterol free. High in vitamin A and vitamin C.

06.  Papaya – Papaya contains the digestive enzyme papain, which helps your body break down and digest proteins.

07.  Pumpkin – The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene.

08.  Red bell peppers – Peppers are full of vitamins C and A, as well as folate. They are also high in fiber.

09.  Spinach – This lovely, leafy green is not only flavorful, it is a nutritional power house.

10.  Sweet Potato – The sweet potato deserves to be on the highest perch because it is a nutritional powerhouse supplying many nutrients.

Best of the Best Vegetables

Get the most nutrients out of the best of the best vegetables in the market, nutritionally speaking!

Start With Leafy Greens

Swiss chard, kale, spinach and collards rank among the top vegetables for their nutrition boosters.

Cruciferous Counts

Bok choy, Brussels sprout, kale, cabbage and cauliflower are the “kings” of the vegetable world. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says they lower inflammation levels. Women who reported eating more cruciferous vegetables had up to 25-percent lower levels of markers of inflammation than those who didn’t partake. Eating more vegetables cut inflammation, but no category had a greater impact than the cruciferous kind.

Get Going with Garlicky Sauteed Swiss Chard

Heat 4 teaspoons olive oil, 2 sliced cloves garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 8 cups torn organic Swiss chard and cook until wilted. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper.

Vitamin K and carotenoids run rampant — and do you a world of good. In addition, they contain impressive amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin C.

Brussels sprouts and broccoli are in the same ballpark.

Move On to Vitamin K

Asparagus, endive and romaine lettuce gets top ranks, as well, because of their vitamin K.

Red peppers are the only vegetable with more than a full day’s worth of vitamin C. They have twice as much as their nearest competitor, which is broccoli.

Next in line

Decent sources of vitamin K and brimming with vitamin C are cauliflower, kohlrabi and green pepper, with about one-half-a-day’s worth of each.

Avocado, parsnips and peas supply both fiber and folate.

A baked potato with the skin trounces its skinless version. The skin supplies much of your fiber and iron.

Last but not least!

Iceberg lettuce and celery boost your vitamin K stores, while turnips and radishes chip in a good dose of vitamin C. In fact, many have at least five percent of a day’s worth of two or three different nutrients.

Take yellow squash — it delivers at least five percent of a day’s carotenoids, vitamin C, fiber and vitamin K. Add them up and you have a good reason to throw some on the grill.

What’s more, all vegetables harbor valuable phytochemicals.

Onions and garlic, for example, contain flavonoids and allium compounds.

It is too early, however, to say whether they prevent cancer, heart disease or anything else — but don’t let that stop you! Without onions and garlic… well, why even bother cooking?

Veggie Tips

  • Keep your kitchen full of vegetables that won’t spoil quickly — onions, garlic, potatoes, winter squash, carrots.
  • At a salad bar, fill up your plate with salad greens first.
  • Next time you make pasta with vegetables, use half as much pasta and twice as many vegetables.
  • Eating out or ordering in tonight? How about a side of broccoli with that? Surveys reveal that when people eat foods prepared outside the home, they average 25 percent fewer fruits and vegetables, so make an effort to include vegetables in your order.

Veggie Short Cuts

Vegetables come in a variety of convenient options that need little or no preparation.

  • Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens and spinach.
  • Choose no-chop veggies like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower florets, pre-cut celery and sugar snap peas.
  • Line your freezer with frozen vegetables – they go from microwave to table in minutes.
  • Stock up on canned beans such as garbanzo beans and kidney beans. After a quick rinse with water, they are ready to use in soups and salads.
  • Store a variety of potatoes in your pantry. Bake, roast, boil or microwave for an easy side dish.

Quick Recipe: Savory Vegetables

1 cup chicken broth
3 cups cut-up vegetables

Mix broth and vegetables in saucepan. Heat to boil.
Cover and cook over low heat five minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp. Drain.
Recipe serves four.

Did You Know?

According to a study from the University College London, you can slash your annual risk of death by eating at least seven fruit and vegetable servings daily.

Read More: Food Facts