I hate mushrooms. It’s the earthy taste and the texture. Everything about them. A few years ago, I gave them another shot, as I know my taste buds have changed. I happily drink green smoothies. I even add onions to meals on purpose and no longer pick them out to leave a ring of onions around my plate. (My Dad still is shocked by this change.)

A friend, who is a chef, was serving mushrooms. As I trusted his palate, I gave them a shot. Only to spit them back out. I tried! But nope. Mushrooms will forever be lining the edges of my plate if I find one.

I’m sure you have vegetables that you detest also. Yet, there are more that you love or maybe you never tried. Either way, there are many benefits to eating vegetables that most of us are missing, because we don’t eat enough of them.

As a whole, only about 10% of Americans eat the daily recommendation of 2-3 cups of vegetables a day. Our favorite vegetable is the potato, potentially thanks to French Fries. Tomatoes take second place and is primarily consumed as sauce. Onions, lettuce, sweet corn, romaine, and carrots round out the list.

All of the foods were weighed in pounds, which doesn’t seem quite that fair. After all a pound of lettuce is equal to about 6 cups, while one of potatoes would be around 2 cups. But when you consider that the average American eats 46 lbs of potatoes versus 6 lbs of lettuce, there is a definite winner in volume also. (Note that corn used a grain- flour, meal, starch, and grits- was in it’s own category and would actually second place.)

In all of the diet and nutrition books I have ever read, not a single one has ever said to not eat vegetables. Some may restrict certain categories, but overall everyone seems to agree that eating vegetables is beneficial to our health.

We know that diets that include a lot of vegetables help to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. Meaning that we can save money in terms of health care costs, though maybe some of that savings will go to purchasing produce, especially if it’s organic.

Even if we just eat the most popular vegetables, our diet would be lacking because of variety. In order to reap the benefits of eating vegetables, we need to eat the rainbow. All of the colors provide different necessary nutrients, phytonutrients, and minerals to keep our bodies running optimal.

It’s the phytonutrients that produce the pigments of vegetables and each one helps us in different ways. Ultimately, we should be consuming a variety of green, red, orange and yellow, purple and blue, and white and brown vegetables regularly.

The benefits of the different colors of vegetables

Green vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, top the nutrient dense vegetables list (and kale isn’t in the top 10). This is because they are good sources of vitamins (A, C, K, and folate) and minerals (iron and calcium). Adding green vegetables in our diet help to improve our brain, bones, gut health, while also reducing depression, blood sugar, and the aging process.

Red vegetables are high in lycopene, which helps to improve heart health, reduce the risk of some cancers, and even protect the skin from the sun by reducing free radicals in the body.

Orange and yellow vegetables have carotenoids. One form you may know the most is beta-carotene. They help with eye health by preventing macular degeneration and reducing photo-sensitivity, improve cognitive function, and help prevent cancers (a common theme).

Purple and blue vegetables are given their distinctive color from anthocyanin and are high in antioxidants helping to reduce oxidative stress to keep us looking younger and reduce the risk of cancer.

White and brown vegetables tend to be forgotten as beneficial. The rise of popularity of cauliflower has helped to reinstate the importance of white vegetables. My dreaded mushrooms help to fight cancer. Garlic has anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities. Just because they don’t add color to a plate, don’t discount their power.

How to Access the Benefits of Eating Vegetables

  1. Eat a minimum of 3 cups of vegetables a day. A serving size is 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup of fresh, chopped, frozen, or canned vegetables, and 1/2 cup of vegetable juice.
  2. Consume a mix of raw and cooked vegetables. Eating vegetables raw preserves all the natural vitamins and minerals. The smaller pieces are cut when cooked, can reduce some of the nutrients. But cooking also can improve the bioavailability of certain nutrients. Cooked tomatoes give us more lycopene than raw and cooked spinach with a dash of citrus improves our ability to absorb the iron from it.
  3. Choose vegetables from every color. Dark green vegetables may have some of the highest nutrients and we should eat a lot of them, but remember that each color and vegetable adds something different into our diet.
  4. Don’t drink all of your vegetables. Juice form strips away the fiber of a vegetable, which is one of the reasons why there is a lower risk of colon cancer and vegetables can help regulate blood sugar.

Ultimately, the best way to tap into the power and benefits of eating vegetables is to make sure you have plenty on your plate.

Want to do more? Join Kate in a 30 Days of Veggies Challenge from Sept 1st-Sept 30th.

Kate Hamm combines her 15+ years of experience in the fitness industry and high-end resort program development into sought after wellness coaching and adventures at AnamBliss. Visit www.anambliss.com for more information on coaching services and future retreat dates and locations.

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