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Health & Medical

BEYOND TRIM: Vegetables matter – they really do!

Veggies can be a real lifesaver

I have a co-worker who hates broccoli. Since I consider it my mission in life to get people to eat more vegetables, I am always giving her reasons to reconsider her anti-broccoli stance.

For example, there are several studies on the effect of sulforaphane on cancer stem cells and tumors. Sulforaphane is a substance found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, and it has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Despite this, my co-worker is not convinced she needs to eat more broccoli. It turns out she is not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 90 percent of Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables – and in 2016 the USDA reported that overall fruit and vegetable consumption has declined over the past 10 years.

September is Fruits and Veggies – More Matters Month, a health initiative aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in the United States. The campaign suggests that consumers fill half of their plate at every meal with fruits and vegetables.

Getting the recommended number of servings per day can take some work. Personally, I have no problem getting 2 to 3 servings of fruit a day. Vegetables are more of a challenge. Here are a few of the strategies I use to get enough:

Meal planning and prep – I try to prepare or cook a batch of something with tons of vegetables on the weekend that will last for several meals. It might just mean chopping a lot of vegetables to use for salads, but I also make casseroles, soups, etc., depending on the season.

Salads – I try to eat one salad meal every day with greens and several servings of vegetables. In cooler months, my salad might be topped with roasted vegetables or a vegetarian chili to warm it up a bit.

Breakfast – Here’s where it gets a little weird. Lately I have been stirring lentils and spinach into my oatmeal during the last few minutes of cooking. It’s a way to sneak in extra greens and I find that a savory breakfast like this lasts me a lot longer than something sweet in the morning.

Some of the most compelling evidence about the importance of fruit and vegetable intake relates to mortality. That’s right: low fruit and vegetable intake has been identified as one of the health habits that contributes to a shortened lifespan. To me that is reason enough to pile my plate high with colorful produce and hopefully convinces you to do the same.

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