Our moms were right, and so were our doctors for that matter. Vegetables are important. We need them to grow strong, healthy and to help fight off the aches and pains of aging. Not only are they nutritious they are colorful and can spice up the look of any dish we toss together.
Often times it seems difficult or time consuming to include these into our daily regime but I want to share with you a few quick ways to incorporate these vegetable superstars into your families dinners without too much hassle. The most important tip to keep in mind with all of these vegetables is to try to eat in season, purchase quality (stay away from those GMOS), and avoid overcooking.
Beets – Detoxifying, Anti-Inflammatory Vegetable
I have to admit, I do not think I ever had a beet until I was in my early 20’s. It was never something that my own mother thought to put on the table and I can understand why. When you cut into the heart of the beet root, a beautiful magenta juice flows out and can often stain those beautiful wooden cutting blocks if not cleaned up quick enough. The time to cook beets can also be intimidating when trying to put together a quick side dish for dinner.
Once you know how to avoid the beet stains and find creative ways to integrate this vegetable, you will be blessed with the detoxifying, anti-inflammatory benefits captivated by this beautiful specimen. Beets are also unique in that you can use the whole plant. Yes, you can eat the leaves and you really should. Together, you can get a good dose of folate, iron, fiber, potassium, vitamin C and calcium.
An easy way to avoid the long cook times and to hold onto the nutritional integrity, cut the beet roots up into smaller pieces to cut down on cook time. When picking out your beets at the store, or even better from your yard, purchase beets one to two inches wide for a sweeter beet. Make sure not to forget the beet greens by tossing them into your salad for diversity and color.
Asparagus – Great for Nursing & Reproduction
There is nothing like seeing asparagus in the grocery to signal that spring is here. This vegetables is one of the earliest to spear itself from the depths of the dirt in April and May. This spring crop is rich in vitamin K, A, iron, B1 and folic acid. Make sure to be ready to use this vegetable within a few days of purchase as it has a high respiration rate and pumps out carbon dioxide.
A sexy fact about asparagus is that it is known to be a powerful aphrodisiac and can give you a jump start on summer time loving. Moms, if you just brought a bundle of joy into the world, you can also ramp up your asparagus intake as it helps aid in nursing. Your kidneys will also love the benefits asparagus provides as it works to cleanse your intestinal track.
One way my grandmother likes to bring asparagus into her diet is to boil the spears and spread them with butter on a nice piece of whole grain toast. For a more sophisticated presentation, wrap those spears in salty prosciutto and roast them with some olive oil and fresh ground pepper until tender. To keep cooking time down, you can also put some fresh spears on a grill with olive oil, salt and sugar. Yes, I said sugar, this will caramelize this delightful treat.
Carrots – A Beautifying Vegetable
Looking for a way to bring some color to your skin even in the winter? Then try eating a diet rich and carotenoids which is packed into carrots. Eating a few servings of this orange vegetable each day will naturally warm up your skin tone and is far safer than basking under the sun or worse, indoor tanning beds. For pale skinned girls like myself, this can be very helpful as long as I am careful not to overdo it, which has not yet become a problem. You also can avoid having blotchy patches of self tanner on your body when you truly work from the inside out. Aside from the beautifying benefits, carrots also contain beta carotene which works closely with vitamin A to protect our eyes. Additional vitamins found include manganese, niacin, potassium, B6, C, K and folate.
Carrots are one of those vegetables that kids are more drawn to as their sweet and crunchy characteristics make for quite a treat. Moms will love this as they are a low calorie snack that are packed with anti-cancer properties. If you are on a low carb diet, you might want to think twice about adding carrots as they break down into sugars. If you find that you are having a hard time getting through the carrots that you have, cut them up and freeze them until you are ready to add them to a tasty stir-fry or make one of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, classic glazed carrot.
Brussels Sprouts – The Bruise Healer
At first glance, brussels sprouts seem to resemble mini cabbages, but do not be fooled by their size as these leafy green cruciferous vegetables pack a punch of nutrients like magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin A, B6 and C. Have you noticed that you happen to be bruising easily? You will want to eat more of this vegetable to get your vitamin K does to help your body naturally clot your blood when you begin to bleed or bruise.
In our home, we are often eating brussels sprouts as it is my fiances favorite vegetable. However, I know that the bitter taste can turn people off of brussels sprouts for life. To bring brussels sprouts back to life at your dinner table, make sure to first cut off the butt of the sprout as that holds a lot of the bitter taste. Next, cut those sprouts in half and discard any of the outer leaves that fall off. Toss the halves with olive oil, salt and pepper and even some lemon until they are evenly coated. You can either saute them or roast them in the oven until they have lightly browned.
Broccoli – Anti-Aging & Great for Growing Kids
Bringing play into eating is often helpful in getting kids to eat what is good for them. Point out the start resemblance of broccoli to trees and how by eating them, it helps the kids grow big and strong just like the trees outside. If you can get away with this, you can make sure that they are getting a good dose of calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamins A, B6 and vitamin C. With anti-aging properties broccoli is also good for us grown ups.
Quick recipes to get broccoli into your kids dinner, chop up the florets and mix them in with your mac and cheese or pair them florets with a healthy yogurt based dip. Try to avoid conventional ranch dressings as they are often high in fat and sodium. Instead, try pairing broccoli with hummus. If your looking to impress, toss broccoli with some garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice and parmesan cheese and roast until crisp-tender.
Celery – Hydrating, Anti-Cancer/Inflammatory Vegetable
It is hard to find a child who has not had ants on a log at one point or another. While often the celery plays a background role in this treat, celery hold much more than a bunch of water in it’s stocks. Hidden in the stringy stalks, are anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory compounds that prevent free radical and unwanted oxygen from damaging cells.
If you are looking for a great drink to replenish your body after a tough workout and want to adventure out of the coconut water craze, think about juicing with celery as it also helps to replace any electrolytes you may have lost. Having a hard time sleeping? Celery juice can help to calm that nervous system and helps to improve blood flow. There are also high levels of potassium, folate and vitamins A and K.
In addition to juicing celery, you can give it a leading role by incorporating it into a delicate salad with sliced Granny Smith apples, toasted walnuts, olive oil, honey and dijon mustard. The great news is also that celery keeps on giving. Once you chop of the stocks of the plant, you can put the base of the plant in some water on the windowsill and a new plant will begin to bloom from the center. Once it has established itself, put it in a pot and relive the benefits this plant has to offer.
Kale – Detoxifying Leafy Greens + Anti-Cancer
A few years ago I could bet that the majority of my friends had never thought much about kale, but now kale is taking the stage as one of the most important vegetables to add to your diet. It is easy to understand why it is now getting so much attention as this cruciferous leafy green can help us detox and fight off cancer cells. Need more of a reason to eat this green? How about the large amounts of vitamin K, A, C, manganese and fiber.
I know that sometimes kale can taste bitter to the pallet but it is a serious superfood that need not be overlooked in any house hold and especially for vegetarians. Kale, totes large services of omega-3 fatty acids that are very important for brain development. Although kale is generally harvested outside in the cooler months, you can find most strains of kale year round at the grocery. The kale that we prefer to eat in our house is the lascinato kale which is distinguishable by it’s dinosaur textured leaves.
If you learn to love the taste of kale, it is best to eat it raw in a salad, a wrap or added to almost any juicing recipe. If desired, you can saute, steam or stir-fry with kale but be sure not to overdue it or you will loose the magic within the leaves. For a tasty snack which you can easily keep on hand, cut kale leaves into small pieces and toss with olive oil and salt and roast in the oven for tasty kale chips. This is a great way to introduce kale to your family as it is similar to eating a bag of crunchy chips but much, much healthier.
Swiss Chard – Healthy Skin & Blood Vessels
Swiss chard has long been popular in mediterranean dishes and can play key role in keeping your skin healthy and blood vessels strong due to the high levels of lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin K. Easily grown in your garden and the ability to eat both the leaves and stalks of this vegetable makes it an easy and affordable side dish. Coming in rainbow colors, why not have it handy?
Hailing from Sicily, Italy, you can find some great Italian recipes incorporating swiss chard such as layering the leaves into your homemade lasagna, or cutting it up in long strips and sauteing to add to a pasta dish with sausage and parmesan cheese.
It’s important to note that if your have kidney or gallbladder issues, you should try to avoid this vegetable as it contains oxalates that binds with calcium and might do more harm than good.
Ginger Root – Upset Stomachs + Immune Booster
Surprised to see ginger on here? Well, it is in fact looked at today as a vegetable. Not only does this root pack a spicy flavor punch, it is used for many herbal remedies like motion sickness and sea sickness. It is even known to surpass the effects of dramamine on calming that upset stomach and is much healthier for you as it helps in boosting your immune system. Trying keeping a bag of candied ginger in your bag for your next long road trip to see if you feel any better.
Another favorite of my grandmothers, ginger can help consumers deal with arthritis pains as it makes a great anti-inflammatory. You can easily incorporate ginger in your vegetable stir fries by finely mincing it or adding it to a cup of tea with cinnamon and honey to sooth that sore throat and fight against the onset of a cold.
Parsley – Neutralize Free Radicals + Arthritis Protection
Adorned with aromatic leaves, parsley is often used as a seasoning or herb but still remains a vegetable as you can also eat the stems and leaves of the plant. You might feel how I used to feel when people talked about parsley. It’s just used to decorate a plate right? Only if you let it, taken to the next level, parsley can provide much more. Rich in iron, calcium, vitamin K, C, and A, this vegetable can help neutralize free radicals in the body and protect you from arthritis.
Parsley was never anything that I took seriously until I moved to Italy and Morocco where my understanding of the benefits this small decorative ingredient can add to a dish and our health was expanded upon. Parsley is a key ingredient in tabbouleh and was the dish that really opened my eyes to this often overlooked plant more than any other as it plays the lead role in this refreshing side dish.
Did you just eat a hearty pasta sauce and are now suffering from garlic breath that would keep the vampire at bay? Try nibbling on some parsley to cleanse your month. Don’t worry about using this vegetable liberally as it is easy to grow and cheap to buy.