What is So Magical About Fruits And Vegetables?
Plants are amazing biochemists…much better than we are. Plants are able to produce every thing they need for reproduction, growth, maintenance, and protection from disease, insects, and environmental stress.
Because we aren’t quite as gifted as the plant kingdom in this regard, we need to eat a variety of plants to realize the health benefits derived from all the nutrients available in plants.
Along with essential vitamins and minerals, plants contain a class of nutrients called phytochemicals, or phytonutrients. Plants produce literally hundreds of thousands of different phytochemicals that, until 20 years ago, we didn’t even know existed.
Research is exploding about the health benefits of phytochemicals; it seems each day we hear about a new one…lycopene in tomatoes, resveratrol in grape skins, allyl sulfur compounds in garlic and onions, lutein in blueberries…the list goes on and on. Phytochemicals are powerful anti-oxidants, anti-microbials, and are protective against cancer and other chronic diseases.
Eating vegetables is a good way to get an abundant supply of phytochemicals, as well as vitamins and minerals. All so important in keeping our cells healthy. And, yes, vegetables just taste good.
Here’s My Plug For Choosing Organic Produce
While research makes headlines in popular media proclaiming that there is no nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce, this is simply not true. While there does not appear to be a significant difference in the vitamin content between the two, phytochemical content is much higher in organically grown plants. Also, organic soils are typically much richer in nutrients, especially trace minerals, due to sustainable agricultural practices leading to produce with higher mineral contents.
Raw vs. Cooked
As a very general statement, raw vegetables and fruits are a better choice than cooked foods because they contain more nutrients (and the necessary enzymes to best utilize those nutrients). Heat destroys many nutrients and all enzymes.
However there are some exceptions to this rule; lycopene in tomatoes is more available to the body after cooking. So, the focus should be on just eating more vegetables, with an emphasis on raw, but not to the exclusion of cooked. Take the opportunity to enjoy vegetables in any form, any way you can get them.
An Interesting Side Note
Because vegetables contain fat soluble vitamins, especially carotenoids (the plant precursor to vitamin A), it is essential to eat a bit of healthy fat with your juice so that you can ensure optimal absorption of these nutrients…a small handful of almonds or an ounce of cheese with a glass of juice makes a great snack.
The Drawbacks To Juicing
In a nutshell, juicing is a great way to add large amounts of vegetables to your diet and, therefore, a concentration of healthy nutrients…vitality in a glass. However there are a few drawbacks. Unless you use the fiber that is separated during the juicing process, you lose out on one of the many health benefits of eating lots of produce…the fiber.
Fiber is essential for intestinal health and is the food of choice for the healthy bacteria residing in our large intestine. Often when people start to juice, they complain of loose stools-just what you wanted to hear. This is easily remedied by eating some of the extracted fiber.
Eat it with a bit of avocado (everything tastes good with avocado) and a hit of your favorite salad dressing and you have an easy-to-eat salad. Or you can add a bit of the fiber back into the juice - but a little bit goes a long way; start slowly or you will end up with sludge.
“Juicing takes time” is another frequent complaint. Yes, a commitment to good health does take more time that stopping by the drive-thru at the nearest fast food joint, no two ways about it…but I would advocate that taking a bit of time is a fair trade-off for tasty foods with amazing health benefits. Either we find a way to take time now or we lose it down the road.
It takes me 15 minutes, from start to clean-up, to prepare 16 ounces of delicious vegetable juice…a sharp knife makes all the difference! While vegetable juice is a healthy choice, I DO NOT recommend drinking fruit juice in any appreciable amounts. While vegetables are quite low in natural sugars and therefore, have a negligible effect on blood sugar, insulin levels and calorie intake, fruit juice is loaded with natural sugar, fructose, so it is much higher in calories, and has a pronounced effect on blood sugar and insulin levels…not a good thing.