Lean Up Challenge Week 5: Vegetables

Yeah yeah, eat your veggies, old news. But why? What’s the big deal anyway?

salad

First off, across the board, veggies fill space in your belly while providing very few calories. If you are looking to drop a few pounds, replace other foods with veggies.

Fiber. The substance of vegetables. This is why they fill you up and have little caloric value. We can not digest fiber and therefore it directly contributes no nutrients. It grabs hold of some unwanted extras within your gastrointestinal tract to carry out of the body, as well as keep things moving along. Constipated? Try fiber. Especially raw veggies will provide indigestible materials from the stems, leaves, flowers and seeds you consume. If you do not already have much fiber in your diet, however, don’t go too crazy. Ease into it, a little at a time will be more comfortable on your bowels. 

Next, vegetables are the vessels for a multitude of nutrients that assist in every body process.

Muscle recovery, immune system, bone health, energy metabolism, clear skin, digestion…

Phytochemicals. Plant chemicals that work to protect us from damaging substances in the body. Phytochemicals are among the vitamin and minerals provided by vegetables and are only found in plants. They are responsible for the pigments of vegetables, with each color representing a different combination of these microscopic particles. There are thousands of these chemicals in vegetables. Some examples include lycopene, beta carotene, isoflavonoids, and resveratrol.

And vegetables are particularly important for those who exercise heavily.

ROS. Reactive Oxygen Species. Unstable compounds that can hinder recovery from exercise, and other normal body processes. These guys are produced at a higher percentage with exercise and with sickness. The main end product of energy production is water. When we need a lot of energy fast, such as during times of exercise and trauma, some of these end products do not become converted into water but instead stay as free oxygen or convert to other ROSs. Antioxidants are responsible for stabilizing these ROSs. The most abundant antioxidants in the diet are from, you guessed it, vegetables! Therefore, right after exercise, and throughout the day, it is important to consume a bright variety of vegetables. The heavier exercise you participate in, the more important it is to keep an adequate antioxidant intake as well as maintain other healthy lifestyle practices for a strong immune system.

Sneak those veggies in!

Have some with every meal! Spinach in your smoothie, onions and peppers in your scramble, mashed cauliflower with your steak, veggie medley in your casserole. Raw or cooked, fresh or frozen, organic or not. And remember, the darker the color the more nutrients and phytochemicals you will be receiving from your veggies.

Recipes:

Gazpacho

Put in blender 5 diced tomatoes (or 1 can diced), 1 chopped squash, 1 chopped cucumber, 1 chopped red pepper, large handful chard or kale, 1 chopped onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 4 Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs honey, a couple shakes of cumin, salt and pepper. Blend. Top with yogurt or sour cream if you want (takes the edge off).

Mashed Cauliflower

Cut one medium head of cauliflower into small chunks and steam until soft enough you can mash it easily with a fork. Let cool slightly and place into mixing bowl, blender or food processor with 1 Tablespoon (Tbs) butter, ¼ cup milk and salt and pepper to taste. Optional to add 2 Tbs Brewer’s yeast plus an extra Tbs of milk. Blend to desired consistency.

Shepherd’s Pie

pie, shep

Bake 2 large sweet potatoes and 2 large regular potatoes until soft (375 F for about 45 minute). Let cool enough to handle; peel, cut into chunks and place in mixing bowl. Add ⅓ cup milk, 1 Tbs butter and 2 eggs. Mix with electric mixer, set aside. Set oven to 400 F.

Dice into small pieces and lightly saute on low in 1 Tbs butter:

1 medium onion

2 large carrots

1 red pepper

1 cup sugar snap peas or asparagus

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup chopped parsley

Turn off heat, add 1 cup tomato sauce and dash of pepper plus other spices you want.

In separate sauce pan cook 1 pound ground sausage.

Spread the veggie mix at the bottom of a large glass dish. Layer the meat evenly over the veggies. Make sure the juices from the veggie and meat are added. Spoon the mashed potatoes in small batches onto the meat and then use a spatula to slowly spread them evenly over the top of the dish. Push the potato to the edge so that it creates a seal with the glass dish.

Bake at 400 F for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and broil on low for 2-3 more minutes.

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