Eat Your Way through the World’s Healthiest Vegetables
By Jennifer May
Eating whole and unprocessed foods—direct from the ground, to the pot, to the table—may be our best defense against heart disease, stroke, cancer, and a plethora of chronic diseases which currently plague us. Evidence is mounting in favor of eating at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day but did you ever wonder exactly what is in that leaf of lettuce, that cup of steamed cauliflower, that sprinkling of parsley—and how you are benefited?
For the scientifically minded and nutritionally nosy, the George Mateljan Foundation, a non-profit organization, maintains a website, which lists the nutrient breakdowns of what they consider to be the World’s Healthiest Foods, http://www.whfoods.com. Click the links to the 130 foods and discover health benefits, the nutritional profile, eating tips, recipes, and references for each food. Results of university studies from around the world are posted: Who knew that cabbage is one of the most healthful foods around? Cabbage is a member of the cruciferous family, which also includes kale, broccoli, collards and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables cleanse and detoxify the body by releasing phytonutrients which work as antioxidants to disarm free radicals before they can damage DNA and cell membranes.
From the site: “In a study of over 1,000 men conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, those eating 28 servings of vegetables a week had a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer, but those consuming just 3 or more servings of cruciferous vegetables each week had a 44% lower prostate cancer risk.” Studies like these make a side of coleslaw look a lot more interesting.
Need more reasons to eat your veggies? Certified Nutrition Counselor and Whole Foods Educator Holly Anne Shelowitz, of Nourishing Wisdom based in Stone Ridge, reports immediate benefits from basing your diet on whole foods. Shelowitz’s clients come to her because they “just don’t feel well,” even though they have often seen doctors and been told their results are normal. Common complaints from new clients are of headaches, low energy, and depression. “Many of my clients know they should eat better but they don’t know where to begin,” says Shelowitz. “I feel like I do detective work with them.” Clues are often erratic eating habits high in processed foods full of caffeine and sugar and at all hours of the day. After working with Shelowitz her clients remark how they have more energy and their sweet cravings are minimized. They also find themselves less cranky, more productive at work, and with improved sleep patterns.
Shelowitz teaches people how they can get more vegetables and fruit (and ample protein, good fats, and whole grains) into each day. Ideally, she says, people would eat vegetables or fruit at every meal. During the growing season she encourages purchasing produce from farmers’ markets and by way of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Under the CSA program individuals sign up with a farm in winter or early spring and then receive weekly shares of the bounty from spring through fall.
Although Shelowitz encourages her clients to sign up with a CSA, she reports that new members are often overwhelmed with the amount of produce they receive—particularly early season greens. She specializes in teaching interesting and delicious ways to cook all those veggies. This season look for her on-site cooking demonstrations at CSAs such as Brooke Farm, Huguenot Street, Phillies Bridge, and Taliaferro Farms; at farmers’ markets in Kingston, New Paltz, Rhinebeck, and Saugerties; and at Fleisher’s Meats. Ask about her Summer CSA Rescue Recipe—an Indian sag which calls for five bunches of greens in one shot. For those who are counting, a healthy portion of this one dish is a big step towards a goal of eating a daily five to nine.
Check out the list of the World’s Healthiest Foods at http://whfoods.org/foodstoc.php. Reading the results are enough to make even the most die-hard enemy of cabbage start shredding.