A few years back, I interviewed Mollie Katzen—the vegetable guru—for a profile in Prevention Magazine and she spoke about a concept that really resonated with me. She talked about teaching to love vegetables rather than just telling people to eat more of them and—flash—I realized that the shift from “gotta do” to “want to do” was precisely when everything changed for me.
Clockwise from left: Roasted Winter Veggies; Sauteed Radishes with Mint; Garlic Parsnip Fries; Fennel and Granny Smith Salad with Blue Cheese
Sure, I’d learned through my writing that vegetables were incredible allies in health and weight management. Yes, I’d become aware of their role in eco-clean eating, and those reasons alone made me want to eat more of them. But it wasn’t until I began experimenting with a variety of veggies in ways I hadn’t thought of before—often inspired by people like Mollie—that I discovered the most compelling reason to eat vegetables yet … they can be downright delicious. And this from someone who detested vegetables (other than lettuce, raw carrots and cucumbers) well into her twenties, so was against all odds we became an item.
Here, in one neat little package, are the reasons I fell in love:
Vegetables reduce risk of heart disease
Several studies around the world have concluded that people who eat more vegetables are less prone to heart disease. One of the most wide-ranging studies, looking at nearly 85,000 women over a period of eight years, concluded that each additional serving (1/2 cup for most, 1 cup for leafy ones) of veggies a day reduced risk of heart disease by 4%. Pretty significant! Vegetable’s cocktail of micronutrients (called phytonutrients) are probably a major contributor.
Vegetables can help you maintain a healthy weight
Many studies have looked at associations between diet and weight, but some are now beginning to specifically analyze whether people who eat more vegetables weigh less. Initial results look like indeed they do. One of the theories behind why this is so is that vegetables are less calorically dense (or energy dense) than other food groups (and, at the same time, more nutrient dense).
Eating more vegetables (and less meat) can reduce your carbon footprint
Many people don’t recognize that livestock farming—the intensive concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)—that most of our meat comes from produces more greenhouse gas than all forms of transport combined (18% of global, man-made greenhouse gas emissions). It also uses a great deal of water. It takes an average of 22,000 gallons of water—22,000!—to produce just over 2 pounds of beef.
Eating vegetables is FUN!
Eating seasonal, locally grown vegetables opens up whole new worlds of foods to play with. It’s like a Dr. Seuss book—your carrots can be orange, white or purple, and your cauliflower the same. Radishes can be red hot and spicy, or icy white and sweet or a gorgeous hue of magenta. If you don’t like steamed broccoli, try roasting it. If you don’t like boiled carrots, try sautéing them with a bit of spice.
Don’t just eat more vegetables (boorrrinnng) … fall in love with them.