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Can You Eat Too Many Vegetables

by Lyndon Langley
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Can You Eat Too Many Vegetables

Can You Eat Too Many Vegetables

You know that feeling of satisfaction when you’ve just polished off a plate full of fresh-from-the-farmers market veggies? That’s not because they taste great (they probably don’t — we tend to eat more of what tastes good than what’s best for us). It’s because there are no calories in them and our bodies are pretty much at their most efficient when processing energy. They digest quickly, which means we feel satisfied but aren’t as likely to overeat or snack on something else later. So why does this phenomenon occur only with certain foods?
The answer lies in the way fruits and vegetables contain carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Each one functions differently within our digestive system. But since each type has its own unique purpose, they can’t be processed easily by the same enzymes. The body must take special measures to break down each kind of carb, protein or fat into smaller pieces before it can be absorbed properly. This is where fiber comes in.
Fiber isn’t an essential part of a balanced diet; however, it plays an important role in keeping weight under control. Fiber helps slow digestion, making it easier to manage blood sugar levels after meals. It also prevents constipation, helping reduce the risk of colon cancer. And while some people confuse soluble fiber with insoluble fiber, the two types play different roles in the body. Soluble fiber absorbs water from the stool and creates a gel-like substance called gummy matter. Insoluble fiber passes through the gut undigested until enough time elapses for the normal movement of waste through the intestines.
Vegetables are packed with both kinds of fiber. While soluble fibers help keep you regular, insoluble fiber makes up the bulk of vegetable cell walls. A lack of either one can lead to problems like diarrhea, bloating, gas and constipation. For example, if you eat too few carbohydrates such as vegetables, your body will produce excess amounts of hydrogen and methane gases. These unwanted emissions may cause you to experience flatulence and pain during bowel movements.
And even though fiber keeps you regular, it won’t necessarily prevent you from overindulging in unhealthy foods like sweets and fried snacks. In fact, when you eat too many vegetables, your body might get confused and stop producing the necessary amount of intestinal bacteria needed to break down complex starches and sugars. Without these friendly microorganisms, you’ll find yourself suffering from nutritional deficiencies.
So how do you choose the perfect number of veggie servings per day without depriving yourself of delicious taste sensations? Here are five tips to consider:
Choose diversely colored vegetables. If you’re new to cooking, stick to a selection of brightly colored vegetables. The colors represent variations in the concentration of carotenoids and flavonoids found in the plant. These antioxidants scavenge harmful free radicals in the bloodstream. According to researchers, red peppers, tomatoes and carrots offer the greatest protection against heart disease. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale provide iron. Purple cabbage contains anthocyanins, which may improve vision and memory. Yellow squash has beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that protects against lung cancer. Orange sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Eat lots of dark green leafy greens. Dark green leaves are highly nutritious, low in calories and high in fiber. Kale, collard, mustard, turnip, Swiss chard and spinach are among the top choices. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are good sources of Vitamin C. Leafy greens are also high in calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are essential electrolytes used by cells to maintain fluid balance. All leafy greens contain folate, which helps lower homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels have been linked to cardiovascular diseases. Folate also supports brain function and nerve transmission.

Choose raw rather than cooked. Cooking destroys many beneficial compounds found in vegetables. Studies show that consuming raw vegetables provides greater health benefits than those that were cooked. To reap the maximum benefit of vegetables, consume raw or lightly steamed versions instead of heavily sautéed, boiled or microwaved. Sautéing, roasting, grilling, broiling and pan frying should be reserved for leaner cuts of meat. Boiled and microwaved vegetables lose much of their nutritional value.

Cook with olive oil. Olive oil is a healthier alternative to butter and lard. Although it lacks cholesterol, olive oil still contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which promote better health. MUFAs have been shown to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Olive oil is also rich in polyphenols, a potent source of antioxidants. Polyphenols protect against inflammation and oxidative stress, which contributes to the development of chronic disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and macular degeneration.

Avoid canned and frozen vegetables. Processes like blanching, salting and freezing destroy many nutrients and phytonutrients contained in vegetables. Blanching involves immersing vegetables in boiling water for several minutes to soften the outer skin. Salting usually involves soaking vegetables overnight in saltwater solutions to remove moisture. Freezing kills microbes that spoil food, preserving freshness and preventing decay. Processing also reduces the color and flavor of vegetables. By choosing organic varieties, you’ll avoid exposure to pesticides and herbicides.

If you want to enjoy a wide range of veggies, try incorporating legumes, beans and nuts into your diet. These superfoods pack loads of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and minerals into a single serving. They’re also low in calories and sodium. Plus, they provide variety and texture to your meal plan.

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