Saturday, July 16, 2011

New to Vegetables? Then start with these

Today, despite the constant bombardment of messages stating the benefits of consuming vegetables, there are persons that still do not consume as much as 2 servings of vegetables a day. Bear in mind, 1 serving of vegetables is not that much (see photo below, each vegetable illustrates 1 serving).
Image Source 

Nevertheless, there are many ways to sneak this nutritive food group into ones diet. It is often best to take the bold step and experiment with the various types of vegetables out there.

Vegetables can be grouped into many categories using multiple base factors e.g. colour, calorie content etc., getting use to the various textures, tastes, preparation methods and vegetable combinations is one way persons will know if they truly like a vegetable or vegetable combination.  I must admit, there are vegetables I do not enjoy and avoid, they are; brussel sprouts, mustard greens and bitter gourd. These have a bitter taste and I simply cannot enjoy them, no matter the mode of preparation.

To vegetable newbies, I say try selecting vegetables with a high water content ( Click here for a qualitative list ). This is often a good place to start because these often have a mild taste that is tolerable and can be eaten raw or cooked. These tend to be fibre rich despite being low in calories, high in water content and contain variable levels of micro-nutrients. Consume two servings working your way up to 5 vegetables servings, within the category per day. Then branch out into those with stronger flavours e.g dark green leafy vegetables- spinach, watercress, patchoi (bac choi) and purple vegetables- purple cabbage, eggplant etc

Here are my starter picks:

1) Christophene or Chayote
132grams (g) uncooked christophene conatins about 93% of its weight in water. It is a.member of the squash family, and is classed as a vegetable-fruit (because of the seed). It is oblong and  pear shaped, with a rough skin that is mild to dark green. The flesh is pale green to colourless and has a mild taste that is comparable to zucchini  or cucumber. There is a single seed and the flesh can be consumed in many ways -raw or cooked. 
Simple salad recipe:
1 cup christophene, peeled and thinly sliced, lengthwise. Add 1-2 Tbsp peanut oil, pinch of salt, black pepper, 1tsp garlic and onion powder and herbs of choice e.g chopped chives, shadon beni, fresh or dried basil. Toss and eat as a salad or side dish with meals.
Christophene can be stir-fried and served with brown rice or whole grain pasta.
Heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil in a pot or wok; add 1tsp garlic powder, 1tsp onion powder, 1tsp ground ginger and 1tsp cinnamon. Stir and add 1 cup christophene, peeled and thinly sliced, lengthwise. Stir until well combined; add 2 tsp black bean and 1tsp oyster sauce. Stir and serve. Add salt, black or chilli pepper if desired.
For more nutrition information  go to raw and cooked

2) Tomatoes 
Tomatoes water content ranges from 80- 93% or even higher per 100g of edible flesh. The water content does diminish depending on how it is prepared and how much salt is added. Taste-wise, the darker the shade of red, the more intense the flavour appears to be. Yellow and orange tomatoes, tend to have a mild taste. Regardless, tomatoes are best served raw, but studies have shown that the anti-carcinogenic properties are activated when the vegetable-fruit is cooked. For more nutrition information  go to raw, cooked and dried

3) Cucumbers
Cucumbers eaten without the skin is more tolerable to persons on therapeutic diets e.g. renal diet. Outside of that cucumbers have a strong odour but the taste is very mild. They are best consumed raw for the nutritive properties (low-calorie, rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium,   and fibre) but can be consumed cooked or pickled. Sliced cucumbers sprinkled with a pinch or salt and black pepper can be a great side dish to most rice based dishes. Cucumbers have been known to aid in lowering blood pressure due to its potassium content along with containing a number of disease-fighting antioxidant compounds, like tannins and flavonoids, says   Michelle Dudash,  Registered Dietitian and Chef Consultant. In the homoeopathy lifestyle, cucumbers are a coolant or an alkaline food,  "their moist flesh makes them cool to the touch and they contain ascorbic acid and caffeic acid, two natural compounds that can help prevent water retention" says Dr Andrew Weil M.D, Health Advisor. For more nutrition information  go to raw.  

4) Lettuce- Iceberg
Iceberg lettuce is most commonly consumed because the price attached and crisp texture. It is no surprise that iceberg lettuce is cheap compared to romaine and arugula.  The pale green hue, comes off non threatening to many non-veggie lovers along with the low calorie and minimal vitamins and fibre contents.  Regardless, iceberg lettuce has a mild and slight 'leafy' taste compared to other salad greens. One bonus of iceberg, lacking from other lettuce varieties is the high water content. This component allows iceberg to mix well with other food items without contributing an overpowering flavour, for this reason adding iceberg lettuce to salads can help eliminate the bitterness of the leaf lettuce, e.g romaine, watercress etc.  Bear in mind, iceberg lettuce can have a pale to dark green hue.  For more nutrition information visit raw.  

Other vegetables with high water contents that could be included into the diet easily are:
Cabbage- green (93% water) & purple (92% water)
Cauliflower (92% water)
Broccoli (91% water)
Carrots (87% water)
Sweet peppers (92% water)
For more

NOTE: To the botanist cucumbers, tomatoes & christophene are classified as fruits because they contain seeds but I in the culinary sense they are vegetables because of their low-sugar content compared to traditional fruits.

No comments: