If the phrase "eat your vegetables" echoes from your childhood memories of suppers gone by, then rest assured your mother was right. One of the best ways to improve your health is to eat plenty of high quality vegetables -- ideally raw, locally grown and organic.
It sounds like a tall order. It takes time to get a bounty of fresh vegetables together and eat them every day.
The good news is, it's easier than you think. For example, one way to maximize your intake of veggies is to juice them -- something I highly recommend to patients in our health clinic who are working to restore or improve their health. I'll discuss juicing a little later in this article, but first, let's explore what makes vegetables "high quality," so you will be prepared to make the best choices possible in any situation.
The Importance Of Choosing Organic
The best quality produce means organic, because USDA Organic farmers (and many small, local organic farms working without certification) must use different standards than conventional commercial farmers. These standards include never using:
Making sure your vegetables are pesticide-free is especially important.
Did you know the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic? Most pesticides can damage your nervous system and are associated with numerous health problems such as neurotoxicity, endocrine dysfunction, immunosuppression, impaired reproductive function, miscarriage, and even Parkinson's disease.
This information alone should be an impetus for buying local, organic produce. But there is another important factor to consider: Organic vegetables are more nutritious than conventionally farmed vegetables.
But what if you can't find everything you want organic? How do you tell which conventional veggies may be safe? An investigation of 43 different fruit and vegetable categories by the Environmental Working Group showed sweet bell peppers, celery, lettuce, spinach and potatoes had the highest residual pesticide loads, making them the most important to buy organic.
In contrast, broccoli, eggplant, cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, sweet corn (frozen) and onions had the lowest residual pesticide load, making them the safest bet among conventionally grown vegetables.
The next step in ensuring your vegetables are high quality is to purchase locally grown produce whenever possible. This increases the chances they are fresh and not wilted.
Now, on to juicing -- another way to help your body absorb more nutrients from a wide variety of vegetables.
Juicing Your Way To Extraordinary Health
First of all, juice only vegetables you enjoy eating whole. That way, your juice will have a familiar flavor that appeals to you. Once you are used to that you can gradually incorporate healthy deep green vegetables like kale and collard greens and moderate their bitterness by juicing some fresh limes.
Also, juice foods you know your body can tolerate -- your stomach should feel good all morning long. If it is churning or growling or generally making its presence known, you probably juiced something you shouldn't be eating.
You can also add certain foods to make your juice more palatable, like fresh or unsweetened shredded coconut, cranberries, lemons and limes -- or even a little fresh ginger root, which has fantastic cardiovascular benefits.
But, whether you're munching them raw or juicing them, some vegetables contain more health building nutrients than others. The following tables detail some of the best and worst vegetables for your health.
If you decide to go the juicing route, I highly recommend first reviewing my information about Nutritional Typing, where you'll learn there are different approaches to juicing depending on whether you are a "veggie type" or a "protein type," or "mixed."
Finally, I'd like to encourage you to obtain as much nutrition as possible from whole food sources, rather than relying on supplements, which can actually have negative health consequences.
A reasonable starter goal is to shoot for eating at least one-third of your foods raw. But I want to emphasize that eating any vegetable is better than eating none at all, so don't get discouraged if you're able to juice only a few times a week.
Even if you need to start slowly, soon you'll begin noticing increased feelings of well being and a new spring in your step! When you begin flooding your body with the nutrients it craves, you might just be amazed at how chronic ailments and aches and pains begin fading away.