Archive for Vegetables

Get Power from your Veggies!

Vegetables are so important for a diet because of their many health benefits. They may reduce the risk for heart disease, heart attack, certain types of cancers, obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney stones, and decrease bone loss.

So many nutrients are packed into just a small amount of vegetables.  They do not contain cholesterol and are always low in fat and calories.  Some of the power nutrients they contain are potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A and vitamin C.

Keep yourself strong and healthy by making half your plate fruits and vegetables as instructed by the USDA.  Exact amounts for different ages and gender can be found at


Some tips for vegetables:
  • Buy cans of vegetables with less sodium included
  • Get fresh when possible
  • Keep a supply of frozen vegetables to easily add to meals
  • Choose vegetables that are easy to prepare
  • Be adventurous and try new types of vegetables
  • Eat raw or try steamed
  • Try adding flavor with a low-fat dressing
  • Keep cut up vegetables visible in the refrigerator




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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by Eating Greens

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday known for leprechauns, shamrocks and all things green. Each year, thousands of Irish Americans gather on St. Patrick’s Day to share a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage. Cabbage doesn’t just go with corn beef; it is an extremely healthy food that is rich in nutrition and fiber.  Cabbage isn’t the only green food that is healthy for you. In fact, most leafy greens are packed with beta carotene, iron, calcium, and vitamin C, A, B6, and E.

A green food that is heart healthy and helps fight high cholesterol is avocado. Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fat, a type of fat that may actually help raise HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL.  And, more than any other fruit, this tasty food packs cholesterol-smashing beta-sitosterol, a beneficial plant-based fat that reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food.

Other nourishing greens include asparagus, artichokes, basil, broccoli, green apples, green beans, celery, cucumber, dandelion, honeydew melon, green pears, peas, spinach, and zucchini.  Green tea is loaded with antioxidants. It also contains flavonoids, a class of naturally occurring plant compounds that function as antioxidants that are good for the heart.

Why not give greens a try? They are a great spring cleanser and they pack a substantial nutritional punch. So, it’s the perfect time to buy and eat greens!

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Eat More Orange

If you’ve eaten a carrot lately, you ate a bunch of carotenoids.  But don’t worry; they aren’t a type of plant bug.  Instead, carotenoids are healthy nutrients found in orange colored fruits and vegetables.  These nutrients act as antioxidants to protect our eyes and decrease the risk of some cancers and chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

Carrots have several types of carotenoids including alpha-carotene and beta-carotene.  Beta-carotene is also found in other yellow and orange vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkins.  Beta-carotenes convert to vitamin A in the body.

Vitamin A is often considered a great “eye” vitamin.  It is linked to improved vision and protection against macular degeneration.  Vitamin A helps fight off viruses and bacteria by stimulating white blood cell production and activity.  Vitamin A is also linked to healthy skin and reduced acne breakouts.

But don’t reach for supplements for your carotene fix since whole and real foods provide the best sources of carotenes.  Instead eat more orange and reach for a carrot or munch on one serving of vegetables from the Freschef chicken picatta meal and get 110% of the daily recommended amounts of vitamin A.

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Eat More Red: Liking Lycopene

Red TomatoRed, orange and yellow colors in vegetables and fruits derive from pigments called carotenoids.  Carotenoids represent a variety of antioxidants and phytonutrients (phyto from the word plant).    

One of the most common red carotenoids is lycopene.  Lycopene is a key carotenoid in a healthful diet. Foods high in lycopene are linked to lower risks of certain types of cancer and improved eye and heart health.  Some research also indicates that lycopene is associated with reduced build up of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis.)

Vegetables highest in lycopene are red tomatoes, particularly sun-dried tomatoes. When foods containing lycopene are heated or mechanically processed, the lycopene’s bioavailability increases so that your body can make more use of it.  For example, sun-dried tomatoes have more than 16 times the lycopene than raw tomatoes for the same quantity by weight.

The table below shows the different amounts of lycopene measured in micrograms per gram.  Even though some of the foods are very high in lycopene, you may not want to eat large amounts of these foods.  While tomatoes have only 2,767 mcg and Russian dressing has 3,576 mcg of lycopene, this is equal to eating one tomato at 30 calories compared to 7 tablespoons of dressing at 355 calories.  Better to just eat 2 tomatoes and save nearly 300 calories to get the same amount of lycopene.  Be aware also that there are many colors of tomatoes, but only red tomatoes have measurable amounts of lycopene.  Use the following table to help your body get the lycopene it needs and eat more red!

Measureable Levels of Lycopene

 Very High levels Mcg of Lycopene per 100 grams
Sun-dried tomatoes 45,902
Canned tomatoes or paste 28,764
Ketchup 16,709
Canned tomato sauce 13,979
Tomato juice  9,037
High Levels  
Pink guava, raw 5,204
Watermelon 4,532
Canned tomatoes, stewed 4,088
Russian salad dressing* 3,576 
Thousand Island dressing* 3,098
Whole tomatoes, raw 2,767
Moderate levels  
Pink or red grapefruit, raw 1,419
Red sweet peppers, sautéed 484
Red sweet peppers, raw 308
Low levels  
Chili powder 21
Red cabbage 20
Cinnamon powder 15

Source: USDA Nutrient Data laboratory

 *Russian dressing and Thousand Island dressing should have tomato based products in them, but these are very calorie intense ways to eat tomato products.

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