Friday, March 14, 2014

Habit 3 : Eat Vegetables with Every Meal

Courtesy: Social Moms
From as far back as I can remember, my mother and grandmothers gently, and sometimes not so gently, reminded me of the importance of eating vegetables. They claimed that vegetables would make and keep me healthy, and that I would grow up to be big and strong--if I ate them.

The underlying assumption was that if I didn't, then I would be forever scrawny and weak. This fear compelled me, and countless other unsuspecting children I presume, to eat more than our fair share of vegetables, often opting for a second helping. To this day my favorite food is Brussels sprouts. 

What our mothers and grandmothers have always known, science is now able to prove. There is now a great deal of empirical data about the importance of vegetables [and fruits]. They are essential for optimal physiological  functioning, and they help provide an alkaline load to the blood.

Conversely, proteins and grains provide an acid load to our blood. Their over consumption can have detrimental outcomes, such as losses of bone strength and muscle mass.

Coach Ron McKeefery
Coach Ron McKeefery, a strength and conditioning coach of the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals explains this significance further.

"Over the long haul, those who do not balance their diet with alkaline foods (vegetables and fruits, primarily) become prone to weak bones, joints and muscles, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and a host of other health problems. In other words, long-term health and longevity have everything to do with acid-alkaline balance. "

Therefore, without this alkalinity, the loss of bone strength can lead to brittle and broken bones. The accompanying loss of muscle mass slows down one's metabolism, and makes it more difficult to lose fat. Additionally, some studies suggest that cancer rates are higher if our diets are too acidic.

Now that we can all acknowledge the importance of eating vegetables, we just need to know how much to eat.

"The amount of vegetables you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity," says McKeefery. "Generally, adult men and women should eat 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.  As a rule of thumb, half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables."

McKeefery says the breakdown of vegetables should look something like this:

Assuming 17.5 cups per week (2 1/2 cups per day)
 - 1 1/2 cups per week of dark green vegetables - bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, kale, spinach, etc.
 - 5 1/2 cups per week orange/red vegetables - acorn squash, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, red peppers, etc.
 - 1 1/2 dry peas and beans (legumes) - black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, split peas, tofu, etc.
 - 5 cups per week starchy vegetables - green peas, corn, potatoes, water chestnuts, etc.
 - 4 cups per week other vegetables - green beans, artichokes, asparagus, beets, onions, egg plant, celery, cabbage, etc.

Develop this habit and help feel, perform, and look your best and stay healthy and disease free.

This is part three of a five part series on The 5 Habits of Good Nutrition. Stay tuned for the rest of the series. 

Special thanks to Coach Ron McKeefery, Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Cincinnati Bengals (NFL) for taking time out of your busy schedule to provide us with tremendous insight and invaluable information about sports nutrition and the significance of eating vegetables.

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