Tips for Including more Vegetables in your Daily Meals



We've talked before about the importance of including vegetables in your daily diet, but today I'm going to emphasise some of the most important benefits to finally convince you to include them in your meals and some tips on how to do it successfully. 


The Benefits that Convinced me to Add Vegetables to Every Meal

Control Appetite and Consequently Body Weight

First of all, it is a myth that they fill you up during a meal and that two hours later you will feel hungry again.  Most vegetables are low in calories and fat, but the reality is that vegetables help you stay full longer after a meal because the high fibre content of vegetables, when they reach the intestine, stimulates the production of the hormone Glucagon-like Peptide-1 or GLP-1. 

One of the most important effects of GLP-1 is the prolonged feeling of satiety which allows you to better control your appetite and consequently your body weight.

In addition, a literature review of plant-based diets for the treatment of obesity was conducted using PubMed and Scopus. The search yielded 27 intervention trials (3361 participants) and 6 meta-analyses (9168 participants, 61 trials). 

All 6 meta-analyses showed weight loss (average -2.9 kg, range -2.02 kg to -4.1 kg), reduction in body mass index and improvements in haemoglobin A1c, low-density lipoprotein and total cholesterol.

Dietary protocols that prioritise vegetables are often low in calories, but nutrient-dense and fibre-dense, allowing for long-term maintenance of a stable body weight.


Virtually the Entire Vitamin Complex is Found in Vegetables

As we age, the body becomes less efficient at absorbing and utilising many nutrients.  By consuming fresh vegetables on a daily basis, you ensure that your body maintains its supply of all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for healthy ageing.

Vegetables provide you with vitamins A, B5, folate, C and beta-carotene which help protect cells from oxidative damage, resulting in a sleek, supple, dynamic and youthful-looking body.

Studies show that diets rich in vegetables reduce the risk of chronic diseases, as well as heart disease and more. A meta-analysis comparing 95 prospective studies found that every additional 200 grams of fruit and vegetables per day was associated with an 8% lower risk of coronary heart disease, 16% lower risk of stroke, 8% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, 3% lower risk of cancer and 10% lower risk of premature death.


Vegetables: A Crucial Support for Your Immune System

Eating nutrient-rich vegetables helps strengthen the immune system to better fight off any threat of disease or infection.  Vegetables with important immune-boosting properties include dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, as well as colourful legumes such as carrots, bell peppers and beetroot. 


Vegetables Boost your Energy Levels

Fatigue throughout the day is often blamed on stress, lack of restful sleep or lack of protein.  Rarely is it thought to be because you are not getting enough vegetables in your diet.

Truth is, dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, collard greens and chard, provide the body with iron, magnesium and B vitamins, which help to maintain adequate energy levels. 

Iron helps form haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. Magnesium is crucial for many functions, including helping you maintain healthy sleep patterns.  And B vitamins help the body convert food into energy (anabolic and catabolic metabolism); create new cells; and maintain the health of skin cells, brain cells and other body tissues.

Food first, then supplements.  Prioritise foods that contain vitamins and minerals naturally rather than supplements that contain the mineral or vitamin in isolation.  A supplement will never compare with food because the latter also contains other components that will make the vitamin or mineral more efficiently absorbed by your body.


Vegetable Consumption Promotes Healthy Ageing

Ageing affects the whole body, not just the skin, as it is linked to an increased vulnerability to chronic or long-term diseases.  There are foods that can promote healthy ageing as well as a youthful appearance, while others can protect against internal ageing mechanisms such as bone loss and cognitive decline.

Most vegetables are high in nutrients such as vitamin C and beta-carotene that can help protect cells from oxidative damage and keep the body healthy at the cellular level.

According to an article in Texas Real Food magazine, "multiple studies show that vegetable-rich diets can be an important step in increasing longevity and improving quality of life. A diet full of plant proteins, such as legumes, rather than red meat and eggs, is associated with a lower risk of a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and prostate cancer.

Cognitive function and brain health may also benefit from a primarily plant-based diet. A growing body of research suggests that plant-based diets may protect against cognitive decline, a common consequence of ageing."


Components of a Vegetable-Rich Diet 

A diet that gives priority to vegetables is mainly composed of

Vegetables (favouring dark green leafy vegetables) and fruits (giving preference to berries).

Seeds such as flaxseed, chia, hemp, sunflower and pumpkin.

Nuts such as macadamias, almonds, pecans, walnuts, apricot kernels.

Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans; starch-rich foods in a retrograde resistant starch version, i.e. that have been cooked and then cooled, which slows down the rate of intestinal digestion and has a positive effect on the prevention of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  This is the case with cooked and cooled potatoes or pasta for a salad, as well as rice for sushi, etc. potatoes or pasta cooked and cooled for a salad, as well as rice for sushi, etc. (study)

Sprouts from barley, broccoli and other grains and seeds.

Healthy fats especially those of plant origin are linked to longevity and include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as those found in seeds, nuts, avocados, virgin coconut oil, olives and, consequently, olive oil.


How to Start Making the Transition to Add more Vegetables in your Regular Diet  

  1. Start with familiar foods

You do this by incorporating a vegetarian version of your favourite foods.

Also, by increasing the portion of vegetables in your usual dishes.

  1. Integrate whole grain plant foods.

Focus on a variety of vegetables, seeds, fruits and nuts.

Try, as much as possible, to favour unprocessed or minimally processed options.


5 Strategies that make it Easier for you to eat more Vegetables in your Meals

At breakfast

  • Turn your scrambled eggs into an omelette with spinach, sliced red onion and tomato, for example.
  • Break your fast with a green juice extract. You can include spinach, kale, celery, fennel vine, cucumber, lettuce and other dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Make a smoothie with coconut milk and include superfoods such as blueberries, strawberries or other berries.


Snack on Raw Vegetables

  • Carrot sticks with hummus
  • Raw pickles on their own or with Greek dip (Greek yogurt, feta cheese, olive oil, minced garlic and lemon juice).
  • Celery sticks with a dip of sour cream, mayonnaise, dill and chopped chives.


Roasted Vegetables to make up your Lunch

  • Roasted carrots and beets combined with pignolias or pine nuts or feta cheese to make a salad.
  • You can roast broccoli or cauliflower with butter and garlic or a spice mix as an alternative to boiling or steaming.
  • Oven-roasted mushrooms marinated in olive oil, minced garlic, fresh, chopped chives, salt, pepper and garlic powder.


Add a Salad or Pre-cut Vegetables to any Meal

For some time now, supermarkets have been offering a variety of pre-cut vegetable salads that are very convenient when putting together your meal. With all the benefits I have shown you above there is no reason not to include them in your meals from pasta, pizza, fish and more.


Include Vegetables in your BBQs

  • Vegetable skewers can be assembled and grilled. These include chunks of courgette, mushrooms, peppers, cherry tomatoes, shallots, for example.  Grill them first, then sprinkle them with lemon juice and fresh garlic.
  • Corn on the cob, lightly drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with smoked paprika, is a great addition to your roasts.


Some Tips you Might find Useful

  • Plan the week's meals in advance with an emphasis on whole vegetables. This allows you to shop consciously, avoid waste and have the ingredients ready when you prepare the recipes.
  • Have a basic shopping list, which will allow you to avoid impulse buying.
  • Avoid shopping hungry. Have breakfast or lunch first and then go shopping.  This avoids temptations.
  • When eating out, try to look at the restaurant menu in advance and see which dish suits your eating style.
  • For meetings and events, you can offer to bring a vegetable preparation.

Keep in mind that making the transition and adapting to a more plant-based diet is a positive and hopefully lifelong change.  First of all, listen to your body, how it is feeling as you make these changes and adjust the proportions of each macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, fat and water) according to your daily requirements.

During the transition remember to stay physically active, hydrate and vary your food.  Your body will thank you.




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