Are Veggies the New Black?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

By Joni Garcia, MS, RD Contributing Blogger

Looking for a way to ramp up your current style profile?  Try chowing down on some veggies.  Over the last few years we’ve seen a major boom in the popularity of our favorite nutrition darlings.  I (along with the rest of the nutrition world) couldn’t be more excited to see these nutrient powerhouses receive the respect they deserve.  A recent article in the LA Times even recognized fruit as America’s favorite snack.

How Did This Happen?
Numerous activities have likely contributed to the attraction – The First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative, The White House garden and the Meatless Monday trend followed by Oprah and tons of other celebs.  This attention to the veggie world has been fantastic news for our local economies too because more people (and restaurants) are interested in eating more local and seasonal produce.  In fact, the USDA reports that there are more farmers’ markets in the U.S. now than ever before.

Veggie Trends
Here is a rundown of a few veggies currently basking in the limelight:

1. Leafy greens –You’ve likely seen the explosion of kale (and kale chips) in the markets and at restaurants.  We’re starting to see lots of other types of dark, leafy greens at restaurants too, such as turnip greens, collards, broccoli rabe and beet greens.   These gems are loaded with vitamin A, necessary for eye and skin health, and a variety of other antioxidants that help fight damage caused by free radicals in the body.

Prep Suggestion: Add kale or any other dark leafy green to your favorite pasta dish or soup.

2. Beets – Beet salads and sides are everywhere!   You’ve probably seen the red variety, but golden and candy striped varieties seem to be popping up at the market.  Delicious and sweet, these jewel colored veggies are a source of folate, a B-vitamin that helps protect against birth defects during pregnancy.

Prep Suggestion:  Top peppery arugula with roasted beets and orange segments.

3.   Brussels sprouts – Once thought of as an “old people food” (or maybe that was just me), we’re seeing Brussels sprouts enjoyed by all ages.  Like all veggies in the cabbage family (like kale), Brussels sprouts contain powerful compounds that may help protect the body from the growth of cancer cells.

Prep suggestion: Toss Brussels sprouts in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and a sprinkle of parmesan.

4.    Cauliflower – This veggie is all over menus – roasted, in soups, mixed with pasta – you name it!  Besides being (another) member of the cabbage family, cauliflower is loaded with vitamin C – ½ cup of cauliflower packs more vitamin C than a ½ cup of orange juice!

Prep Suggestion: Whip up a veggie frittata with sautéed cauliflower for a yummy weekend breakfast.

5.    Beans – Beans are often grouped with meat and fish because of their protein content, but they are also thought of as a veggie since, like veggies, they come from plants and are great source of fiber and tons of other nutrients.  The popularity of hummus and bean dips has grown like crazy over the last few years and now we’re even seeing bean and lentil chips.  Beans and lentils are full of protein and fiber, which will help maintain blood sugar, keep you fuller longer and keep your digestive track in check (you know the tune…).  Beans and lentils are some of the easiest (and cheapest) foods you can add to your healthy eating plan.

Prep suggestion: Rinse a can of your favorite beans (I like cannellini or garbanzo) and toss with canned tuna or salmon, whatever veggies you have on hand, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon for a quick and filling lunch.

TELL ME: What’s your favorite way to prepare veggies?

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