We love vegetables, right? Vegetables are not only a flavorful and colorful addition to our meals, but they are also an important source of nutrients in our diet when properly prepared.
Vegetables add flavor and texture as well as nutrition to our everyday meals.
Here are some ideas for choosing vegetables:
Buy organic. Organic foods are more nutritious because they are grown in soil containing more diverse organisms due to the use of organic fertilizers and soil enrichment. Produce farmed with organic methods tastes better because it contains more nutrients. Organic farming prohibits the use of pesticides, chemicals, and genetically-modified organisms as well.
The Journal of Applied Nutrition published a study examining organic apples, pear, potatoes, wheat, and sweet corn and compared the specific nutrients and their levels compared to conventional counterparts produced with modern farming methods. Here’s what was discovered: chromium was listed as 78 percent higher in organic foods.
The study also revealed Calcium to be 63 percent higher in organic foods, and Magnesium was found to be 138 percent higher in organic foods. In other studies, the use of pesticides was also found to have an effect on lowering levels of certain vitamins including B vitamins, vitamin C, and beta-carotene in fruits and vegetables. Organic produce contains higher levels of antioxidants and flavonoids which prevent degenerative disease from developing, and higher levels of beneficial minerals such as zinc and iron.
Buy in season. When you purchase in season produce, your vegetables are fresher and often cheaper in price. Vegetables that are not in season and have to be brought in from far away places are not as fresh and often become contaminated with toxins from their travel (which is not only bad for us, but the environment as well!). Seasons deliver a natural diversity to vegetables that contributes to their healthful properties.
- Spring time – green leafy vegetables such as romaine lettuces, red and green leafs, chard, bok choy, mustard/collard/beet greens, and herbs like basil and parsley
- Summer – summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and corn; try spices and seasonings like peppermint and cilantro
- Fall – harvest foods like carrot, pumpkins, squash, sweet potato, beets, onions, and garlic. Try warming spices and seasonings such as ginger, mustard seeds, and peppercorns
- In winter, turn even more exclusively toward warming foods and those vegetables which you have canned or jarred. Foods that require a longer growing period are typically more warming than foods which grow more quickly: root vegetables including parsnips, carrot, potato, rutabagas, onions and garlic.
When you are ready to prepare:
- Eat vegetables raw individually or in a salad with homemade dressing. Homemade dressing is easy to make, cheaper than the bottled variety, and much more nutritious. Use your favorite type of vinegar(s) and olive oil. Add your oil to to a bowl and then the vinegar (2:1 ratio). Add a bit of salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and herbs and spices to your mix. Whisk together and pour over your salad – or dip a carrot or piece of broccoli into the bowl.
- Steam vegetables with water and sea salt, and when you are ready to serve them, add a generous amount of real, grass-fed butter. The fat-soluble vitamins in butter help to absorb the nutrients in your vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, and peas.
- Saute your vegetables in coconut or olive oil or real butter. Add natural herbs and spices from your garden such as thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, rosemary, and a clove of garlic. Coconut and olive oils are two of the healthiest and tastiest oils you can consume.
- If you have children, make eating vegetables fun. Cut up raw vegetables into little pieces and make kabobs on toothpicks and provide a healthy, homemade salad dressing (see above) for dipping. Little ones love organic raw almond butter for dipping vegetables. Also try homemade hummus with olive oil or salsa. Some meals lend themselves to “sneaking” in vegetables your children might otherwise not try. Use zucchini chopped up finely in marinara meat sauces, or finely chopped spinach in soups and casseroles.
- Make lacto-fermented vegetables. Lacto-fermentation involves the use of salt and whey (the naturally-occurring protein in milk). According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions:
“Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Man needs only to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as he has learned to put certain yeasts to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine. ”
Adding whey to vegetables, then, is a way to increase their nutritional potential while at the same time, adding fantastic flavor to your creation. Ancient Greeks Romans, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Russia, and Poland alike used this practice for its medicinal qualities, and indeed, the result is a wondrous occurrence that produces natural antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Lactic acid – the main by-product of this process – causes an increase in digestibility and vitamin levels, as well as promoting the growth of healthy intestinal flora. It is one of nature’s most perfect health foods.
- Use good quality yogurt (homemade or store bought, unhomogenized, from whole milk) for making your whey.
- Line a strainer with cheesecloth and pour yogurt into it (over a bowl).
- Cover the yogurt with a plate and allow to sit at room temperature for 12 -24 hours. During this time the whey will run out.
- After the whey has drained into the bowl, secure and tie the cheese cloth or linen towel with the milk solids inside (use care not to squeeze its contents).
- Tie the sack to a wooden spoon placed across the top of a bowl or pitcher to allow more of the whey to escape from the bag.
- When the bag stops dripping, the cheese is ready. Store whey in a mason jar and cream cheese in a covered glass container.
Refrigerated, the yogurt cheese will keep for about 1 month; whey will keep for approximately 6 months.
Here are some recipes for sauerkraut, ginger carrots, and pickled cucumbers (courtesy of Nourishing Traditions):
- 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
- 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
- 1 tablespoon of sea salt
- 1 tablespoon whey (if not available, use 1 additional tablespoon of sea salt)
In a bowl, mix cabbage with caraway seeds, sea salt, and whey. Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release the juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. The sauerkraut may be eaten immediately, but it improves with age.
- 4 cups grated carrots, tightly packed
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use 1 additional tablespoon of sea salt)
In a bowl, mix all ingredients and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer to release juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices cover the carrots. The top of the carrots should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes 1 quart
- 4 – 5 pickling cucumbers or 15-20 gherkins
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped
- 1 tablespoons of sea salt
- 4 tablespoons of whey (add 1 additional tablespoon of salt if whey is not available)
- 1 cup of filtered water
Wash cucumbers well and place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers, adding more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers. The top of the liquid should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.