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It amazes me how little people know about food and what our bodies use it for.  Most people assume taking a multivitamin is just as good as a well-balanced diet.  I’m no expert, but it is my understanding that there are countless enzymes and other “helpers” in natural foods that assist the body in absorbing vitamins and other nutrients.  In most experts’ opinions, the body absorbs very little from dietary supplements.

I have always been incredibly thin despite growing up on a diet of mostly processed food, tv dinners, and canned vegetables (sorry Mom, it sure was good), and an insatiable love of salt (which has now led to hypertension at a young age).  The one time my mom tried to get me to eat frozen peas, I cried and sat at the table for an hour after everyone else was done with dinner until I finished my one spoonful of peas.  And the “weirdest” thing my mom ever made us eat was hominy.  Needless to say, I have had to develop any love or ability to cook what we now call “whole” food on my own.  Then that post-25 thing hit, and I started getting sick more, gaining weight, etc.  After living 26 years with my ability to eat literally anything without it affecting my body, I developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome, started gaining weight, feeling lethargic, and my immune system suffered.  I had to completely re-learn how to feed myself.  The IBS was mostly affected by red meat and fatty foods (hello, my two favorite food groups), and the blood pressure was affected by foods high in salt (think taquitos and pizza).

So this brings me to my main point: eat more vegetables.  No, not the canned ones.  My apologies to canned vegetable manufacturers, but they’re not good for us.  The high salt content and lack of nutritional content (compared to fresh or frozen vegetables) just isn’t good for us physically or mentally – we can’t continue to allow the population to consider them “healthy.”  Safe and non-perishable, yes.  If you like your vegetables softer, frozen vegetables are great.  They are usually frozen at their peak freshness and are therefore arguably the most healthy; I just don’t like mushy vegetables.  I do, however eat frozen peas.  But that’s just because I’ve never seen fresh peas.

Here’s how I gradually learned to love a wide range of fresh vegetables:

Snap Green BeansStart with green beans.  Snap green beans.  They’re super easy, very low in sodium, full of vitamin C, iron, manganese, fiber, B6 and more.  For full nutritional information, click here.

I start with a quick rinse under the faucet and dry with paper towels, then I line them up in a row and trim the ends off (you can eat them, but they could burn easily). While you are preparing the beans, heat a skillet to medium with about a tablespoon of butter.  Butter will burn, so don’t let it get too hot.  Then finely chop (or use one of those garlic press things) one clove of fresh garlic (no, not the garlic that is kept in oil).  Add the beans first, then the garlic (the garlic will also burn so you want to minimize the time it is in the pan).  Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you like them crunchy, stay closer to 5 minutes.  If you like them mushy, cook them as long as you like – just know that the longer you cook food, the more nutritional value you lose.  Remove them from heat and serve!  If this turns out to be the only vegetable you will eat, you will be miles ahead of most!

 

Next, take the next step in your relationship with carrots. We’ve all had the pot roast with carrots and potatoes, right?  They’re alright.  Little mushy, not my favorite.  Then I discovered parsnips.  Really the only notable nutritional content is Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, but those are very important, especially the potassium.

Parsnips have more sugar (thus more carbs) than carrots, so they develop almost a licorice/caramel flavor when they are roasted.  I’ve never tried them any other way.  They are really good.  I usually roast a mix of parsnips and carrots, just in case my dinner guests aren’t quite ready to take the parsnip plunge.

Trim them just as you would a carrot – the very thin tips will burn so cut those off, cut the tops off (unless they have beautiful greens like on these baby carrots – leave those on for show), and if they are larger in circumference than a nickel, split them lengthwise.  coat with olive oil, salt and pepper (I prefer using a large plastic baggie), and spread in one layer onto a baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast in a 375 degree oven for twenty minutes, turning halfway through (remember parsnips have that extra sugar, so they will stick if you don’t turn them).  You know they are done when they are easily pierced with a fork.

 

Guess what?  Now that you know how to saute and roast, you can cook all of the vegetables in the cruciferous family.  The new “super food,” cruciferous vegetables are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants, and have shown to minimize inflammatory diseases such as heart disease and cystic fibrosis.  They are also high in vitamins A, B6, and C.

All of the veggies in the cruciferous family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower) get soggy and gross when steamed (but of course that is where they are at their most nutritious), but nutty and flavorful when roasted and sauteed.  My favorites are roasted  broccoli and brussels sprouts, and sauteed green cabbage.  You can find some very tasty recipes online for roasted cauliflower.

For green cabbage, I suggest shredding it, and then sauteeing in a skillet with butter, salt, and pepper.  You can also eat it raw in fish tacos (yum).  For broccoli and cauliflower, trim it into florets and then prepare as you did the parsnips: coat in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and then roast for twenty minutes.  The same goes for brussels sprouts, but trim off the ends and remove the loose leaves then cut into halves or quarters until they are all approximately the same size.  Be sure to turn them at least once.  I promise, brussels sprouts are not bad!  The mushy frozen ones are horrible, but roasted they are absolutely heavenly.  I promise, I’m not weird.  Just do it.

My Cooking Resources:

http://www.supercook.com Start an account, then enter EVERYTHING you have in your pantry and fridge.  It finds online recipes using when you have on hand, and then recipes where you might need to get only one or two ingredients.  It’s a lifesaver when I don’t want to go to the store!

http://foodgawker.com/A feast for the eyes!  Millions of photos of heavenly food that link to a great recipe – everything from baba ganoush to macaroni and cheese.  If you’re ever looking for inspiration, you will find it here!

http://www.google.com Seriously.  If you want to know how to cook something, just search for it.  You don’t have an excuse anymore.

iPhone apps for on the go: AllRecipes and Epicurious for thousands of recipes, Fooducate for nutritional information (scan a barcode or look up an item)

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