FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Eat the Rainbow

Our health is largely determined by the food we eat. Adding more fruits and vegetables to our plates is something that can only provide benefits to each one of us and our overall wellbeing!

Fruits and vegetables provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, cancer-fighting compounds and heart-protecting nutrients. They support our brains, digestive system, heart, skin (pretty much all our organs ;), our bones, and our muscles; basically, everything we need to function and live long, healthy lives. Many are anti-inflammatory and aid in protecting us from chronic disease. Plus, they taste delicious! They can be perfectly sweet and excitingly sour. 

Fruits and veggies also contain fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E and K, antioxidants, and flavonoids (flavanoids are a group of antioxidant compounds–these are good for you ;), resistant starch (which feed our good gut bacteria, remember how important bacteria is?) among many other good things, which simply can’t be found in useful amounts in animal-sourced foods.

I often hear “but fruit has so much sugar, Gina!” Yes, fruit does contain sugar in its most natural state: fructose. This means no processed sugar; no sugar pack label can replace that. 

Sugar in fruit, unlike the sugar you find in candy, sports drinks or in a snickers bar, doesn’t fly solo and actually comes with a bunch of nutrients to your belly party: fiber, vitamins, minerals, and the rest mentioned earlier. The body responds and goes about digesting very differently this sugar from fruits than the sugar in that candy bar we can’t seem to put down sometimes. 
Fruit provides nourishment and, ideally, can play an important part in a balanced diet. Of course, eating too much of anything can have its repercussions, including fruit; so remember: balance and variety are essential for optimal health. Mmmmm, pineapple and banana...yummy…(let me clean the drool off the keyboard).

Ok. Where were we? Oh, yeah, why you should eat more fruits and vegetables. If all these nutrients can be found in fruits and vegetable, why aren’t we eating more of them every day?

If you are having a hard time getting these colorful little guys on your plate (and in your mouth!), here are some ideas to help you get reacquainted:
 
1. Steam them: Simple yet delicious! 
Steamed bok choy, broccoli, carrots, etc., all maintain their crunchiness plus their nutritional profile as intact as possible since cooking time is usually short and nutrients are not significantly destroyed. Sprinkle with your favorite herbs: my favorites are cilantro, dill and oregano. You can also pair this with a delicious dressing.

2. Bake/Roast them
Mmmm if you don’t enjoy roasted vegetables then, what’s wrong with you?! I’m not sure we could be friends j/k ;)
Roasting vegetables can truly bring out such amazing flavors, textures and aromas from these babies. You can roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, onions, asparagus, leeks, beets, mushrooms, you can pretty much roast anything you want! 
You literally just have to wash your veggies–some require cutting them slightly–place them on a baking sheet/pan, add some sea salt and/or spices and put them in the oven. You can catch up on your show(s) while the heavy lifting is done by the oven. It doesn’t get any easier than this! 

Try brushing the vegetables with some extra virgin coconut oil, (an easy way to not waste excessive amounts of oil is to use a brush to coat the vegetables ever so slightly). Sprinkle over some thyme, fresh rosemary, pepper and/or a dash of sea salt.
Coconut oil is a heat stable oil and is great to roast with. You can always dry roast them too.

Baked yam fries

Baked yam fries

Roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted brussels sprouts

3. Sautée them.
Add some extra virgin coconut oil to a pan over medium to low heat, then add some garlic and veggies of your choice and cook for a few minutes. Voilá. Add spices of choice. Some of my favorites are: cumin, turmeric, pepper (black, chilli, cayenne), oregano, and/or thyme. 
You don’t have to limit yourself to these spices; there’s a plethora of amazing spices out there.

Sautéed cauliflower rice

Sautéed cauliflower rice

4. Eat em’ raw!
Probably the easiest choice. Shave them, cube them, use a spiralizer - go nuts! Make sure you wash them. ;) 
You can prepare them as noodles by spiralizing them (zuchinni, summer squash), as a vegetable carpaccio (this works well with beets in particular), in a salad, as a main part of your meal or as a side; it’s up to you!
Eating your vegetables raw means that you are having them in their most natural, unadulterated state, with all of their nutrients and enzymes completely intact! Leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine, chard, arugula), tomatoes, beets, zucchini, carrots, celery, parsley, cilantro, summer squash: all are delicious raw! 
The only vegetables I would say to be wary not to eat raw in huge amounts are cruciferous vegetables (hello broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, I’m looking at you) as they can be quite hard to digest in their raw state so you might prefer to opt for options 1, 2, or 3 for these veggies. 
 

Raw zucchini lasagna

Raw zucchini lasagna

Zucchini noodles

Zucchini noodles

Raw beet carpaccio 

Raw beet carpaccio 

Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.