My children grew up watching the TV episodes of Veggie Tales learning how to be good kids with their Bible stories and other classic story retells. Although I never really understood the connection with vegetables, perhaps it was their effort to help children accept vegetables into their diet and actually be happy about eating them!
There are lots of Veggie Tales that need telling and retelling today, only in this context the tales are absolutely important for you to hear! They will help you understand how your body works best and why there is so much sickness in our society. These tales explain how vegetables provide important nutrients, feed your gut bacteria and should be a foundational focus of your diet.
Veggie Tale #1: Processed vs. Fresh
Processed foods include anything that has been changed in any way from their original state. From a can of chili to the baker’s bread, the spectrum of processed foods allow us to choose the level of processing and in some cases the way it was processed. Processing food has changed our lives giving us the ability to purchase food at the store that has been sitting on shelves without rotting. It has given us more time freedom in procuring and cooking our food. Processed food has allowed us to live in a city, far from the fields and farms where food is produced and still eat abundantly. But how has this affected our health?
Most processed foods contain preservatives to prolong shelf life. They may contain hormones or antibiotics depending on the sourcing. They can be dehydrated or pasteurized depleting them of important vitamins. They contain added sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and artificial ingredients to tantalize taste buds and stimulate an addictive response. They come in boxes and packages, wrapped in plastic and frozen into various shapes and sizes. Most important, on average they account for 25-60% of a person’s daily energy intake (1). This has had a direct impact on weight gain and obesity (2), increased risk of cancer (3), increased mental health issues (4) increased heart disease (5) and general inflammation (6).
Fresh is always the better choice, especially when it comes to vegetables. Use these 4 tips to have a better fresh vegetable experience:
- Grow a vegetable garden and eat directly after harvesting.
- Be choosey on quality of store vegetables. Go organic and eat your vegetables as soon as possible after purchase.
- Frequent your local Farmer’s Market to get fresh from the ground options.
- Take time to learn how to cook and enjoy fresh vegetables so you are craving them instead of talking yourself into eating them!
Veggie Tale #2: Symbiotic Gut Bacteria
Within our gastrointestinal tract we harbor bacteria estimated to exceed approximately 10 times more bacterial cells than the number of human cells we possess (7). There are hundreds of different species and they provide various “services” to our bodies contributing to a healthy symbiotic relationship (8). Gut bacteria manufacture vitamin K and many B vitamins and activate Vitamin D. They contribute to blood sugar balance, the integrity of intestinal lining, immune function, digestion, absorption and a host of other benefits (10). The question then is how to nurture and feed the bacteria that are so beneficial to our health?
Bacteria love carbohydrates, especially fiber. The best sources of fiber are found in vegetables. Vegetables are prebiotics, or food for bacteria. They help bacteria thrive and assist our bodies in their important survival functions.
Research has shown that high bacterial abundance and diversity is an indicator of good gut health (11). The Standard American Diet does nothing to contribute to this, rather it encourages growth of “bad” bacteria and allows overgrowth of bacteria that crowds out the “good” bacteria. The consequence is poor health. Alternatively, eating a diet high in fiber, especially vegetables, produces a healthy, well balanced population of bacteria that works hard to keep you feeling well and energized.
Vegetables should be a majority of the carbohydrates you consume. Eat them with breakfast, lunch and dinner, add them to smoothies, bring them with you for snacks. The more diverse your selection of vegetables, the more diverse your gut bacteria and the more they can contribute to a healthy you. Fresh vegetables are the best as they will also provide increased amounts of vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals for your body. Frozen vegetables are good and a better source than canned vegetables.
Because fresh vegetables degrade so quickly and it’s hard to keep a large variety in your fridge and eat them all before they go bad, take advantage of the 20 Veggie Mix! Add them to your eggs, smoothies, soups, stews and anything else you can think of. This simple method will up your daily diversity of fibers in your diet and provide you with an increased amount of nutrients as well.
20 Veggie Mix:
1. Go to the store and purchase equal amounts of 20 different vegetables. Include herbs, greens, root veggies and lots of different colors of veggies.
2. Use a food processor or knife to dice veggies into small pieces. Be careful not to process veggies into a mush, better larger pieces than mush. A knife works best for leafy greens. The goal is to have 20 different vegetables in one spoonful of the mix.
3. Mix together well in large bowl.
4. Portion out 2-3 cups in quart sized freezer bags. Flatten veggies in the bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal.
5. Store in freezer. It’s nice to have a thawed bag in the fridge as well.
6. Break off pieces to add to smoothies, soups, stews, eggs, burritos, chili, sandwiches, etc. Add to anything and everything. Experiment with how much you want to add.
The more vegetables you eat, the more you will be feeding your gut bacteria, the more diverse it will be and the more vitamins and minerals you will consume.
Focus on these two Veggie Tales to provide your body with increased strength and vitality. Like the TV version of Veggie Tales, these Tales will help you connect with vegetables, choose high quality veggies and expand your vegetable intake to become a foundational part of your daily diet!
2.https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/eating-highly-processed-foods-linked- weight-gain 3.https://www.health.harvard.edu/cancer/eating-highly-processed-foods-may-raise-cancer-risk 4.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6170050/ 5.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4597475/ 6.https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/gastrointestinal-articles/what-foods-cause-or- reduce-inflammation
7.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5433529/ #:~:text=The%20number%20of%20microorganisms%20inhabiting,genome%20%5B2%2C4%5 D.
8.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983973/ 9.https://www.intechopen.com/books/probiotics-and-prebiotics-in-human-nutrition-and-health/ biosynthesis-of-vitamins-by-probiotic-bacteria 10.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6363653/ 11.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6351938/