You already know they’re good for you in all kinds of ways, but the latest research on fruits and vegetables has revealed some very surprising results. Apparently, eating more produce can actually increase your level of happiness over time. The newly released study, conducted at the University of Warwick, followed 12,000 people who kept food diaries and had their psychological well-being measured. What it found is that people got incrementally happier with every daily serving of fruit and vegetables they ate (up to eight portions a day). Why the connection between increased produce consumption and increased happiness? Researchers don’t know for sure, but one possible theory is that the abundance of antioxidants the fruits and vegetables provides leads to higher levels of carotenoids in the blood — and having higher levels of carotenoids has been linked to optimism. Read more
This is a job for Veggie-Man!
As parents know, it can be tough to get kids to eat their greens. But a new study indicates that the methods marketers employ to sell junk food to kids can be used to compel them to eat fruits and vegetables. For the study, elementary-school kids were divvied into groups that either received no intervention, had banners featuring vegetable superheroes posted near their cafeteria salad bars, were shown (really rather cute) TV cartoons depicting those same veggie superhero characters, or were shown both the TV cartoons and the banners. The TV segments alone barely budged veggie consumption, but the banners increased it by 90.5 percent. And when kids were shown both the banners and the TV ads, their veggie intake shot up by 239.2 percent. “It’s possible to use marketing techniques to do some good things,” study author David R. Just, of Cornell University, told The New York Times. Read more
Veg out (if only a little)
The advice to eat your veggies is better than ever. Eating just a few more servings of healthful plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains) and slightly fewer servings of animal-based foods (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) every day can significantly reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, a new study published in PLOS Medicine has found. Interestingly, while those who ate a plant-based diet with a modest amount of animal products lowered their Type 2 diabetes risk by 20 percent, the kind of plant-based foods they ate was key. Those who ate healthy plant-based foods saw a 34 percent drop in diabetes risk, while those who ate unhealthy plant-based foods (refined carbs, sugary foods, starchy veggies) actually slightly increased their Type 2 diabetes risk. “What we’re talking about is a moderate shift – replacing one or two servings of animal food a day with one or two plant-based foods,” senior author Frank Hu, a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The New York Times. Read more
Healthier veggie prep
We all know vegetables are healthy, but some ways of preparing them are healthier than others. In general, cooked beats raw, CNN reports, noting, “Studies show the process of cooking actually breaks down tough outer layers and cellular structure of many vegetables, making it easier for your body to absorb their nutrients.” And while the ideal method may differ slightly for different vegetables, the news site reports, as a rule of thumb it’s often best to steam (don’t boil) or microwave your veggies and “keep cooking time, temperature and the amount of liquid to a minimum.” Then throw in a wee bit of olive oil and you’re good to go. Read more
It’s not that we don’t love you, bread, but sometimes we just need some space, OK? Cutting down on this carb (especially the white stuff) is often a quick way to lower a dish’s calorie count and likely reduce the sugar, too. But the best part is really that (hello!) veggies taste great. The flavors could totally transform your meal for the better, as we think they did in these recipes.
Breadless Italian Sub Sandwich (above)
This sandwich mimics the classic shape of its namesake by swapping a doughy hoagie roll for a couple of meaty, chubby portobello mushroom caps.
Sometimes you just need to take your produce for a spin — or, in this case, a spiral. Easy to use and with a small countertop footprint, the Paderno Spiralizer can turn most firm fruits and vegetables into neat piles of curlicues of all sizes, destined for dishes like salads, stir-fries and pasta. This fun shape may even entice picky eaters to bulk up on their veggies. Read more
Talk to raw-food advocates and they’ll insist that food is most nutritious if it never hits temperatures above 116 degrees. However, the theory that vegetables are healthier raw isn’t always true. The nutrients in some vegetables — including the five mentioned below — become more bioavailable, or readily available for your body to absorb, once they’re cooked. Read more
Every day, millions of people — adults and children — in this country with Type 2 diabetes hit their pharmacy for a variety of medicines to control that condition as well as other obesity-related ills. But what if instead of the pharmacist giving them drugs to manage their diseases, they were handed a bin of fruits and vegetables to help prevent them? Read more
There was a time when carrot skins, radish greens and beet tops used to go straight from the cutting board to the trash bin. Then came the compost movement and all those vegetable scraps were destined for a future as fantastic fertilizer. Now comes chef Chris Barnett of Los Angeles’ Stir Market — a boutique California take on the classic European food-hall experience — who’s decided that one chef’s trash is indeed another’s treasure. Rather than toss his vegetable scraps in the garbage or compost bin, he uses them on his menu — think nose-to-tail cooking but with a carrot standing in for a pig.
Baby corn has long been a stir-fry staple, and those so-named baby carrots have become the obligatory sidekick to hummus. But small vegetables only seem to betting bigger — at least in supermarkets and restaurants. Earlier this year, California’s Shanley Farms introduced “single-serving” avocados (trademark name: Gator Eggs) sold in clever packages reminiscent of egg cartons. Produce titan Green Giant sells Little Gem Lettuce Hearts, a lettuce hybrid that resembles romaine in miniature. Not to mention the countless iterations of baby broccoli — in fact, a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale — that appear in grocery stores everywhere. Are bitty vegetables merely an eye-catching novelty or are there culinary benefits to downsized produce?
At least for chefs, the most desirable baby vegetables are generally the ones that are indeed babies — that is, harvested young. “When grown well and picked fresh, baby vegetables eat beautifully,” says Aimee Olexy, chef and owner of Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily, in Philadelphia. “Often tender and sweet, they require less overall cooking and retain a more perky mouthfeel and appeal on the plate. Young baby peas and beets are almost always wonderful, and a dainty little treat worth the work,” she says.