According to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention behavioral study of fruit and vegetable consumption, only 26 percent of adults eat vegetables three or more times a day. Americans eat less than half of what public health officials recommend, and that statistic has barely changed since 2000. Even though it is widely known that vegetables are one of the most healthful foods to consume, the intimate connection between most Americans and vegetables appears to be anticlimactic. People don't seem to be taking advantage of the medicinal properties of plant-based foods, even when the number of people afflicted with life-threatening diseases continues to hold a strong grip.
In the fall of 2008, I felt inspired to expand my boundaries with vegetables due to the threat of uterine cancer. Instead of focusing on fear and pain, I chose to focus on improving my health. I flipped vegetables from the bottom of my food list to the top, and increased my vegetable intake to receive their many health-inducing benefits: supporting my immune system, reducing inflammation, boosting fiber intake. I chose vegetables, a whole food created by nature, to help conquer my disease -- and they did just that! The pain of my initial prognosis transformed into extreme pleasure when I ultimately heard that I no longer had atypical cells and my uterus and I would remain united.
Are you resisting the rewarding relationship that vegetables can stimulate in your life and ignoring the attractive -- and possibly life-saving -- health benefits they offer? Here are some ideas to help you engage with vegetables and create a more intoxicating bond:
Expose yourself. Let go of baggage. Perhaps your parents forced you to stay at the dinner table because you refused to eat overcooked vegetables while your brother or sister got to play. Maybe the bland Brussels sprouts that stared back at you made you want to gag. You swore them off for the rest of your life. Most of us see our relationship to vegetables in terms of our past relationship to them, but past performance is just that -- past performance.
If you felt timid when it came to vegetables when you were young, are you now open to a more adventurous approach? Instead of "have to" or "should" are you ready to be open and say "could"? Keep in mind that you have to make the first move. Allow for the possibility that it may take time to find what turns you on. I recommend to clients of my alternative healing practice to partner a non-vegetable food that they feel passionate about -- say, eggs, pasta, a favorite protein source -- with one or more vegetables. To start, I recommend spinach, broccoli and/or mushrooms. If your palate is sensitive, cut vegetables into tiny pieces in order to balance the flavors.
Variety is in your favor. Do you feel handcuffed to the same vegetables all the time? My 2008 health awakening got me out of my spinach-and-romaine-lettuce rut. Vegetables come in a spectrum of colors, textures and flavors. If the vegetable aisle at your local store seems more intimidating than enticing, give it another pass and check out what catches your eye the next time around. Is it dark, leafy greens such as mustard greens or collard greens? How about cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage? Or nightshades such as eggplant, tomatoes and bell peppers? Root vegetables such as carrots and beets provide plenty of choices to explore and indulge in!
The next time you're at the grocery store, hold a veggie in your hands, close your eyes and breathe in its freshness and vitality; then tear off a small piece to get a sense of its naked texture. Notice how alive it feels and which vegetables give off that "spark" that makes you want to give them a try. Choose a few to experiment with in your kitchen. "One on one" always has its place, but "one too many" offers additional thrills of color, taste and nutrients. As you may know, color makes a difference when it comes to the benefits of vegetables. Just as each color in a rainbow reflects a unique frequency, each vegetable pigment provides a unique opportunity for beneficial compounds to vibrate and radiate inside you. Anthoxanthins, found in white vegetables such as onions or cauliflower, are known to help lower heart disease, cholesterol, and blood pressure. For more information on the benefits of each color, click here.
Spice it up. If you're stepping out of your comfort zone, increase your desire to go back for more by spicing them up. I love exotic spices like garlic, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and turmeric because flavors pop and dance around in my mouth and they also serve as potent healing substances. One of my favorite combos that I learned about from reading Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D. is to mix turmeric with black pepper and olive oil to create a powerful anti-inflammatory dressing. Fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, mint, and ginger not only add nutritional benefits to your dish, but they help to enhance the overall look and appeal. Tickling vegetables with a few drops of lemon adds a touch of zest. Don't be afraid to dominate your vegetables by using your hands -- especially with kale, a hardcore superfood packed with iron, fiber, Vitamin A, C, K, B6, magnesium, calcium, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Feel free to give kale a deep-tissue massage for a few minutes. Magically, the kale will not only soften and darken, but it will sweeten and be less bitter.
Frequency matters. Research shows that five to nine servings of vegetables a day is ideal but only one in four Americans eats the recommended number of servings daily. Consider that a constant attraction for the long term is easy with a little creativity and an understanding of what is beneficial for your body. You can go as raw as you want, or steam veggies to help lock in their flavor, vitamins and minerals. Fresh, organic vegetable juice offers a nutrient- and enzyme-dense, detoxifying, and cellular-enriching smooth swallow. The more intimate and active in the exchange you are, the more apt you will be to notice the positive cues that your body is enjoying the additional nutrients -- possibilities include an improved mood, a clearer complexion and/or fewer headaches. After I finish a fresh organic veggie juice or a well-balanced meal with lots of vegetables, I often hear my organs clap in appreciation.
Create opportunities for fun. In order to increase your fun and satisfaction, why not venture out to find unique sources of vegetable interaction? Check out your local Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) project as a way to not only get fresh produce from local farmers, but to learn more about how vegetables are grown. Treat yourself to a restaurant you've wanted to try with a group of friends or family; and instead of ordering French fries, dare yourself to order Brussels sprouts. You might be pleasantly surprised you enjoyed a vegetable dish more than dessert. Stop by a bookstore and buy a vegetable or vegetarian cookbook or magazine for inspiring tips to practice at home. New, alluring ideas are only a click away on the Internet. If you're more visual, check out YouTube to see how the experts handle their vegetables.
Healthy is sexy. Rather than struggle and fight against my rogue cells, I submitted to the opportunity that I could take command and have influence over my health. The advantageous effects of vegetables allowed me to dominate over my illness. Why ignore the benefits of eating nature's medicine and increase the chances of the brutality of a life-threatening disease? The beauty of a strong relationship with vegetables is that once you receive them into your digestive system, you'll take on a submissive role and your body will take charge. You don't have to stroke your body to know what to do with the vitamins, minerals, indoles, phytochemicals, and antioxidants supplied in vegetables. You don't need to scream commands at your body to process vegetables to help prevent or heal high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis, or cancer. No formal contract is needed in this partnership -- the terms are already hard-wired in you. The body only demands consistent, tender embraces of daily healthful choices. Your relationship to vegetables is one important source to making the fantasy of a healthier you more of a reality -- and what's sexier than a healthier you?
 David Servan-Schreiber, MD, Ph.D, Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life (New York: Penguin Group, 2008), 114.
For more by Lorraine Giordano, click here.
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