As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us eagerly anticipate the joy of gathering with loved ones around a bountiful feast. However, the traditional Thanksgiving spread is often associated with indulgence and overeating. Some of you have heard me talk about the Vegan Thanksgiving I am going to participate in for a second year in a row in Los Angeles with Julia and her boyfriend and his parents. I am not advocating that, but you can definitely bring in some extra plant based items to add to the options you already have on your table.
This year, why not break free from the calorie-laden traditions and embrace a healthier, yet equally delicious, Thanksgiving dinner? There are many creative and nutritious alternatives that will leave your taste buds satisfied without compromising your commitment to health.
Start with a Fresh Spin on Appetizers:
Instead of reaching for heavy appetizers laden with excess calories, consider serving a refreshing and nutritious starter. A colorful and vibrant salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and a light vinaigrette can set the tone for a health-conscious meal. Another option is a vegetable platter with hummus or a yogurt-based dip for a satisfying crunch without the guilt. There are dozens of recipes on websites that you can check out HERE.
Revamp the Turkey:
Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without turkey, but you can make this centerpiece healthier by opting for a leaner cut and preparing it in a more wholesome way. Consider roasting the turkey with a mix of herbs and spices for flavor without excess salt or butter. If you're feeling adventurous, try a herb-infused olive oil rub for a unique and delicious twist. HERE is a recipe, but there are dozens on the internet.
Embrace Nutrient-Rich Side Dishes:
Swap out traditional high-calorie sides for nutrient-rich alternatives. Roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with a touch of cinnamon and olive oil provide a healthy and satisfying alternative to traditional mashed potatoes. Steamed green beans, sautéed Brussels sprouts, or a colorful medley of roasted vegetables can add both flavor and nutrition to your Thanksgiving table. Stay away from the heavy cream and butter, or try your recipe with only half the usual! HERE are some choices.
Whole Grain Goodness:
When it comes to stuffing and grains, opt for whole grains like quinoa or brown rice instead of traditional white bread stuffing. These alternatives not only add a nutty flavor and satisfying texture but also bring additional fiber and nutrients to the table. I discovered Quinoa a few years ago and while it took me a moment, I have come to really enjoy it. Try THIS recipe.
Ditch the canned cranberry sauce loaded with sugar and experiment with a homemade version. A simple cranberry-orange relish with minimal added sugar can provide a burst of flavor without the unnecessary calories. We experimented with fresh cranberries and it was surprisingly easy to do. HERE is a recipe.
Similarly, consider making your own gravy using the drippings from the turkey and incorporating herbs for added taste. I hate to admit that this is where we do use some heavy cream!
Thanksgiving desserts are often synonymous with pies and cakes, but there are healthier options that can still satisfy your sweet tooth. BUT I cannot live without my pies so I am not going to advise against them because I do need to be able to enjoy this part of the meal without interference from my wife and her desire to be healthy.
That said, consider serving a fruit salad with a drizzle of honey or a yogurt parfait with layers of fresh berries and granola. If you can't resist a classic pie, opt for a whole grain crust and fill it with a reduced-sugar filling.
This Thanksgiving, savor the flavors of the season while prioritizing your health. By making thoughtful substitutions and incorporating nutrient-dense ingredients, you can create a delicious feast that leaves you feeling satisfied and grateful for the nourishment you've provided your body. Cheers to a Thanksgiving that's both indulgent and health-conscious!
In our fast-paced, modern world, quality sleep is often an undervalued asset. We frequently sacrifice those precious hours of rest for the sake of productivity, entertainment, or other commitments. However, healthy sleep habits are essential for our overall well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of sleep and provide you with practical tips to develop and maintain healthy sleep habits for a happier, healthier life.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is a fundamental component of our daily lives. It's not just about resting; it's a complex process that plays a vital role in physical and mental health. Here are some reasons why healthy sleep habits are crucial:
Developing Healthy Sleep Habits
Developing and maintaining healthy sleep habits is a crucial part of self-care and overall well-being. Prioritizing sleep will lead to improved physical health, better mental clarity, and increased vitality. Remember that good sleep is a habit that requires consistency and effort. By making the necessary changes in your daily routine and creating a sleep-conducive environment, you can enjoy the benefits of a restful night's sleep and wake up each day feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle life's challenges. Sweet dreams!
Fruits and vegetables are nature's exquisite gift to us, offering a spectrum of colors, flavors, and nutritional benefits. In this blog post, we'll delve into the wonderful world of fruits and vegetables, exploring their health benefits, the importance of variety, and creative ways to incorporate them into your daily diet.
The Nutritional Powerhouses
Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-rich, low in calories, and packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. They are vital for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases. Here's a closer look at some of their key benefits:
The Importance of Variety
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is crucial because each type offers a unique combination of nutrients. The more colorful and diverse your plate, the better. Here's why variety is key:
Incorporating More Fruits and Vegetables into Your Diet
Now, let's explore creative and practical ways to include more fruits and vegetables in your daily meals:
Fruits and vegetables are not just a part of a healthy diet; they are the heart of it. By embracing the vibrant world of these nutrient-rich foods, you can enhance your overall health and well-being. Make it a goal to fill your plate with a colorful assortment of nature's finest offerings, and you'll discover a newfound appreciation for the delicious and healthful wonders of fruits and vegetables. Your body will thank you!
WHY ARE WEIGHT LOSS AND EXERCISE SUPPORT GROUPS SO SUCCESSFUL?
It can be daunting to begin an exercise program without motivation. Many of us cannot get a routine going, and if we do, we often abandon the effort, especially when we do not see immediate results. Similarly, losing weight is a challenging mental and physical process, which is why many people may find themselves giving up after one or two attempts. Additionally, getting others to understand what you are going through can be frustrating if you are trying to lose weight and others are not. With weight loss and exercise support groups, you will have a solid support system with whom you can discuss your struggles with temptations and who can provide you tips on how they have gotten through similar situations.
These are the primary reasons group programs work:
Exercise and weight loss take a lot of hard work and driving determination, but group programs provide you with accountability, added motivation and support, and valuable reliability to provide you with all the necessary tools to succeed.
So how do refined carbs increase your blood sugar? Diets high in sugar and low in fiber can cause some serious swings in your blood glucose levels. Simple carbohydrates act as a quick source of energy for your body, meaning you don’t have to work very hard to get energy from them. When you eat a sugary meal, the energy is released fairly quickly into your bloodstream in the form of glucose. Too much glucose too often can lead to high blood glucose levels or poor blood sugar control. This can lead to energy crashes, poor appetite control, sugar cravings, and mood swings. And is especially critical for anyone trying to manage diabetes.
Many people prefer to use the Glycemic Index (GI scale) to distinguish between complex and simple carbohydrates. The GI scale ranks carbohydrate foods based on how they impact your blood sugar after eating them using a range of 0 to 100 (100 being the largest impact on blood glucose). For an excellent article listing the precise GI for each food, see https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods
But in order to truly understand a food's impact on blood sugar, you must consider how much glucose a food can deliver into the bloodstream in addition to how rapidly. In other words, just because a low-carb food can be absorbed quickly, doesn't mean it contains enough carbohydrates to spike blood sugar levels. Using glycemic load takes into account both and tends to be a stronger measurement of a carbs impact.
Regardless, neither glycemic index nor load considers your overall diet. Eating a high GI/GL food in a mixed dish or on occasion is likely not going to result in uncontrolled blood sugar. Having a donut for breakfast is going to impact your energy levels much more drastically than adding a little honey to your oatmeal.
Eating too many refined carbs will negatively impact your health. High sugar intake is linked to weight gain, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Too much sugar in the diet can lead to increased blood cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease. Excess sugar intake is also associated with high blood glucose and insulin resistance, which in turn could increase your risk of developing type two diabetes. So if you are concerned about your blood sugar control, scaling back on refined carbohydrates or total carb intake will certainly help, but you should always check with your doctor and get regular blood tests to assess your health status first.
Additionally, because of the impacts on blood sugar and appetite, many argue that refined carbs can lead to overeating and weight gain. And they have been used in association studies to demonize sugar as the cause of the obesity epidemic.
All of these factors are why the American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar intake to less than 25 grams of sugar per day.
However, it is crucial to note that sugar alone won't cause you to gain weight, only too many calories can do that. And the occasional sugary food or beverage will not destroy your health.
The bottom line is that weight loss and improving your health go far beyond the type of carbohydrates you eat. However, aiming to get more “good” carbs in the right amounts can support your daily nutritional needs, improve your appetite control, and support better energy levels throughout the day.
If you are looking to cut back on refined carbohydrates, aim to eat more whole grains and high-fiber foods, and limit your intake of empty calories and highly processed foods. But, whatever you do, don't beat yourself up for the occasional splurge. All foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle!
If you’d like more information on nutrition and how to eat the best way that is reasonable and sustainable for you, please contact me at 843-295-9114. My services are complimentary to you as part of Dr. Gigante’s medical practice.
In addition, if anyone would like to see a particular health and wellness issue addressed, please email me your suggestions at LeighanneLakeKubec@gmail.com
Wishing you all a healthy and happy life.
Happy New Year! If you have entered 2023 with the desire to make your health and fitness a high priority, we have some basic tips about how to get started on this new year’s resolution. Knowing which techniques work best for you when it comes to looking after your health can be tricky. Everybody is different, so one thing that worked for your friend may not work for you. It is all about finding the balance between good and bad. But there are some fundamentals that apply to everyone seeking better health and wellness.
One of the key things you can do this year to be healthy is to watch what you eat. Many people start the year with great intentions and the desire to shed pounds after the holidays. More than half the people who embark on this resolution stick with it after January as they like how it makes them feel healthier and cleaner. Be part of that majority and make your wellness a priority!
No matter what type of diet you choose to enjoy, it is all about watching what you eat and enjoying things in moderation. It is not sustainable to eat a lot of junk food each and every day. Not only will you feel constantly exhausted, but you are also putting yourself at risk of weight-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Now is the time to do this if you want to look into healthy alternatives for your favorite snacks. If you would like assistance and support in your journey of eating better, please contact our nutritional consultant, Leighanne Kubec, to schedule an appointment. She will help create a plan that suits your lifestyle and will be sustainable. More importantly, she will support you and meet with you as often as you like to be sure you stay on track and achieve your goals. Her services are free to all of our patients. Leighanne can be reached at (843) 295-9114.
Something else to consider when it comes to your health is how much you are moving around during the day. You may think that you don’t have the time to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, but you do. Even if you do little bits of exercise throughout the day, this is still better than nothing at all. You could do a ten-minute workout in the morning, during lunch, and in the evening. This equates to the recommended daily workout you should be getting. The key to exercise working and you sticking at it is finding something you enjoy doing. You can join Leighanne’s yoga class, and her upcoming light weights class, which are conducted via Zoom (we hope to have live classes again soon!) and are recorded for you to enjoy at your own convenience. If you’d like to join the class and/or receive the recorded classes, contact Leighanne at LeighanneLakeKubec@gmail.com so that she can add you to her list. Again, this service is free to all of our patients.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Finally, being healthy isn’t just about what you eat and how much you move around. You also need to look after your body, which you can do when you sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep, you will likely feel the effects of being over-tired, lethargic, and less motivated to eat well and exercise. Lack of adequate sleep is connected to weight gain, so you should aim for six to nine hours of sleep each night. If you want to be alert and awake the next day, you will also need good quality sleep during this time. If you are constantly waking up during those times, then you need to address this issue and speak with Dr. Gigante.
Stay tuned for more health and wellness information in our monthly blog! If you have any topics you would like us to explore in this monthly blog, please feel free to reach out to us! We are always happy to have new issues to discuss.
CANNABIS, MARIJUANA, CBD OIL—WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
In recent years, interest has grown regarding the potential health effects and benefits of cannabis as both CBD oil and medical marijuana. Often people wonder if CBD oil is the same as marijuana. Will it get me high? Is it legal? This article will explain the differences between the two substances and outline the potential benefits of both.
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS CANNABIS?
Today, “cannabis” and “marijuana'' are often used interchangeably in the industry, which can cause confusion. Because the word “cannabis” technically refers to the entire genus of flowering plants that includes both hemp and marijuana. While CBD can come from either hemp or marijuana, it is often derived from hemp in order to avoid the addition of larger amounts of THC. THC, on the other hand, is derived from marijuana. In essence, marijuana is the intoxicating cousin of hemp.
IS CANNABIS LEGAL?
So, while marijuana and hemp might share a species, they are legally and chemically distinct in a significant way.Marijuana contains a significant amount of THC, while CBD (derived from hemp) contains .3% or less. In 2018, the Farm Bill was signed into law. It removed hemp (a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant) and derivatives of cannabis with low levels of THC (0.3% or less) from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act.
As of July 2023, 38 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted policies allowing medical marijuana and products containing THC to be prescribed by a doctor; and 19 states also allow recreational use of marijuana and THC-containing products.
WHAT ARE THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MARIJUANA AND CBD OIL?
CBD and THC affect different receptors in the brain. Because of this, CBD typically does not have psychoactive effects—in other words, it won't cause you to get high. THC, on the other hand, does have psychoactive effects. It is the compound that produces the high that people associate with marijuana. So, while THC and CBD share similarities, there are some key differences between the two compounds:
While research on the potential health benefits of THC, CBD, and other cannaboids is still in the early stages, there is evidence that these substances may be helpful for conditions including:
CBD vs. THC FOR PAIN RELIEF
CBD and THC can both be beneficial for pain relief. Because THC has psychoactive effects, it may produce more immediate pain relief. However, CBD can help reduce inflammation, which is useful for long-term effectiveness. Some evidence suggests that taking both CBD and THC may provide the greatest pain relief.
While cannabis itself has not been FDA approved to treat any condition, there are a few drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that contain CBD or THC:
Both THC and CBD can be consumed in a number of different forms. THC is most often consumed by smoking marijuana. But both THC and CBD are available in other forms including:
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AND WORDS OF ADVICE
Both THC and CBD may have several benefits, but you should always talk to your doctor first before you try any products containing these cannabinoids. Both CBD and THC hold promise for alleviating symptoms and even treating some medical and mental health conditions, but research in this area is still relatively new and further investigation is needed.
In addition, because the laws regarding the use of cannabis and cannabis products are rapidly changing, you should always check your state's laws before using products containing CBD or THC. For our local clients. Please note that CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are currently legal in South Carolina.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PREVENTING MUSCLE LOSS AS WE AGE
Many people over the age of 50, can develop a condition called sarcopenia, which essentially means a decline in muscle mass as we age. Sarcopenia begins as early as age 40 and, without intervention, gets increasingly worse, with as much as half of muscle mass lost by age 70. (If you’re wondering, it’s replaced by fat and fibrous tissue, making muscles resemble a well-marbled steak.) In essence, sarcopenia is to muscle as osteoporosis is to bone. Studies show that up to 13 percent of people in their 60s and as many as half of those in their 80s have sarcopenia. It is one of the biggest causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults.
The good news is that no matter how old or out of shape you are, you can restore much of the strength you already lost through exercise and nutrition, particularly adequate protein, the main constituent of healthy muscle tissue.
Protein needs are based on a person’s ideal body weight, so if you’re overweight or underweight, subtract or add pounds to determine how much protein you should eat each day. To enhance muscle mass, older people, who absorb protein less effectively, require at least 0.54 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight, an amount well above what older people typically consume.
Thus, if you are a sedentary aging adult who should weigh 150 pounds, you may need to eat as much as 81 grams (0.54 x 150) of protein daily. To give you an idea of how this translates into food, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams of protein; 1 cup of nonfat milk, 8.8 grams; 2 medium eggs, 11.4 grams; one chicken drumstick, 12.2 grams; a half-cup of cottage cheese, 15 grams; and 3 ounces of flounder, 25.5 grams. Or if you prefer turkey to fish, 3 ounces has 26.8 grams of protein.
Most people accept the loss of muscle, bone, and all the downsides that follow as a natural part of aging. But studies show you can slow and delay these processes by years or even decades with a muscle strengthening program that works your entire body. Scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging found that doing just two resistance-training sessions each week can reverse the age-related cellular damage that contributes to sarcopenia and functional impairment. “Resistance training is the closest thing to the fountain of youth that we have,” said Brad Schoenfeld, an assistant professor of exercise science and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Lehman College in New York.
One of the worst parts about losing muscle as we age is that we also get fatter. The average person gains about a pound of fat a year in middle age. That means that our bodies undergo a striking change in composition, with muscle-melting away and fat creeping in to take its place. This reshaping of the body reduces your metabolic rate because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which causes things to get worse and worse.
But a recent landmark study provided some reassuring news. It looked at the effects of diet and exercise programs on 250 people over the age of 60 to compare how the programs affected their fat and muscle composition. The subjects were split into three groups. One was assigned to follow a program that cut about 300 calories a day from their diets. Another group cut calories and did about 45 minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week. And a third group cut calories while embarking on a resistance-training program.
The results were striking. The subjects that combined both diet and exercise lost the most amount of weight, about 20 pounds on average. But what’s really interesting is that the group that did aerobic exercise lost 16 pounds of fat and four pounds of muscle – while the group that did resistance training lost more fat (18 pounds) and less muscle (only two pounds).
Strength training requires little special equipment—(1) a sturdy chair(that will not slip or rock, (2) light weights of 3 pounds, 5 pounds, and 8 pounds so you can increase the weight as you get stronger, and (3) exercise space. In addition, good shoes are essential for any exercise. For strength training, try athletic shoes with good support, such as walking, running, or cross-training sneakers. The sole should be rubber, but not too thick, because fat soles may cause you to trip.
Determine when you are best able to fit strength training into your schedule. Stick to it as you would any appointment. There are no rules about the best time to exercise. But keep in mind that you should exercise on three non-consecutive days of the week (say, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). This gives your muscles a proper rest. You can also try doing lower body exercises one day and then upper body exercises the next. This way, you will avoid overworking the same muscle groups.
A terrific resource to show you exactly what exercises to do can be found at the following link (jump directly to Chapter 5):
Never start an exercise program without consulting your physician about what is best for you.
We often think about craving sugar. But what about salt? So many of my clients (and I include myself in this) crave salty things. Why? Well, salt cravings can be due to a vitamin/mineral deficiency and/or an addiction to salt because it stimulates the dopamine pleasure receptors in our brains. Generally, both deficiency and addiction come into play, particularly since our food industry creates, targets, and “feeds” our sugar and salt addictions. (Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss is an interesting read!)
So, what can we do?
1. FIRST-- let’s look at the vitamins and minerals you need as part of a healthy diet:
Calcium and Magnesium:
Low levels of these two minerals—which often go hand in hand—prime you for sugar and salt cravings. Low magnesium levels, specifically, are known to trigger chocolate cravings. Both stress and eating too much sugar can deplete your calcium and magnesium stores further, worsening cravings and making you a prime stress-eating candidate.
(A) Food: Get your calcium fix from dairy products like yogurt, kefir, and cheese; bone-in sardines; and dark leafy greens. Hit your magnesium quota by downing nuts, seeds, potato skins, dairy, and broccoli.
(B) Supplements: Calcium with Vitamin D—I like Citracal plus D slow release: Magnesium 400 mg.
This class of vitamins is important because it helps your body deal with stress. B vitamins like B1 and B5 keep your adrenal glands functioning properly, and B6 and B9 aid in the formation of certain neurotransmitters that help regulate mood and make you feel good. In periods of high stress, your body uses up these vitamins more quickly, making you prone to the effects of stress—like overeating—if your levels aren't sufficient. Other things that deplete our vitamin B include caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, and medications like NSAIDs (Advil, etc).
(A) Food: B vitamins are found in a wide array of meats, seafood, dairy, and produce such as dark leafy greens, bananas, potatoes, avocados, egg yolks, chicken, salmon, and yogurt—so ensure you're getting enough variety in your diet. Big salads are perhaps the best way to get these vitamins. But vegetarians and vegans don’t get any source of Vitamin B from food, so be sure to take a supplement!
(B) Supplements: Find a good Vitamin B complex because that will give you the proper balance of the essential vitamins and doses you need.
This mineral tends to be low in older people and anyone under a lot of stress—hello, that's like everyone. It's not so much that low zinc makes you crave, but it does significantly dull your sense of taste, prompting you to add more salt and sugar to foods while seeking out extra sugary and salty items before you're truly satisfied.
(A) Food: This mineral isn't easy to find, but it's most prevalent in some animal sources like oysters, crab, liver, dark chicken meat, and to a lesser extent, eggs, green peas, and nuts.
(B) Supplement: We only need a trace amount of zinc for good health, only about 8-10 mg. However, zinc supplements are generally found in 50 mg and 100 mg tablets. The 50 mg tablet is fine because your body only absorbs about 20% of the zinc in the tablet. DO NOT take the 100 mg tablet, it is too much for almost everyone.
2. Second--let’s address the addiction aspect of your cravings and what you can do about it:
(A) Clean out your pantry! Get rid of all the processed and refined foods in your house so that they are simply not there for you to eat and MAKE THE COMMITMENT TO GO ONE WEEK WITHOUT ANY SALTY SNACKS. We can all do something for one week, so let’s start there. The longer you go without salty snacks, the less you will crave them and your taste buds will be far more alert to the saltiness.
If complete cold turkey is too difficult, LET’S COMMIT TO THIS:
Remove 2 salty snacks from your diet every week. This can be a way to start on the path to getting rid of salt cravings by eliminating them each week.
(B) Next--keep a food diary and don’t cheat! It’s actually better if you write down or make note of what you are eating before you actually eat it because it may prevent you from eating the salty snack altogether. Be sure to note how you are feeling and WHY you feel the need for the salty snack. Often, we are eating because of emotions (sadness, loneliness, boredom, anger) and we need to address the emotions, otherwise, we will not get rid of the cravings. Willpower is not enough when cravings and bingeing are related to our emotions and those emotional needs go unaddressed.
(C) Be sure to eat 3 meals a day! Often we binge in the evenings because we’ve starved ourselves all day and then we grab the craved food to satisfy us. So, plan on eating 3 meals a day. Include protein and lots of vegetables! Breakfast may be more difficult to fit in vegetables—but be sure to have protein and/or real whole grains such as steel-cut oatmeal or a slice of Ezekiel bread with peanut butter or avocado or an egg.
3. This is probably the most important thing you can remember…BE KIND TO YOURSELF!!
Don’t beat yourself up if you give in to a craving (because it’s probably going to happen). Instead, remind yourself that you are human, you are a good person, that you are doing your best…and move on. Don’t get caught up in the silly thought of being “bad” or “good” because of what you ate. Just notice why you ate what you did, how you were feeling at the time, how you felt after, and move on to the next thing in your life. Stay confident and believe in yourself. Consider these affirmations when you are feeling bad or feeling as if you “failed”. Use whichever ones work for you to remind yourself of your inherent goodness and power:
1. I love and respect myself; I am worthy of love.
2. My body is a temple. I want to treat it with love and respect.
3. My body is a gift.
4. Food doesn’t have to be the enemy, it can be nurturing and healing.
5. Life is too short and too precious to waste time obsessing about my body. I am going to take care of it to the best of my ability and get out of my head and into the world.
6. Food doesn’t make me feel better, it just temporarily stops me from feeling what I’m feeling.
7. I have everything inside of me that I need to take care of myself without using food.
8. When I look to others to dictate who I should be or how I should look, I reject who I am.
9. The last thing I should be doing is rejecting myself. Accepting myself as I am right now is the first step in changing, growing, and evolving. When I reject myself, I cannot grow.
10. I can only go forward, so although I can learn from it, I refuse to dwell on the past.
With love and kindness,
These are questions I often get from clients: Which is better, cooked vegetables or raw vegetables? Are raw vegetables always healthier? Do all cooking methods destroy vitamins? What is the best way to cook vegetables to maximize their nutritional value?
First of all, why do we even need vegetables in our diet?
“Eat more vegetables” is long-standing advice for a healthy diet – and for good reason. A diet high in vegetables has been tied to a lower risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cataracts, macular degeneration, cognitive decline and digestive-tract cancers. Thanks to their protective mix of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals, vegetables are thought to help decrease inflammation, fend off harmful free radicals and boost immunity.
Health benefits: To reap their maximum nutritional benefits, though, you need to cook them right. While all cooking methods alter the nutrient composition of vegetables (and fruits), some destroy particular nutrients while others actually enhance nutrient content.
Which vitamins are most likely to be destroyed by cooking?
Vitamin C and many of the B vitamins are the most unstable nutrients when it comes to cooking. Because they're water-soluble, they leach out of vegetables into the cooking water. If you boil your vegetables or microwave using too much water, you'll end up with less thiamine, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and a lot less vitamin C.
According to a review by researchers at the University of California, Davis, as much as 55 per cent of the vitamin C in vegetables is lost during home cooking (compared with raw). Vitamin C is also easily degraded by heat.
Polyphenols – phytochemicals plentiful in kale, spinach and broccoli – are also susceptible to degradation during cooking.
Fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, E and K are more stable and fare better during cooking. So do carotenoids (e.g., beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein), antioxidants found in leafy greens, carrots, winter squash, sweet potato and, in the case of lycopene, tomatoes.
Water is the enemy when it comes to nutrient losses during cooking. That's why steaming is one of the best methods to preserve easily damaged nutrients, such as vitamin C and many B vitamins. Since vegetables don't come in contact with cooking water during steaming, more vitamins are retained.
Dry cooking methods such as grilling, roasting and stir-frying also retain a greater amount of nutrients than boiling. If you prefer to boil your vegetables, save the nutrient-rich cooking water to add to soups and sauces.
Contrary to popular belief, microwaving does not kill nutrients in vegetables. In fact, it may outrank steaming when it comes to retaining antioxidants.
A 2009 report in the Journal of Food Science found that compared with boiling, pressure cooking and baking, microwave cooking helped maintain the highest levels of antioxidants in beans, beets, artichoke, asparagus, garlic, onion and spinach. Microwave cooking increased antioxidant activity in eggplant, corn, peppers and Swiss chard. On the other hand, boiling and pressure cooking led to the greatest antioxidant losses.
Cornell researchers found that spinach retained nearly all of its folate when microwaved but lost most of the B vitamin when boiled on the stove.
Microwave ovens use less heat than many other cooking methods and involve shorter cooking times. If you use a minimal amount of water and don't overcook your vegetables, microwave cooking is a nutritional win. (A 2003 study concluded that microwaving destroyed most of the antioxidants in broccoli – but the researchers had added far too much water.)
Are raw vegetables healthier than cooked?
Many people think raw vegetables are more nutritious than cooked, but that's not always the case. Cooking vegetables breaks down the plants' cell walls, releasing more of the nutrients bound to those cell walls. Cooked vegetables supply more antioxidants, including beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene, than they do when raw.
Cooked vegetables also deliver more minerals. Spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard are high in calcium, but a compound called oxalic acid binds with calcium. Heating releases bound calcium, making more of the mineral available for the body to absorb. Cooking vegetables also increases the amount of magnesium and iron that are available to the body.
But, in some cases vegetables may be better for you raw than cooked. Cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts – contain an enzyme called myrosinase, which, when you chop or chew these vegetables, converts glucosinolates (phytochemicals) to anti-cancer compounds called isothiocyanates.
The problem: Myrosinase is easily destroyed by heat. Cooking cruciferous vegetables reduces the conversion of glucosinolates to their active isothiocyanates, which may reduce their cancer-fighting potential.
According to research published in 2009, steaming led to the lowest loss of glucosinolates in broccoli while stir-frying and boiling (both higher-heat cooking methods) caused the greatest loss.
Are frozen vegetables less nutritious?
Cooking isn't the only way vegetables can lose nutrients. Before fresh vegetables reach your steamer basket or microwave, some of their nutritional value can be degraded during the time they're transported to a distribution center, displayed in the grocery store and stored in your refrigerator. When possible, buy produce from farmers' markets to reduce the time from harvest to table.
When vegetables are out of season, consider frozen.
Frozen vegetables closely match the nutrient content of their freshly picked counterparts because they're flash-frozen at peak ripeness, a time when they're most nutrient-packed. (Vegetables that are shipped to the produce section of grocery stores are usually picked before they are ripe, giving them less time to develop their full nutritional potential.
The bottom line:
No one cooking method will preserve 100 per cent of the nutrients and protective phytochemicals in vegetables. So don’t limit yourself to one cooking method or eating only salad.
Eat your vegetables roasted, grilled, steamed, boiled in a soup, microwaved and raw. Enjoy them fresh (locally grown when possible) and frozen. The more variety you have, the more likely you are to eat them. And that's the whole point.