fresh_veg_dayToday is Fresh Veggies Day. Take a vow to eat healthy today (and everyday), with fresh veggies for every meal, and for snack, too. Better still, be a vegetarian for a day. Your body will like it.

Fresh vegetables are tasty, far better tasting than canned or frozen vegetables. They are also healthy and highly nutritious. This makes it easy to add fresh vegetables to the menu at every meal, and for snacking. This time of year, there are plenty of fresh vegetables at your local grocery store, or in your backyard vegetable garden.

Five portions a day? Seven? Ten? Nutritionists agree that when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, most of us just aren’t getting enough. Make a change on Fresh Veggies Day, and invite family and neighbors around for a fun and surprising meat-free feast.

Originally, Fresh Veggies Day was celebrated in early summer, when the tastiest new-season vegetables start to become plentiful. With one eye on the weather, take a trip to your local farmers’ market or specialist food store and stock up on whatever is ripe – along with some free recipe ideas. For some early crops, you may even be able to go to a farm and pick your own: why not get some friends together and plan a day out?

Of course, most gardeners will tell you that nothing beats the pride, satisfaction and taste of home-grown veg. Seed clubs and gardening forums make it easy, and affordable, to cultivate your own weird and wonderful varieties.

Benefits of Eating Fresh Veggies

Weight Loss
Vegetables contain low amounts of fats and calories. They are also a good source of dietary fiber. The low fat and calorie content of vegetables makes them a perfect substitute for foods with higher calorie content, such as carbohydrates and proteins. To shed excess weight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends substituting high calorie foods such as eggs with raw vegetables. Owing to their high fiber content, raw vegetables leave you feeling full for longer and hence reduce food cravings.

Good for the Heart
Eating foods rich in fiber is associated with a lower risk of developing heart ailments. Soluble fibers found in vegetables such as gum, pectin and psyllium dissolve in water, forming a gel-like matrix. This solution absorbs bile acids and cholesterol and eliminates them from your body. Since bile acids are formed from cholesterol, your body tries to replenish them by using the cholesterol available in the bloodstream. According to a research study by Maastricht University scientists, published in May 2008 in “Psychology & Behavior,” water-soluble fibers lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol” in the bloodstream. This cholesterol sticks on the walls of blood vessels and makes them narrow, leading to cardiovascular disease. Another study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, published in September 2005 in “The British Journal of Nutrition,” also found out that insoluble fiber lowers cholesterol intake.

Lowers Cancer Risk
Eating raw cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli lowers the risk of developing cancer. A study published in February 2008 in “Food and Chemical Toxicology” by scientists at the University of Essex indicated that cooking lowers the volume of anticancer compounds known as isothiocyanates and glucosinolates in the brassica family of vegetables.

Maintains Healthy Body
A joint study carried by scientists from University of California at Los Angeles and Louisiana State University found raw vegetables contain higher amounts of antioxidants. These antioxidants include vitamins C and E, folic acid, lycopene, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Vitamins C and E neutralize free radicals and protect your body cells. Lycopene — a naturally-occurring pigment in colored vegetables such as tomatoes and apricots — boosts your immune system and also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Folic acid is necessary for the formation of red blood-cells and proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Beta-carotene, found in brightly colored vegetables, protects the skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. It also slows down the aging process and reduces the risk of diseases associated with old age.