What are your favorite veggies? Are you a creature of habit or do you seek variety? Many Americans, according to a national health survey, aren’t getting the recommended 5-7 servings of veggies a day. Another study showed that people habitually consume a range of “favorite” foods, which often are lower in phytonutrients. The author suggested that Americans could increase their phytonutrient intake by making occasional substitutions - such as a person who “loves strawberries” switching occasionally to Concord grapes- one of the highest sources of anthocyanins (192 per serving, compared to 61 in strawberries and 17 in apples per the USDA.) Over the past few years, we’ve become more knowledgeable about including a variety of colors, and choosing darker colors on the spectrum: for instance, it's now common to see kale become a popular substitute for iceburg lettuce. Recently, experts have published numerous books about Superfoods, encouraging us to incorporate more of these nutrient-rich veggies into our diets.
In addition to specific veggies, researchers are also looking at traditional ways of eating – combinations of veggies, spices and oils from cultures around the world. In a study by Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, a Mediterranean style diet – rich in tomatoes, greens and EVOO – helped people maintain their memory longer. The traditional diet of Okinawa has also been studied: it features root veggies (such as sweet potatoes) flavored with medicinal herbs, greens and soy, and has similar health benefits.
Thinking of Nature’s bounty, we are invited to enjoy the abundance of phytonutrients – nourishing and healthful colors and flavors from the farm. We can learn from traditional foodways to see where our own diets might be out of balance.