Eating more fresh vegetables is one of the simplest choices you can make to improve your overall health. A vegetable-rich diet can help protect you from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and can even help slow down your body’s aging process.
A recent study found that people who consume seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day have a 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat less than one portion—and vegetables have the greatest impact.
Eating a variety of fresh vegetables is always desirable, but there are ways to boost their nutritional value even further. My favorites are fermenting, juicing, and sprouting.
Fermenting is one of the best ways to turn ordinary vegetables into superfoods. The culturing process produces beneficial microbes that are extremely important for your health as they help balance your intestinal flora, thereby boosting overall immunity. When fermenting vegetables, you can either use a starter culture or simply allow the natural enzymes, and good bacteria in and on the vegetables, to do all the work. This is called “wild fermentation.” Personally, I prefer a starter culture, as it provides a larger number of different species and the culture can be optimized with species that produce high levels of vitamin K2.
For more than a year, we’ve been making two to three gallons of fermented vegetables every week in our Chicago office for our staff to enjoy. We use a starter culture of the same probiotic strains that we sell in our store as a supplement, which has been researched by our team to produce about 10 times the amount of vitamin K2 as any other starter culture.
Juicing provides an easy way for you to consume more vegetables and a greater variety of them, as well as providing ALL of those important nutrients in an easily assimilated form. Virtually every health authority recommends that we get six to eight servings of vegetables and fruits per day, but very few of us actually get that. Juicing is an easy way to reach your daily vegetable quota. Raw juice can be likened to a “living broth,” as it is teeming with micronutrients and good bacteria that many people are lacking.
When you drink fresh-made green juice, it is almost like receiving an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because they go straight into your system without needing to be broken down. Drinking your juice first thing in the morning can give you a natural energy boost without resorting to stimulants like coffee. Since the juice is so easily digested, it can help revitalize your energy levels in as little as 20 minutes. Juicing is also an excellent way to get your vegetables in if you have issues with fiber, as discussed earlier.
Sprouting is a perfect complement to juicing! Sprouts are a superfood that many people overlook, as they offer a concentrated source of nutrition that’s different from eating the vegetable in its mature form. Sprouts provide some of the highest quality protein you can eat and can contain up to 30 times the nutrient content of home-grown organic vegetables. They’re also easy to grow with very little space and time. Some of the most common sprouts include alfalfa, mung bean, wheatgrass, peas, broccoli, and lentils—but my personal favorites are sunflower and watercress. You can even sprout garlic! Sprouts have the following beneficial attributes:
Support for cell regeneration
Powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes that protect against free radical damage
Alkalinizing effect on your body, which is thought to protect against disease, including cancer (as many tumors are acidic)
Abundantly rich in oxygen, which can also help protect against abnormal cell growth, viruses, and bacteria that cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment
Vegetables May Reduce Bloating—But Increase Them Gradually
Once your digestive tract is working optimally, the fiber in vegetables will help flush out waste and gastric irritants, thereby minimizing bloating by keeping things moving along. When changing your diet, do so gradually, because suddenly eating lots of vegetables, or radically increasing your dietary fiber when you’re not accustomed to doing so, can be a shock to your system.
The microbial environment in your gut is accustomed to certain conditions, and changing this too abruptly can result in gastric distress, bloating, and other GI symptoms. Whenever making changes to your diet—even beneficial ones—take care to acclimate over time. If you introduce new foods and experience a problem, back off a bit and see if it helps.
According to Dr. Wayne Pickering, improper food combining is another major factor behind gas and bloating, as well as heartburn and upset stomach. If the food you eat is not digesting properly, not only can these symptoms arise, but your body will also be deprived of critical nutrients.
The two foremost rules of food combining are: 1) No proteins and starches at the same meal, and 2) No fruits and vegetables at the same meal. For more information about the principles of food combining, please listen to my interview with Dr. Pickering. More of his information is available on his site, MangoDiet.com.