The Many Health Benefits of Vegetables
By Madalina Hubert
Vegetables are one of nature’s gifts to our bodies. They are light, hydrating and rich in nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fibre.
In addition to their many health benefits, vegetables tend to be low in fat and calories, thus making them especially good for the waistline.
Traditional medicines around the world have acknowledged their beneficial properties for thousands of years. Medical practitioners have classified each vegetable according to its properties that target specific ailments. In recent years, modern medical experiments have also confirmed many of these findings.
Here are some highlights of the health benefits of popular vegetables:
- Cleanses the body
- Boosts brainpower
- Improves women’s health
- Boosts immune system
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
- Fights poisons
- Improves blood circulation
- Protects the eyes
- Benefits the heart
- Expels parasites
- Improves digestion
- Helps the reproductive system
Benefits of Vegetables: Vegetarian Meat Substitutes
Even with the many health benefits of vegetables, they are just one component of a well-rounded diet that includes fruits, meats and dairy. Each of these food categories plays an important role in the overall health of the human body. That is why for vegetarian and vegan diets, it is important to find meat substitutes to replace the nutrients the body is not getting. These include protein, essential amino acids, as well as certain vitamins and minerals.
Here are some popular meat substitutes:
Made from fermented soybeans that have been pressed into a compact cake, tempeh is rich in prebiotics, protein, calcium and antioxidants, among other nutrients. With a slightly nutty taste and chewy texture, it can be cooked alongside other vegetables. Note, however, to look for organic or non-GMO varieties, as soybeans are often genetically modified.
One of the most popular meat substitutes, tofu is made from soy milk, pressed into white blocks of different degrees of firmness. It is a versatile source of protein and essential amino acids. Tofu can be cooked easily as part of any meal, and usually acts like a sponge, taking on the flavour of the accompanying ingredients.
This family of vegetables is packed with proteins and other nutrients found in meat such as iron and zinc. Examples of legumes include beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, and tamarind. Legumes tend to be hearty, filling foods that are usually paired with rice or bread and other vegetables. They also work well in soups, stews, salads and dips.
Other filling vegetables that help compensate for meat include mushrooms, nuts, and seeds.
Benefits of Vegetables: Tips from Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) places importance on ensuring a healthy and active digestive system. Since this system needs warm active energy, TCM encourages eating more warm meals and drinks to keep the stomach and spleen working well.
According to TCM, eating too many raw meals can lead to an imbalance in the body, and thus to health problems. That is why it’s important to pay attention to cooking, or even just lightly steaming the food to get the most out of the health benefits of vegetables. This is especially important for vegetarians since fruit and vegetables have a predominantly cooling nature.
However, not all fruits and vegetables are cool in nature. According to TCM, even when eaten raw, some have naturally warming energy. These include: pumpkin, walnuts, pungent foods (such as ginger, garlic, onions and chilli peppers), sweet peppers, and coriander.
For a list of foods and their temperature properties, click here
Finally, as you keep these tips in mind, here are some delicious Asian vegetarian recipes you can easily prepare at home:
Madalina Hubert is a Toronto-based writer specializing in art, culture, travel, and culinary explorations.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are purely informational and educational in nature. The information is not a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.