By: ROXANNA COLDIRON
Edited by: KELSEY CRUZ
If you were anything like me as a child, you pushed your vegetables around your dinner plate. In fact, I used to spread them around so it often looked like I ate more than I did. However, as I grew older and started becoming more cautious of my muscle and weight, I realized vegetables were friends, not foes. I even know my way around the kitchen these days (thanks mom!) and realize that not only are veggies good for your body, they taste great, too! With the help of some great research and recipes, I found my vegetable A-team: avocados, alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, and artichokes.
“We Americans tend to be really low in fiber,” says Dawn Scott, MPH, RD, LD, registered dietitian and the Research Study Coordinator for the Community Health Center in Canal Fulton, Ohio. “The recommendations are 25-38 grams a day and most people don’t get that in a week. Asparagus, avocados, and artichokes are very high in fiber, and alfalfa sprouts are also fiber-rich.”
Avocados aren’t called a “super food” for nothing. This member of the team packs 10-11 grams of fiber and over 20 vitamins and minerals. “I like to eat it raw, like a spread on a piece of whole grain bread or sliced on salads,” Scott says.
- Tip: “Of your A-Team,” Scott says, “I think avocado is the leader.” Instead of mayo on your next sandwich, reach for an avocado. Avocados are cholesterol-free and contain “healthy fats” – the unsaturated ones our bodies need to function.
Alfalfa sprouts make a flavorful, low-calorie addition to salads and sandwiches. The USDA’s Nutrition Data chart shows that one cup (33 grams) of raw alfalfa seeds contains 8 food calories (kcal), 1.32 grams of protein, 0.6 grams of fiber, 2.7 milligrams of Vitamin C, 51 grams of Vitamin A, and 10.1 micrograms of Vitamin K.
- Tip: In past years, alfalfa sprouts received a heavy dose of bad press. “People are still scared to eat them,” Scott says, “but there’s still something to be said about knowing where your food comes from.” A huge reason for cross-contamination is that many people pack their raw meat and vegetables next to each other or on the same countertop. When you go grocery shopping, always put your meat in one of the provided plastic bags and keep it separate from your vegetables. Don’t store meat and vegetables near each other in the refrigerator, and make sure to wash your vegetables before consuming them.
- Advisory: Although alfalfa sprouts can add some kick to your meal, MedlinePlus suggests eating them in moderation. In fact, avoid them altogether if you have diabetes, any autoimmune disease, cancer of reproductive organs, or are pregnant or nursing.
Asparagus makes the team at 2.16 grams of protein per half cup. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Nutrition Data chart also shows that boiled asparagus contains 21 milligrams of calcium and 1.8 grams of fiber per half cup.
- Tip: Scott suggests grilling your asparagus. Wrap it in aluminum foil with other flavorful vegetables or keep it simple with oil, sea salt, or lemon juice. For a sweeter treat, sprinkle brown sugar and butter on it.
Artichokes kick up your palate with great flavor and taste. How? They contain cynarin, a flavor-enhancing compound that also aids in digestion and reduces cholesterol. Winning!
- Tip: “I’m a big advocate of artichokes,” Scott says. “They look like a flower, and you eat the meat off the leaf until you get to the heart, which you’ve probably had on a pizza.” If you’re not sure how to prepare artichokes or want a few ideas to jumpstart your menu, check out this recipe on The Food Network. Artichokes can enhance dips, salads, or pasta dishes or creamed into soup.
Ladies, what are you waiting for? Hit the grocery store and create a fun, flavorful, healthy meal with this vegetable A-team today!