A new study from the universities of Texas and Southern California revealed that spinach, broccoli and carrots seem to have a super power: merely eating 2 fist-full portions of leafy greens and certain vegetables with beta-carotene (like carrots) per day helped reduce body fat, lower the risk of liver disease, type 2 diabetes and other diseases.
The study targeted childhood obesity and its related health concerns. Even though the children in the study failed to eat the entire recommended daily allowance of nutritious vegetables, as stipulated by the US Department of Agriculture, the improvements to their health were still significant. This highlighted the fact that it was not the quantity of vegetables that provided the benefits as much as the kind of vegetable that was eaten.
The study found that even adding small amounts of green leafy vegetables and carrots—about quarter of a cup per day— led to improved insulin levels and a reduction in bad fats in the body.
“Bad fat’ refers to visceral fat, body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and is therefore stored around a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines.
Visceral fat is also referred to as “active fat” because it can negatively affect how our hormones function. Bad fat can send the wrong signals to our brain about when and how much to eat. Storing higher amounts of visceral fat is associated with increased risks of a number of health problems including type 2 diabetes. For this reason, weight loss is an important health consideration.
Researchers in the study concluded that it is the type of vegetable that matters, noting that starchier vegetables, such as corn and potatoes, did not give the same positive effects.
Health-promoting cruciferous vegetables:
Arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, daikon radish, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip, watercress.
Health-promoting vegetables with beta-carotene:
Carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, cos or romaine lettuce, broccoli
It is important (especially at this time of year for those in colder climates) to point out that Ayurveda recommends cooking vegetables rather than eating vegetables raw. Eating raw vegetables can aggravate vata. While many worry that cooking vegetables will eliminate many vitamins and minerals, cooking helps us digest our food without expanding huge amounts of energy. Unless you have super digestive powers, you will actually end up getting more nutrients out of your food if you steam your vegetables until they are fork friendly.
In fact, cooked carrots, spinach, asparagus, cabbage, peppers, brussels sprouts and many other vegetables actually supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw. Another study, published in 2002 showed that cooking carrots increases their level of beta-carotene.
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