Vegetables are the roots, the stalks, or the leaves of plants. In other words, vegetables are any part of any edible plant that isn’t the fruit. They come in an incredible variety of textures, colors, and flavors.
Fruit, by contrast, is the seed-bearing food that forms from the flowers of plants and trees. Squash, pumpkin, cucumbers, and tomatoes are frequently thought of as vegetables when in reality they’re fruit, as evidenced by the fact that they all contain seeds. Regardless of their categorization, all these fruits are savory like vegetables and comparably nutritious. For all practical purposes, you can think of these foods as vegetables unless you’re taking a botany exam.
One of the most consistent findings in the entire field of nutrition is that people who eat the most vegetables and fruit tend to enjoy far better health than people who eat the least produce. They are generally leaner and less likely to die from cancer and heart disease. Accordingly, governments worldwide have long promoted the “5-a-day” concept to encourage people to eat more produce. But many health experts believe that even five servings of vegetables and fruits a day fall short of what’s optimal, and that we would be better off striving to eat at least seven servings a day.
No matter how great your cooking skills, the only way to eat substantial amounts of vegetables is to buy (or grow!) substantial amounts of vegetables. So when you’re out shopping, make a point of surveying your cart before you push it to the check-out lane. If you realize you’re light on veggies, just head back to the produce section and make amends. And remember that a supermarket is rarely the best place to buy produce. If you’ve got a farmers’ market in your community you’ll be able to find a far better quality of produce than what your supermarket is likely to carry.
The best way to increase the amount of vegetables you eat is to learn to cook veggie-heavy meals. Ideally, you’ll get yourself to the point where you know at least one way to prepare any vegetable you encounter. The quickest way to do this is to learn how to roast or grill vegetables, since nearly all vegetables are wonderful when prepared this way. You can master the techniques for roasting or grilling vegetables in an afternoon. One of the most delicious methods of vegetable preparation is to cook broccoli or cauliflower on a George Foreman Grill, then season it with a little Earth Balance margarine, or some coconut oil and salt.
Stir-frying is another easy way to make a delicious veggie-heavy meal. They’re easy to make, and perfect for serving over rice, pasta, or any cooked grain. Plus, you can add further variety by seasoning them with any number of sauces including peanut sauce, teriyaki, garlic & tamari, or tahini dressing. To the learn the ins-and-outs of making a world-class stir-fry, check chapter 22 of the Ultimate Vegan Guide.
Soups are a terrific vehicle for adding massive amounts of vegetables to your diet. Just be conscious of the fact that most soups deliver a far greater jolt of sodium than do foods that taste far saltier, like potato chips or tamari-roasted almonds. Perhaps the best way to make soup is in a slow-cooker, since with five minutes’ preparation you can go away for a few hours and return to a steaming pot of perfectly-cooked soup. There are several excellent vegan soup cookbooks and slow-cooker cookbooks on the market.
And finally, salads are the most obvious way to add heaps of veggies to your diet. Many people’s only exposure to salad involves uninspired offerings consisting of iceberg lettuce, Italian dressing, and maybe a couple other vegetables. But a good salad made with an impressive selection of fresh vegetables can be one of the delicious things you’ll ever eat. Grated root vegetables like carrots, beets, and parsnips can provide color and crunch. And the addition of purple cabbage and finely-chopped leafy greens like kale can likewise take your salad to the next level.
Nothing will improve your salads as much as a salad spinner. When you use one of these you’ll be able to quickly spin off a shockingly large amount of water—water that if left on your veggies would dilute your salad dressing and keep it from clinging to your vegetables.
Whether you’re making stir-fries, soups, roasted vegetables, or salads, strive to get as many different colors into your meal as possible. More colors mean a more visually appealing meal with a greater diversity of flavors, plus you’ll also be guaranteeing yourself a wider range of nutrients.