An Easy Way to Double Your Vegetable Intake

vegetables, mediterranean diet, dietIn a new study, women more than doubled their fruit and vegetable intakes and dramatically increased their consumption of "good" fats when they were counseled by registered dietitians and provided with a list of nutritional guidelines reflecting the traditional Mediterranean diet.

The six-month study divided 69 women into two groups. Women in one group continued their usual diet and did not receive any dietary counseling. In the other group, registered dietitians used an "exchange list" of foods that are common in a Mediterranean diet to make a plan for each participant. The list included suggested servings of several categories of foods, such as dark green vegetables.

The group that followed the exchange-list plan reached their nutritional goals within three months, and maintained the change for the six-month duration of the study. The comparison group, however, made few dietary changes.

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with health benefits such as lower risks for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Recent studies also have suggested that such a diet can increase longevity.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

In many ways the Mediterranean diet is head and shoulders  ahead of the standard American diet. It emphasizes fresh vegetables, which is something most people could use more of, while downplaying processed foods. (Reducing your intake of MSG, a neurotoxin, and high fructose corn syrup, which aggravates inflammation, will in and of itself have a positive impact on your health.) 

Studies have shown that following the Mediterranean diet can help:

The main thrust behind this latest study was to devise an effective method to achieve the major nutrient intakes of the Greek-Mediterranean diet using American foods. They found that women were able to successfully change their dietary habits when guided by a nutritional counselor. 

Using an "exchange list" for foods common in a Mediterranean diet, the participants were able to more than double their fruit and vegetable intakes and dramatically increase their consumption of healthy fats.  

This is good news, and certainly something most everyone could do. 

The list included suggested servings, or exchanges, of several categories of foods, including:  

  • 8-10 servings (or exchanges) each day of high monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), such as olive or hazelnut oil, avocado and macadamia nuts
  • Limits on fats that are low in MUFA, such as corn oil, margarine, tahini, pine nuts and sesame seeds.
  • One or more servings a day of dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, peas and spinach
  • At least one exchange per day of garlic, onions and leeks
  • One tablespoon or more per day of green herbs, such as basil, cilantro, peppermint and sage
  • One or more servings a day of red vegetables, such as tomatoes, tomato sauce and salsa
  • One or more servings a day of yellow or orange vegetables, such as carrots, red bell peppers and pumpkin
  • One or more servings a day of other vegetables, such as artichokes, cucumber, green beans and sugar snap peas
  • One or more servings a day of vitamin C fruits, such as oranges, mangoes and strawberries
  • One or more servings a day of other fruits, such as apples, bananas and grapes

The Easiest Way to Increase Your Vegetable Intake

One of the absolute easiest and most efficient ways to optimize your vegetable intake is to juice your vegetables.

Not only will juicing help your body absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables by making them easily digestible, but you’re also avoiding the risk of damaging any of their sensitive micronutrients through cooking. Cooking and processing food destroys micronutrients by altering their shape and chemical composition.

It also allows you greater freedom to add a wider variety of vegetables to your diet that you may not normally enjoy eating whole. This way, you’re working with the principle of regular food rotation, which will lessen your chances of developing food allergies.

For more in-depth guidelines and information about juicing, I recommend you review the juicing section of my nutrition plan.

Selecting the Best Vegetables for Your Nutritional Type

You can easily optimize the benefits from your dietary choices by determining your nutritional type, and selecting fruits and vegetables that are best suited for your unique biochemistry.

According to Nutritional Typing principles, if you are a carb type, vegetable juicing is highly recommended if you want to regain your health. Juicing is also beneficial for mixed types, whereas protein types need to follow some specific guidelines to make it work for them.

If you are a protein type, juicing needs to be done cautiously. The only vegetables that should be juiced are your prime protein-type vegetables that are lower in potassium:

  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • String beans
  • Cauliflower (including the base)

Regular lettuces and typically wonderful vegetables like collard greens, kale and Swiss chard are far too high in potassium for protein types and will tend to cause biochemical imbalances.

It is also important to keep your serving size of juice to no more than 6 oz., but don't be surprised if you find that as little as 3-4 oz. of juice feels like the right serving size for you. For a protein type, 3-4 oz. of juice is a significant amount.

Also, to make drinking vegetable juice compatible with protein type metabolism (which needs high amounts of fat), it is important to blend a source of raw fat into your juice. The types of raw fat I recommend most are:

  • Raw cream
  • Raw butter
  • Raw eggs
  • Avocado
  • Coconut butter
  • Freshly ground flax seed

In addition to adding a source of raw fat to your juice, you may also find that adding some, or even all, of the vegetable pulp into your juice helps to make drinking the juiced vegetables more satisfying.