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Super Fruits and Veggies

July 8, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know my general philosophy is to steer you toward antioxidant and nutrient dense whole foods that are low in sugar. This is the basic tenet of most low carbohydrate diets. But there is a common misconception about carb reduced menu plans and that is that they can’t include plenty of vegetables and even some fruit. This is simply not the case. Today I’ll focus on several exceptional fruits and vegetables that can be deliciously incorporated into almost any diet. These are the exact types of foods that have enjoyed a favorable scientific spotlight for years now. In addition, I’ll provide some very simple ways in which you can prepare these nutritional gems to enhance flavor while keeping prep time in check.

It’s summer here in sunny Southern California. So let’s start out with some seasonal fruits: blueberries and strawberries. Both of these flavor packed berries have a low glycemic index (under 55) and glycemic load (under 10). The glycemic index (GI) of a food indicates the immediate effect it’s expected to have on your blood sugar levels. It essentially defines how quickly a consumed carbohydrate converts to sugar within the body. The glycemic load (GL) provides a broader view of foods by assessing their total carbohydrate content based on the serving size. By looking at both numbers we can make a reasonable determination about how they’ll impact both blood sugar response and insulin production.

  • Glycemic Index Scale - 0-55 is considered low glycemic. 56-69 falls under the “medium” classification and 70+ indicates a high glycemic food.
  • Glycemic Load Scale - 0-10 foods have a low glycemic load. 11-19 foods possess a medium GL. 20 or higher on the GL scale applies to foods with a high glycemic load.

Blueberries have a GI of 53 and GL of 5. They’re also an incredibly rich source of antioxidants, which may help ward off everything from cancer to diabetes, heart disease and even memory loss. (1,2,3,4)

Strawberries have a GI of 40 and a GL of 1. They’re also packed with health promoting phytochemicals that are associated with lower cholesterol, healthy circulation and cancer protection. (5,6,7)

You can make a simple, refreshing treat by adding ripe blueberries and strawberries, cold water and coconut milk, a few ice cubes and a touch of a natural, zero-calorie sweetener such as luo han guo or stevia into a blender. Process the ingredients until they’re thick and creamy, and enjoy! The coconut milk not only lends a tropical flavor profile to this frozen drink, but it’s fat content will further help blunt your blood sugar/insulin response.

Bok choy, also known as Chinese cabbage, is a fantastic and versatile vegetable that’s ideal for lower carbohydrate diets. In fact, it has a staggeringly low glycemic index of 0! It’s a wonderful source of fiber, vitamins C and K, and also contains a hefty amount of the heart health mineral potassium. The medical literature promotes this cruciferous family member as a way to increase vitamin A levels in children and as a natural chemoprotective substance in the fight against breast and prostate cancer. (8,9,10) Its effect on hormonal cancers appears to come from glucosinolates and indoles, a group of substances that seem to augment the processing of estrogens so that cancer growth is discouraged.

This video demystifies how to easily and healthfully prepare this under-utilized vegetable. Adding garlic, ginger and red bell pepper (another low-GI/GL veggie) not only entices the taste buds, but also adds a considerable boost to the cardiovascular benefits of this dish.

The final stop in the produce aisle brings us to organic avocados. Avocados are often referred to as vegetables, but they’re actually a fruit. What makes this particular “berry” unique is the high concentration of monounsaturated fats it contains. Its high fiber content is ideal for promoting healthy blood sugar levels. But there so many other reasons to include this creamy delight into your regular diet. For instance, avocados are rich in phytosterols which can help lower LDL cholesterol, and they’re also a phenomenal source of potassium, which aids in the management of blood pressure. In the past few years, researchers have uncovered many other health concerns that appear to respond to avocado consumption, such as diabetes, ulcers and wound healing. (11,12,13)

A snack that we regularly have at our home couldn’t be simpler to make. We start by quartering a medium sized avocado and then wrap each piece with a slice of natural prosciutto. This recipe has a fresh taste that strikes a perfect balance between the smooth, neutral avocado meat and the salty goodness of the cured pork. I’ve personally found that snacks such as these really do wonders for managing my appetite between meals.

This is just a brief introduction to a few of the healthy fruits and vegetables that I highly recommended for managing weight and overall wellness. Dietary changes don’t have to be dramatic. If you simply replace a few of the refined, higher carbohydrate foods with some of these lower GI/GL examples, I think you’ll be making a profound change for the better in the long run.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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9 Comments & Updates to “Super Fruits and Veggies”

  1. Brian Says:

    Excellent post! I only stumbled onto your blog a few days ago and I am really impressed with the quality of your posts. The documentation of research is incredibly thorough and appreciated.

    With this comment, however I wanted to put a shout out to the Baby Bok Choy. I love this stuff and sauté it up all the time with caramelized shallots and garlic. I then mix in some rice or quinoa to make it a little more complex in texture to round out the side dish. Thanks for pointing the video out… I don’t ever cook the bok choy separately, I’ll have to try that and see the difference.

  2. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Brian. I’m happy you’ve found the site! :)

    I love both garlic and shallots. In fact, tonight I plan to caramelize some shallots and sprinkle them on top of some homemade mashed cauliflower which will be served with a wild salmon fillet. That’s my idea of healthy comfort food. :-)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Paul Fanton Says:

    JP.

    Great article, packed with super useful delicious
    advice!
    We will implement it!

    Paul

  4. JP Says:

    Thanks, Paul!

    I’m happy to hear it! I just had the berry/coconut smoothie this afternoon. Good stuff. I hope you enjoy it too! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Aymen Says:

    great article, thanks for posting. you can never go wrong with veggies and fruits.

  6. JP Says:

    Thanks, Aymen!

    Be well!

    JP

  7. EelynnLee Says:

    Oil made from coconuts actually contains a whopping 85 to 90 per cent saturated fat and it raises cholesterol. So is it good to consume coconut milk?

  8. JP Says:

    Eelynn,

    Individuals results will vary but unrefined coconut oil may actually improve cholesterol ratios by increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058

    I sometimes add organic coconut milk to my protein shakes and smoothies.

    Be well!

    JP

  9. JP Says:

    Update 06/26/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26109579?dopt=Abstract

    Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun 24.

    High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative.

    BACKGROUND: The consumption of sweetened beverages, refined foods, and pastries has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of depression in longitudinal studies. However, any influence that refined carbohydrates has on mood could be commensurate with their proportion in the overall diet; studies are therefore needed that measure overall intakes of carbohydrate and sugar, glycemic index (GI), and glycemic load.

    OBJECTIVE: We hypothesized that higher dietary GI and glycemic load would be associated with greater odds of the prevalence and incidence of depression.

    DESIGN: This was a prospective cohort study to investigate the relations between dietary GI, glycemic load, and other carbohydrate measures (added sugars, total sugars, glucose, sucrose, lactose, fructose, starch, carbohydrate) and depression in postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study at baseline between 1994 and 1998 (n = 87,618) and at the 3-y follow-up (n = 69,954).

    RESULTS: We found a progressively higher dietary GI to be associated with increasing odds of incident depression in fully adjusted models (OR for the fifth vs. first quintile: 1.22; 95% CI: 1.09, 1.37), with the trend being statistically significant (P = 0.0032). Progressively higher consumption of dietary added sugars was also associated with increasing odds of incident depression (OR for the fifth vs. first quintile: 1.23; 95% CI: 1.07, 1.41; P-trend = 0.0029). Higher consumption of lactose, fiber, nonjuice fruit, and vegetables was significantly associated with lower odds of incident depression, and nonwhole/refined grain consumption was associated with increased odds of depression.

    CONCLUSIONS: The results from this study suggest that high-GI diets could be a risk factor for depression in postmenopausal women. Randomized trials should be undertaken to examine the question of whether diets rich in low-GI foods could serve as treatments and primary preventive measures for depression in postmenopausal women.

    Be well!

    JP

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