more and more research reveals just how drastically nutrition affects
overall physical health, a plant-based diet — one rich in foods
grown from the Earth — is gaining popularity, and for good reason.
"One of the best benefits of plant-based foods is that they’re
the most nutrient dense — you’re getting more bang for your
nutritional buck, so to say, in plants because they’re packed with
vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals," says Betty Holloway, an
independent nutritional consultant and a registered dietician with
NuGenesis and ProHealth Care.
are naturally occurring "plant boosters" that act as
antioxidants, enhancing our health by destroying the free radicals
produced by metabolism. A tomato, for example, contains a
phytochemical called lycopene that protects it from UV radiation.
"Since it (the tomato) can’t put on sunscreen or a hat or hide
under an umbrella, the tomato has created this means to protect
itself," explains Holloway. "When we eat concentrated cooked
tomatoes in a little oil as in marinara or pizza sauce, we derive the
same antioxidant benefits from this protective nutrient."
Eating a variety
of plant-based foods is equally important. "These foods work
together synergistically. The relationships between them are more
powerful together than if eaten alone," says Holloway, adding
that color is a good indicator of nutritional potency. "‘Eat
the rainbow’ is what we like to tell our customers," echoes
Kelly Barrios, the cafe manager at Good Harvest Market in Pewaukee.
"If you look at our salad bar, for example, you can, quite
literally, eat the rainbow."
and Barrios discuss different approaches to preparing plant-based
foods and why some techniques are better than others.
dispels any myths claiming that all frozen foods lack nutrition.
"If they’re flash frozen at their peak, they retain a lot of
their nutritional quality. You don’t need to avoid a fruit or
vegetable if it’s not in season," she says. Frozen berries are
encouraged during the winter months, when their availability is low
and cost high.
may be controversial, but there’s no denying its efficiency.
Microwaving is best done briefly for thawing or reheating — not done
over long periods of time, says Holloway. For fresh corn on the cob,
she suggests wrapping the cob in parchment paper and briefly
microwaving it. This process causes less vitamin loss than boiling the
you can eat it raw, eat it raw," says Barrios, adding that leafy
greens like kale and romaine are especially beneficial in raw form.
Despite the fact that raw foods are the most nutritionally dense,
Holloway is quick to note that an entirely raw diet is neither
encouraged nor health-conscious. "There’s a notion that you
shouldn’t ever eat cooked food because heating destroys the enzymes,
but your body isn’t meant to digest such large quantities of fibrous
foods," says Holloway. "We were designed to have diets rich
in both raw and cooked foods." Both Barrios and Holloway
recommend raw nuts as a source of healthy fat and protein.
Roast: Stick to
an assortment of seasonally appropriate vegetables and allium when
roasting. In the summer months, combine a single layer of
Mediterranean vegetables like peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes
and mushrooms on a baking sheet, season with salt, pepper and fresh
garlic, and toss in olive oil. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes,
creating a caramelizing effect. "It makes the vegetables very
sweet and tasty," says Holloway. The best part? Roasted veggies
are just as tasty served cold and used as leftovers in salads, wraps
carefully, as many nutrients are retained in the cooking liquid.
Holloway says that eating everything — and not throwing away the
cooking liquid — is key. "With boiled carrots, for example, you
lose the fat-soluble vitamin beta carotene when you pour out the
water," she explains. "When you make soup, you drink the
broth, so make soup often." Incorporating legumes (beans), a
great source of protein, fiber and low glycemic carbohydrates,
vitamins and minerals, into the soup creates a well-balanced,
warns that many dried fruits are pre-sweetened and contain extra
sugar. She says to check the label — look for "100 percent
dehydrated" instead of "dehydrated and sugared."
Combining iron-rich foods like apricots and prunes, which usually
contain no added sugars, and raw nuts provide a healthful source of
foods like kale, legumes and whole intact grains (think quinoa,
barley and steel-cut oats) are packed with protein —
oftentimes putting their animal-based competition to shame. Don’t
believe us? Here’s a comparison in nutritional density of 100
calories of sirloin steak vs. 100 calories of kale to prove the
calories of sirloin steak vs. 100 calories of kale
contains twice as much protein, four times more iron, 190 times
more calcium, 800 times more provitamin A, 15 times more folate,
12 times more magnesium and 11,000 times more antioxidants.