MYTH: Vegetarian Diets Are Healthier Than Meat-Eating Diets

Thinking about going vegetarian – or vegan? It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it’s much more difficult to stay healthy on a plant-based diet than on a balanced meat-eating one.

The Truth: Yes, eating tons of veggies is healthy, but cutting out entire food groups is never a good idea.

There are so many misconceptions about the vegetarian diet that it’s getting harder to define exactly what a vegetarian is! So let’s clear that up first: Being a vegetarian means that you do not eat any animals — this includes pigs, chickens, cows, sea animals, and every other animal. If you are a vegan, this means that you eat no percent animal-protein products: That translates into no eggs, no dairy, and no meat or food processed using animal products. Vegans also avoid using products that have been tested on animals or made from animal skins. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are many other names for vegetarians who eat (or don’t eat) fish, poultry, eggs, and/or dairy (lacto, ovo, lacto-ovo, etc.). You can see where all this starts to get confusing, right? There’s nothing wrong with being a vegetarian, and I also wholeheartedly agree that being vegan is the best thing for the planet — though I don’t believe it’s necessarily the best thing for your body for several reasons.

Humans are omnivores by nature, meaning we are able to consume plants and meats. Whenever I say this, someone will come back at me and say, “Well, how come some of the biggest and most powerful animals — like cattle and giraffes — only eat grass?” Those animals are ruminants – meaning they have an organ in their body (that humans don’t) that converts grass into protein. As human beings, we consume the animal and get the protein. We are not ruminants and it is very difficult for us to get the proper amounts of iron, vitamin B and protein from a strict vegetarian diet (and it’s even harder as a vegan).

Being a vegetarian is a full-time job. As I just stated, on a vegetarian diet, it is hard to get enough iron, vitamin B and protein, but making sure you get a good balance of all the other important vitamins and minerals can also be a challenge. Often times, people don’t have the financial means, time, access, or knowledge to prepare well-balanced, healthy meals as a vegetarian or vegan. If you want to become a vegetarian, you’ll need to educate yourself about how to supplement responsibly to make up for those deficiencies by making sure that you’re eating the right types of foods. It is even tougher to be vegan in today’s world, unless you’re preparing all of your meals at home. Most restaurants use milk or butter in many ingredients, so it’s really hard to avoid these animal products. And while more and more new vegan products are flooding the store shelves, you’ll pay steep prices for most of them.

Being any kind of vegetarian can lend itself to eating more calories. A lot of vegans turn to unhealthy, processed carbs (ironically!) because they don’t have the money for organic whole grains, or they eat a tremendous amount of soy — which I hate! Soy is a 90 percent genetically modified crop, covered in pesticides that are linked to cancer, infertility, and more health issues. (Read up on soy, then decide for yourself — but I advise you to avoid it). The best sources of protein for vegans are beans, nuts, and hemp. Watch your portion sizes when choosing them, though, because many of these protein-rich foods are high in calories.

The Bottom Line: Even if you prefer a plant-based diet most days, my advice is to eat some high-quality meat in moderation. If you’re eating beef and chicken only once a week, you can probably afford to buy the organic versions that are produced in ethical ways. Try to eatorganic dairy and eggs when you can. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, do the work to make sure you’re supplementing your diet in a healthy way.

MYTH: The Last 10 Pounds Are Impossible to Lose

The last few pounds are always the hardest to lose – but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do! Use the following tips to clean up your diet and drop those final few pounds.

The Truth: The body struggles to hold on to that last bit of fat for survival purposes, so while it is tough to lose the last five to 10 pounds, it’s definitely doable.

You know what I like to call those last 10 or 15 pounds that won’t come off no matter what you do? Vanity pounds. The term describes our desire to lose weight that, as far as our bodies are concerned, actually feels healthy. Personally, I have gained and lost the same eight vanity pounds more times than I care to admit. Losing your first 50 pounds might have been tough, but believe me, dropping those final few stubborn pounds is a whole different challenge. Here are a few rules to follow:

Completely cut out processed foods. The best way to lose weight — even those last 10 pounds — is by eating CLEAN. This means absolutely NO processed foods! While you may have been watching what you were eating before, now is the time to truly crack down. Processed food is anything that has been altered from its natural state, such as fruit that has been canned to make it last longer or refined grains. Try to restrict yourself to eat only fresh organic fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and dairy, as well as whole grains. Check the labels on all of the food you buy. If you see ingredients that are questionable — don’t buy it! If you can’t pronounce something on the ingredient list — leave it on the shelf.

Cut your sodium intake and drink more water. Just because you’re not reaching for the salt shaker at every meal doesn’t mean you’re watching your sodium intake! Salt is in nearly every food — some of the worst culprits are breads, cold cuts/cured meats, sandwiches, pizza, poultry and soup. To commit to dropping your vanity pounds, you should keep a close eye on your sodium intake and cut it down to 1,000 mg per day. Once you start looking at food labels, you may realize this is harder than you thought, but it’s possible — trust me. Also, up your water intake. Eighty ounces is equal to 10 cups of water and I would like that to be your goal each day. It won’t be hard to hit if you’re working out!

Abstain from alcohol. Booze can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. It releases estrogen into your bloodstream, promotes fat storage, and decreases muscle growth. It makes you hungry and loosens your inhibitions — so you’re more likely to give into temptations, like unhealthy food. Plus, alcoholic beverages contain more calories than most people think. If you’re serious about losing this weight, it’s best to avoid alcohol until you’re in maintenance mode.

Train at 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for 1 hour, 5 times a week. You have to exercise to lose weight — and to lose those last 10 pounds, you’ll need to push yourself. Up the intensity of your workouts and make sure you’re fitting them in at least five times a week.

The Bottom Line: You can do this! The last 10 pounds will come off, you just need to be a bit more strict with your diet. Avoid all alcohol and processed food, watch your sodium intake, drink more water, and exercise five times a week and watch those stubborn vanity pounds finally melt away.

Cherry-Oat Scones

This sweet snack is flavored with tart cherries and tangy ginger. These fruity and fiber-packed scones are perfect for enjoying with a nice cup of tea or decaf coffee after dinner.

Ingredients: Quick-cooking oats, whole-wheat flour, dark brown sugar, salt, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, dried tart cherries, unsalted butter, buttermilk

Calories: 248

TK

We ramp up the goodness this tasty breakfast classic, Cherry-Oat Scones, with fruit, grains, and low-fat buttermilk.

  • Yield: Makes: 8 scones (serving size: 1 scone)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, dried tart cherries
  • 4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling, optional
  • Fat-free Greek yogurt and sugar-free jam, for serving, optional

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 190°C. Place first 8 ingredients (through baking powder) in bowl of food processor. Pulse to combine. Add fruit and butter. Pulse again 15-20 times to form a sandy texture. Stir in buttermilk; pulse just enough to combine.

2. Drop 8 spoonfuls (about 1/2 cup each) onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Dab cold water over surface of each scone to smooth. Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp sugar, if desired. Bake until scones are golden and sugar has melted (about 30 minutes). Optional: Serve with fat-free Greek yogurt and sugar-free jam.

Calories per serving: 248
Fat per serving: 7.3g
Saturated fat per serving: 4g
Monounsaturated fat per serving: 1.6g
Polyunsaturated fat per serving: 0.3g
Protein per serving: 5g
Carbohydrates per serving: 42g
Fiber per serving: 4g
Cholesterol per serving: 16mg
Iron per serving: 2mg
Sodium per serving: 122mg
Calcium per serving: 54mg

Good to Know

You can replace the dried cherries with cranberries, raisins, or nuts.

Chisel Your Lower Half

Are your butt and thighs dragging you down? Here are the four moves to add for real results.

exercise-lower-half-body

Credit: Nathaniel Welch

Get lean legs now

You want lean, strong legs (and a tight, lifted butt!). But in the quest for toned thighs, we often overdo it and end up with bulky legs. That’s exactly what many exercises give you. Not to mention that they leave the muscles in your rear totally sedentary, leading to flat-butt syndrome. I’m not saying don’t ever run or spin, but doing so several times a week can create thigh thickness.

These four moves work multiple muscles at once while improving balance and strength. You’ll feel the burn not only in the working leg but in the supporting leg, too. Do this sequence in order (first on right side, then on left), plus 30 to 60 minutes of cardio, six times a week.

elbow-plank

Credit: Nathaniel Welch

Elbow plank with attitude butt buster

Start in plank on elbows, with right ankle resting on left calf and a slight bend in right knee (A).Keeping knee bent, lift right leg(B). Hold position, then pulse right leg up. Do 30 reps.

Engage abs throughout the move.

cross-knee-lift

Credit: Nathaniel Welch

Cross knee and butt lift

Start on all fours, with a 3-pound weight tucked into crook of right knee. Cross right knee behind left(A). Lift right leg out to side until it’s at hip-height (B). Return to “A” position. Do 30 reps.

You can do this move without weights.

hamstring-stretch

Credit: Nathaniel Welch

Attitude lift with hamstring stretch

Start on all fours, with right knee facing out to side and right shin crossed over left calf (A). Keeping knee bent, lift right leg (B). Lower back to start, then raise right leg, extending it up as you press left leg straight (C). Lower back to start. Do 30 reps.

Lift leg as high as possible.

single-arm-kick

Credit: Nathaniel Welch

Single-arm side kick

Start on all fours. Extend right leg back diagonally and point toe on ground; tuck left arm into chest(A). Drop down to left forearm; as you lift right leg, bend knee, then extend leg straight out to side (B).Return to “A.” Do 30 reps.

moody-run

Credit: Getty Images

Not there yet? Switch it up!

The brain maps movements, meaning once your body figures out a move, it stops transforming. If you are constantly doing the same exercises, yes, your body will get stronger—but only by using the same exact muscles, which can create imbalance. So change routines regularly!

by Tracy Anderson
From Health magazine

Get Toned in 10 Minutes

jumping-red-shorts

Credit: Jay Sullivan

Power moves

Add some oomph to your om with these fat—burning moves from Yoga Works NYC instructor Anna Hughes Dioguardi. This workout—based on her new Cardio Flow class—knocks off toning and cardio at the same time.

Choose a move for your arms, abs, legs and butt then do 3 sets of each 3 to 4 times a week.

table-top-press

Credit: Jay Sullivan

  

Arms: Table top press

Sit with knees bent, feet on mat, hands by hips (fingers forward). Lift hips so body forms tabletop with shoulders over hands, thighs and torso parallel to floor. Lift left foot; cross left ankle over right knee.

Bend elbows, lowering butt nearly to mat; press back up, straightening elbows and engaging triceps. Do 10 reps; switch legs and repeat.

tricky-cat-pose

Credit: Jay Sullivan

Arms: Tricky cat

Begin on all fours, knees slightly back, toes tucked under. Lift left leg so it’s parallel with floor. Bend elbows, reach chest forward, lower chest toward mat.

Then press back up and pull left knee in toward chest while rounding back and bringing head down to meet knee; straighten leg.

Do 10 reps, then switch legs and repeat.

eagle-arm-abs

Credit: Jay Sullivan

Abs: Eagle arm abs

Lie on back with knees bent to 90 degrees so calves are parallel to floor. Bend elbows, crossing right elbow on top of inside of left elbow; bring palms around and together.

Engage abs; lift shoulders and butt off floor, bringing knees and elbows together; lower back down.

Continue crunching for 30 seconds, then switch arms around and repeat.

eagle-arm-abs

Credit: Jay Sulliva

Abs: Eagle arm abs

Lie on back with knees bent to 90 degrees so calves are parallel to floor. Bend elbows, crossing right elbow on top of inside of left elbow; bring palms around and together.

Engage abs; lift shoulders and butt off floor, bringing knees and elbows together; lower back down.

Continue crunching for 30 seconds, then switch arms around and repeat

side-plank-move

Credit: Jay Sullivan

Abs: Side plank

Lie on right side, legs stacked. Push right hand into mat and lift up body to form straight, diagonal line from head to heels; raise left hand toward ceiling.

Lift left leg, bending knee while bringing it and left elbow to touch, then return to previous position.

Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

chair-twist-move

Credit: Jay Sullivan

Legs & butt: Chair twist

Stand with your feet together. Bend knees, reaching hips back (knees behind toes), lowering until thighs are nearly parallel with floor; raise arms forward and up.

Rotate torso to right and secure left elbow on outside of right knee. Hold for 3 breaths; return to starting position.

Repeat on left side; that’s 1 rep. Do 3 reps.

low-lunge-hover

Credit: Jay Sullivan

Legs & butt: Low lunge hover

Stand with feet hip-width. Step right foot back and lower into lunge, left knee over ankle; bring arms overhead.

Hinge forward at waist, lowering chest toward thigh as arms reach forward. Lift right leg while straightening left—Warrior 3; hold for 3 breaths.

Return to starting lunge. Do 3 reps; switch legs and repeat.

11 BeCan’t afford all the bulk-building supplements you’d like? This list of top bodybuilding ingredients will help you choose wisely.st Supplements for Mass

Without a doubt, you can add muscle simply by eating right and lifting weights. But to trulymaximize your growth potential, supplements are a requirement. Hence, we’ve compiled a rundown of the 11 best mass-gain supplements on which to spend your hard-earned cash. They’re listed in order of priority, from the absolute most critical, can’t-do-without supplements to the less crucial yet still highly effective ingredients for packing on size. The point is to help those on a tight budget decide which supplements to buy. If money is no object, then by all means knock yourself out and use them all as directed. Because after all, as far as we’re concerned, you can never have too much muscle.

Priority #1: Whey Protein Powder

Why it made the list: Whey tops the list of mass-gain supplements because it’s the most crucial for pushing protein synthesis. Whey is a milk protein that has a high level of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs, No. 4 on our list). Bottom line: Whey takes the crown because it digests fast and gets to your muscles rapidly to start building muscle. Whey also contains peptides (small proteins) that increase blood flow to the muscles. This is why we always recommend consuming whey protein immediately after training.

How to maximize its effects: Take 20 grams of whey protein powder in the 30 minutes before working out, and take 40 grams within 60 minutes after training. Also consider taking 20-40 grams of whey immediately upon waking every morning to kick-start muscle growth. Your best bet is to choose a whey powder that contains whey protein hydrolysates (whey protein broken down into smaller fragments for faster digestion) or whey protein isolate.

Priority #2: Casein Protein Powder

Why it made the list: The other milk protein, casein, squeaks in just under whey. Casein has always played second fiddle due to its very slow digestion rate, yet this makes it ideal as a pre-bedtime snack because it prevents catabolism while you sleep by emptying slowly and steadily. Casein also makes you feel less full, which makes it a great snack for those who want to pack on muscle mass. And new research finds that casein gives whey a run for its money – when it’s taken postworkout, casein boosts muscle protein synthesis much like whey does. It’s even suggested that a whey and casein protein shake taken after training increases muscle growth better than either protein taken alone.

How to maximize its effects: Choose a casein protein that contains micellar casein (the slowest-digesting casein you can buy) and take 20-40 grams right before going to bed. After workouts, add 10-20 grams of casein to your whey protein. Also, use 20-40 grams of casein in your protein shakes between meals.

Priority #3: Creatine

Why it made the list: Creatine is made from three amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine. Anecdotal reports and scientific studies alike find that guys who take creatine gain a good 10 pounds or more of bodyweight and increase strength dramatically. Creatine works in a number of ways. For one, it increases the amount of fast energy in your muscles needed to perform reps in the gym. The more of this fast energy that’s available, the more reps you can do with a given weight, allowing you to get bigger and stronger in the long run. Creatine also draws more water into your muscle cells, placing a stretch on the cell that increases long-term growth. Most recently, creatine has been found to increase levels of insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in muscles, which is critical for stimulating growth.

How to maximize its effects: Take 2-5 grams of creatine in the form of creatine monohydrate, creatine malate, creatine ethyl ester or creatine alpha-ketoglutarate with your protein shake immediately before workouts. This will help keep your muscles saturated with creatine, producing the rapid energy they need to perform more reps. Then consume another 2-5 grams with your postworkout shake (in addition to 40-100 grams of fast-digesting carbs), a time when creatine will be rapidly taken up by muscle cells and the boost in IGF-1 levels will help prompt further growth. On days when you don’t train, take 2-5 grams of creatine with a breakfast that contains carbohydrates.

Priority #4: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Why they made the list: The term branched-chain amino acids refers to leucine, isoleucine and valine, the absolute most important amino acids for repairing and building muscle tissue. Leucine is the most critical of the three, as research shows that it can stimulate muscle protein synthesis on its own. Yet it’s still best to take all three together, since they work in synergy to provide a multitude of benefits, including muscle growth, increased energy during workouts, the blunting of cortisol (a catabolic hormone that inhibits testosterone and increases muscle breakdown) and decreased delayed-onset muscle soreness.

How to maximize their effects: Take 5—10 grams of BCAAs with breakfast, as well as in your pre- and postworkout shakes. Look for BCAA products that provide leucine at a ratio of 2:1 per dose of isoleucine and valine. For example, if you take a 5-gram dose of BCAAs, about 2.5 grams should be from leucine, 1.25 grams from isoleucine and 1.25 grams from valine.

Priority #5: Beta-Alanine/Carnosine

Why they made the list: In the body, the amino acid beta-alanine is combined with another amino, histidine, to form carnosine. Research shows that when muscles have higher levels of carnosine, they have more strength and endurance. Carnosine appears to increase the muscle fibers’ ability to contract with more force, and to do so longer without fatiguing. Several studies reported increases in muscle strength and power in athletes who took beta-alanine. One recent study found that subjects who took beta-alanine along with creatine gained more muscle mass and lost more bodyfat than subjects who took only creatine.

How to maximize their effects: Take 1—2 grams of beta-alanine or carnosine immediately before and after every workout in addition to your shakes and creatine. On nonworkout days, take 2 grams with breakfast, along with creatine.

Priority #6: Nitric Oxide Boosters

Why they made the list: Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule found throughout the body that’s involved in multiple processes. The one that bodybuilders are most interested in is its ability to dilate blood vessels, which allows more blood flow to the muscles for enhanced delivery of oxygen, nutrients, anabolic hormones and water (blood is mostly water). This gives you more energy during your workout, an enhanced muscle pump, and better muscle recovery and growth after the workout. NO boosters don’t provide NO, but rather the amino acid arginine, which is readily converted to NO in the body. Research has found that subjects who were given arginine increased muscle strength and growth and lost bodyfat.

How to maximize their effects: Take an NO booster that provides 3—5 grams of arginine in the form of L-arginine, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, arginine ethyl ester or arginine malate. Also, consider NO boosters that provide ingredients such as citrulline, pycnog-enol and American ginseng, which enhance arginine’s ability to increase NO. Take one dose at each of the following times: in the morning before breakfast, 30—60 minutes before training, immediately after training and 30—60 minutes before bedtime. When possible, take each dose without food and consider combining it with 500—1,000 mg of vitamin C, which can help maintain levels of NO for longer.

Priority #7: Glutamine

Why it made the list: This amino acid has been a favorite of bodybuilders for decades because it’s central to muscle function and is one of the most plentiful aminos found in the human body. Glutamine provides numerous bodybuilding benefits, such as aiding muscle growth by increasing levels of leucine in muscle fibers, helping decrease muscle breakdown and bolstering the immune system, which helps prevent you from getting sick and missing workouts. Glutamine taken before workouts can help decrease muscle fatigue and boost growth hormone levels. In addition, recent research shows that glutamine might also play a role in fat loss by increasing the amount of calories and fat burned at rest and during exercise.

How to maximize its effects: Take 5—10 grams of glutamine in the morning with breakfast, with your pre- and postworkout shakes, and with your nighttime snack.

Priority #8: ZMA

Why it made the list: ZMA is a combination of zinc, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. It’s an important supplement because hard-training athletes such as bodybuilders are often deficient in these critical minerals, which are important for maintaining hormone levels and aiding sleep (essential for recovery). Intense training can compromise levels of testosterone and IGF-1. In fact, one study found that athletes who took ZMA significantly increased their levels of testosterone and IGF-1 during eight weeks of training, while those who took a placebo experienced a drop in both T and IGF-1. Naturally, boosting testosterone and IGF-1 can make huge impacts on muscle gains.

How to maximize its effects: Use a ZMA product that provides about 30 mg of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium and 10.5 mg of vitamin B6, and take it 30—60 minutes before bedtime without any food or calcium. Taking ZMA on an empty stomach will enhance its uptake and utilization and improve your sleep quality for optimal recovery.

Priority #9: Carnitine

Why it made the list: Besides being a popular fat-loss supplement, carnitine is now known to enhance muscle growth through a number of mechanisms, all of which are supported by clinical research. For one, carnitine can increase blood flow to muscles, which means it provides similar benefits to NO boosters. It also increases testosterone levels postworkout and the amount of T receptors inside muscle cells, which allows more testosterone to stimulate more growth. In addition, carnitine supplements have been found to increase levels of IGF-1. Add all these benefits together and you have the potential to gain enormous amounts of muscle.

How to maximize its effects: Take 1—3 grams of carnitine in the form of L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine or L-carnitine-L-tartrate with breakfast, your pre- and postworkout shakes, and nighttime meals.

Priority #10: Beta-Ecdysterone

Why it made the list: Beta-ecdysterone is a phytochemical found in plants such as spinach, where its main function is to protect the plant from insects. Russian scientists discovered many years ago that beta-ecdysterone has anabolic properties. In fact, it’s similar in structure to hormones found in insects and crustaceans. Yet beta-ecdysterone doesn’t behave like a hormone in the body, but rather works by stimulating protein synthesis and therefore muscle growth. Anecdotal reports suggest that it’s very effective for producing increases in both muscle size and strength.

How to maximize its effects: To get the most out of beta-ecdysterone, make sure you get a high enough dose and take it frequently throughout the day. Look for products that supply about 100 mg of beta-ecdysterone and take it with meals in the morning, before and after workouts, as well as with lunch and dinner, for a total of 400—500 mg per day.

Priority #11: High Molecular-Weight Carbs (Vitargo)

Why they made the list: Molecular weight is a term that refers to the mass of one molecule of a substance. Therefore, high molecular-weight carbs (HMCs) are essentially made up of very large, heavy molecules. HMCs such as the patented Vitargo brand are typically made from waxy maize (corn) starch. What makes these carbs so special is their ability to rapidly pass through the stomach to the intestines where they can be absorbed and enter the blood. Research shows that HMCs pass through the stomach at a rate almost 100% faster than sports drinks. This is important after exercise because consuming carbs at this time blunts cortisol levels, prevents muscle breakdown and raises insulin levels to help promote muscle growth and replenish muscle glycogen levels.

How to maximize their effects: Taking 60—100 grams of HMCs mixed in your postworkout shake will help push muscle recovery and growth, and the insulin spike it causes will drive more amino acids, creatine and carnitine into your muscle cells. In other words, HMCs will not only boost muscle growth themselves but they will help your other mass supplements work even better.

MYTH: Raw Veggies Are More Nutritious Than Cooked

When it comes to eating vegetables, do you boil, steam, blanch or just eat them raw? There are various reports out there that cooking vegetables causes them to lose their nutrients and that to get the most from your vegetables, you should eat them raw. Others say that’s nonsense. Not sure which side to take on this veggie debate? Let me explain.

The Truth: It’s complicated.

This nutrition myth isn’t so easy to break down into fact or fiction — the truth really depends on what type of vegetables you’re eating. I’ll outline both arguments, and help you decide how to prepare your daily dose of veggies. Take notes!

Don’t let raw foodies brainwash you. Yes, it is true that cooking vegetables can potentially destroy some of their vitamin content, but some of the other claims by raw-food devotees aren’t true. Some raw-food experts claim that raw veggies have more enzymes than cooked ones, but registered dietitians have stated that while heating foods above 188 degrees can deactivate certain plant enzymes, those enzymes that are lost are actually made to support the survival of plants — and are not essential to human health.

Cooking vegetables makes them easier to digest. Some people have a hard time breaking down raw vegetables in their gastrointestinal tract. Lightly cooking vegetables helps to break down the plants’ cell walls, making them easier to digest. If cooking your vegetables makes them easier for you to consume — by all means, cook away.

Cooking certain vegetables actually helps to boost their nutritional content. A great example of this is what happens when you cook tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes boosts their amount of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is believed to fight a variety of cancers (including prostate, colorectal, pancreatic, breast, lung, and endometrial). Another source of proof, a 2007 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that while boiling and steaming carrots, zucchini, and broccoli maintained their antioxidant compounds – steaming broccoli actually increased its content of glucosinolates, a group of plant compounds touted for their cancer-fighting abilities.

Don’t be afraid of the microwave. Many people think microwaving vegetables zaps all the nutritional benefits out of them. Think again. Much like steaming, microwaving veggies helps to preserve certain nutrients — in broccoli’s case, it preserves 90 percent of its vitamin C content. Be sure to avoid overcooking broccoli and other cruciferous veggies (like brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy and others), though, because it could cause them to lose nutrients. You’ll know they’re overcooked when they’re mushy and start to stink. I like mine crunchy, like they’re raw, so I blanch my cruciferous veggies by throwing them into a pot of boiling water for two minutes, draining quickly, and then rinsing with ice-cold water. Give it a try if you like that “snap,” too.

The Bottom Line: We don’t eat nearly enough vegetables as we all should, so I’m certainly not going to yell at you if you are eating them, but choose to boil instead of blanch — or eat them raw. Just strive for five fruits and veggies each day and keep these prep facts in mind!