Did you know that meats are not our only source of protein? You will be surprised to know that many vegetables supply our bodies with great sources of protein and make for tasty and health snacks! Without protein our bodies wouldn’t be able to support us long-term. 

Loading up on veggies foods can be an easy and delicious way to avoid piling on unwanted calories. You can eat veggies as a main meal or snack. Many vegetable and plant foods are high in fiber, which can make it easier to feel full and satisfied while sticking to sensible portions. Want to add protein without eating meat? Here are some options:

 

Broccoli-45 % Protein

Broccoli has a strong, positive impact on our body's detoxification system. Broccoli can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits Its best when steam cooked but raw can also lead to lowering cholesterol just not as much.

Mushrooms-38% Protein

There are many varieties of mushrooms. One of its benefits is it produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable source of this critical vitamin. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when in sunlight. They also are vital for turning food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body burns to produce energy.

Green Pepper- 22% Protein 

This vegetable is low in calories and contains 0 grams of fat and is a good supply of vitamins and minerals. Their mildly sweet flavor makes green bell peppers versatile enough to include in a wide variety of nutritious recipes Their source of fiber, Vitamin C and E make them a good choice for daily intake. 

Tomatoes- 18% Protein

Tomatoes are full of health enhancing properties. In fact, they can be prepared in a seemingly endless number of dishes, as well as being great to eat alone. Tomatoes also have a relatively high water content, which makes them a filling food. Included them in your meal for a well balanced diet. 

Spinach- 49% Protein

Dark leafy greens like spinach are important for skin and hair, bone health, and provide protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. Spinach is available all year round but is in season during the spring (March - June). Tip: Don't be shy with your portions when cooking spinach. Its high water content means it reduces in size when cooked.

New study suggests a connection, but some doubt 'flavonoids' are an impotence remedy.

Biochemicals found in berries, citrus fruit and red wine might help men maintain healthy erections, a new nutrition study suggests. Foods rich in these flavonoids are associated with reduced risk of erectile dysfunction, researchers reported Jan. 13 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Eating a flavonoid-rich diet may be as good for erectile function as briskly walking for two to five hours a week, researchers from Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of East Anglia in England reported. Flavonoids give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. The study found that three specific flavonoids -- anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones -- offered the greatest benefits in preventing erectile dysfunction.

Anthocyanins are generally found in blueberries, cherries, blackberries, radishes and red wine. Flavanones and flavones are found in citrus fruits.

"Men who regularly consumed foods high in these flavonoids were 10 percent less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction," lead researcher Aedin Cassidy, a professor of nutrition at the University of East Anglia, said in a university media release. "In terms of quantities, we're talking just a few portions a week."  The study only found an association between flavonoid consumption and erectile function, and not a cause-and-effect connection. Other health experts said the study findings might just be the result of men eating lots of fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. "I'm a firm believer that food is medicine," said Dr. Bruce Gilbert, director of reproductive and sexual medicine at the Arthur Smith Institute for Urology in New Hyde Park, N.Y. "But does this paper give me the good sense that they have made their point that eating more berries will decrease erectile dysfunction? No."

The study involved more than 25,000 middle-aged and older men who have filled out regular health surveys since 1986. The men were asked in 2000, 2004 and 2008 to rate their ability to have and maintain an erection sufficient for intercourse. Researchers compared their answers to the amount of flavonoid-rich foods the men reported eating in separate food questionnaires. The study showed that higher total fruit intake was associated with a 14 percent reduction in the risk of erectile dysfunction. Further, combining flavonoid-rich foods with exercise reduced the risk of erectile dysfunction by 21 percent. The benefits of flavonoids were greatest in men younger than 70, the researchers found. Flavonoids might boost a man's ability to achieve and maintain an erection by helping preserve the health of his blood vessels, the researchers said in background notes. Prior studies have shown that flavonoids can improve blood vessel function and reduce blood pressure. Dr. Drogo Montague, a urologist and director of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Genitourinary Reconstruction, said erectile dysfunction can be a harbinger of vascular disease. "If a man has ED, he may have early or advanced coronary artery disease," he said. Gilbert noted that the men in the study who ate lots of flavonoid-rich foods also were less likely to smoke or drink alcohol and more likely to exercise regularly -- all lifestyle factors that improve both heart health and erectile function.

In addition, Gilbert criticized the study for using a nonstandard questionnaire for assessing erectile function. "I can't believe in their conclusion based on their paper," he said. "They have no quantification or qualification of erectile dysfunction." Despite these drawbacks, it is good to remind men that lifestyle has a big impact on erectile function, said Dr. Landon Trost, a Mayo Clinic urologist. "It will not be surprising to many that increasing fruits and vegetables reduces diseases, including erectile dysfunction," Trost said. "However, it provides yet another motivating factor to adopt healthy lifestyle changes."

 

SOURCES: Bruce Gilbert, M.D., director, reproductive and sexual medicine, Northwell Health's Arthur Smith Institute for Urology, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Drogo Montague, M.D., urologist and director, Center for Genitourinary Reconstruction, Cleveland Clinic; Landon Trost, M.D., urologist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Jan. 13, 2016, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Study finds it was linked to fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, lower weight.

Nothing beats the taste and comfort of a home-cooked meal, and Harvard researchers say it also may help prevent type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that for each lunch prepared at home in a week, the risk of type 2 diabetes dropped by 2 percent. For each dinner prepared at home, the risk decreased by 4 percent. How might eating at home help? Eating more homemade meals may help lessen weight gain, which in turn can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the researchers explained. "There is growing trend of eating meals prepared out-of-home in many countries. Here in the United States, energy intake from out-of-home meals has increased from less than 10 percent in the mid-60s to over 30 percent in 2005-2008, and average time spent on cooking has decreased by one third," said study author Geng Zong, a research fellow at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. At the same time, he said, the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes has continued to grow.

Although the current study found a link between eating at home and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, it wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Results from the study are to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal. For the study, Zong's team collected data on nearly 58,000 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study and on more than 41,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. At the start of these studies, none of the participants had diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Those who ate about 11 to 14 homemade lunches or dinners a week had about a 13 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with those who ate less than six homemade lunches or dinners a week, the study found. The researchers didn't have enough information on breakfasts to include that meal in their analysis.

"We tried to analyze differences in the diet of these people and found, among other differences, that there was a slightly lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages when people had more homemade meals, which is another bridge linking homemade meals and diabetes in this study," Zong said. The researchers also noted that people who ate at home more often were slightly leaner.

New data from a national survey has also shown that cooking dinner at home is associated with lower intakes of fat and sugar, Zong said. "We need more studies to demonstrate whether preparing meals at home may prevent risk of diabetes and obesity, and how," he said. "Most important of all, even if meals prepared at home may have better diet quality, it does not mean people can eat without limits in amounts," Zong said.  "Keeping a balance between food intake and physical activity remains essential for maintaining body weight and health," he said.

Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, is not surprised that eating more meals prepared at home is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and less weight gain. "We all know that eating out, or fast food, can be associated with more type 2 diabetes and obesity," he said. Zonszein added that it may not just be what you eat at home, but rather the environment may be more healthful. The researchers don't show that any specific homemade meal was healthier than others, Zonszein noted.  "The possibility is that food cooked at home in a less stressful environment can be even a more significant factor than the type of food," he said. "I endorse less work, 'slow food,' relaxation and conversation around the table and wine for healthier lives," he added.

 

SOURCES: Geng Zong, Ph.D., research fellow, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Joel Zonszein, M.D., director, Clinical Diabetes Center, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; Nov. 8, 2015, American Heart Association Meeting, Orlando, Fla.

Risk of the eye disease dropped by 20 percent or more for those who consumed the most, study found.

Eating green leafy vegetables daily may decrease the risk of glaucoma -- a serious eye disease -- by 20 percent or more over many years, a new study suggests. "We found those consuming the most green leafy vegetables had a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of glaucoma," said study leader Jae Kang. Kang is an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.  Glaucoma is an eye condition that usually develops when fluid increases in the front part of the eye and causes pressure, damaging the optic nerve. It can lead to loss of vision, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute.

Although the study found an association between eating more leafy greens and a lower risk of glaucoma, it didn't prove cause-and-effect. Kang's team followed nearly 64,000 participants in the Nurses' Health Study from 1984 through 2012, and more than 41,000 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 through 2014. The men and women were all 40 or older. None had glaucoma at the start of the study, and they had eye exams every two years. Over the 25-year follow up, almost 1,500 people developed glaucoma. The researchers looked at the consumption of green leafy vegetables among the participants. The investigators divided the participants into five groups, from the highest level of leafy green vegetable consumption to the lowest. Those who ate the most averaged about 1.5 servings a day, or about one and a half cups a day, Kang said. Those in the group eating the least leafy greens ate about a serving every three days, according to Kang.

What is it about leafy greens that may help eye health? "In glaucoma, we think there is an impairment of blood flow to the optic nerve," Kang said. "And an important factor that regulates blood flow to the eye is a substance called nitric oxide." Green leafy vegetables contain nitrates, which are precursors to nitric oxide, the researchers said. "When you consume the higher amount of green leafy vegetables, you have greater levels of nitric oxide in your body," Kang said. Findings from the study were published online Jan. 14 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

The findings make sense, said Dr. Rahul Pandit, an ophthalmologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, who reviewed the new research. This study, he said, is the first study to look at a large population and show that higher consumption of green leafy vegetables appears to decrease glaucoma risk. "We do have some data that people with glaucoma have impaired nitric oxide production in the eye," added Pandit, who is also an associate professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. The findings suggest that "maybe this is something we can apply clinically," Pandit said.

The advice to eat more green leafy vegetables seems low risk, Pandit said. He suggested people ask their doctor whether eating and increasing green leafy vegetables is a good idea for them.

 

SOURCES: Jae Kang, Sc.D., assistant professor of medicine, Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston; Rahul Pandit, M.D., ophthalmologist, Houston Methodist Hospital, and associate professor of ophthalmology, Weill Cornell Medical College; Jan. 14, 2016,  JAMA Ophthalmology, online.

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