As the summer heat sizzles, what will be sizzling on your grill? While meat, fish and poultry are popular, don’t forget to add some beautiful, versatile veggies.
Time and time again, research supports eating a vegetable-rich diet, though 9 out of 10 Americans aren’t meeting their fruit or vegetable requirements. 1 Salads are a great way to work in vegetables, but lettuce add some vegetables to the grill!
Why more veggies?
Vegetable intake has been linked with several health benefits including a reduction in risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In addition, a recent study published in Nutrients found an association between fruit and vegetable intake and mental health.
A meta-analysis of over 60 studies showed that a high intake of fruits and vegetables, especially berries, citrus fruit, and green leafy vegetables was associated with reduced rates of depression. In addition, they were also linked with higher rates of self-efficacy, optimism, and reduced psychological stress. 2
In addition, high fruit and vegetable intake has been linked with the reduction of markers of inflammation and improvement in gut biodiversity. A randomized control trial in overweight and obese subjects found reductions in interleukin-6 (IL-6) as well as lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP) in subjects consuming 3 servings of whole grains plus fruits and vegetables daily. Changes in microbiome diversity were noted in the treatment group consuming more fruits and vegetables as well. 3
Taste & Texture
When vegetables are grilled, their flavor becomes sweeter. Vegetables lose water content when heated and sugars become more concentrated as a result. Vegetables will also take on a smoky taste when grilled.
Vegetables will soften when they cook as they lose moisture and can be paired with grilled meat, fish, veggie burgers, and more. Add them to fresh salads, too! The combination of cooked and raw vegetables together is delicious. They’re perfect for grain bowls as well.
• Soak vegetables in cold water for 10 minutes before grilling. This prevents them from drying out when grilled.
• Chop vegetables into equal-sized pieces so they cook evenly. Bigger, thicker pieces take more time to grill.
• Grill vegetables over medium heat. Grilling time will vary depending on what you’re grilling and how it was prepped. Grilled vegetables will be easy to cut with a knife and have browned grill marks on them.
• Brush vegetables with oil to keep them from sticking to your grill. Canola, corn, or olive oil work well.
• Add a wee bit of salt before grilling to pull out moisture before grilling. This helps intensify their flavor.
• Use a grill basket or skewers to prevent your veggies from falling into the grill. Aluminum foil also works very well. The veggies cook rapidly but they do not stick to the grill. Any of these aids are great when you want to use a variety of veggies that tend to be all different sizes.
• Experiment with different seasonings, vinegar, citrus juice, or dried herbs on vegetables prior to grilling to spice up the flavor. Lemon juice goes well on asparagus as well as broccoli and peppers. Get creative! Many spice shops make fun seasoning mixes or you can find them in the spice aisle.
Check back next week to taco ‘bout grilled fruit!
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
1. Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC
2. G??bska D, Guzek D, Groele B, Gutkowska K. Fruit, and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 1;12(1):115.
3. Kopf JC, Suhr MJ, Clarke J, Eyun SI, Riethoven JM, Ramer-Tait AE, Rose DJ. Role of whole grains versus fruits and vegetables in reducing subclinical inflammation and promoting gastrointestinal health in individuals affected by overweight and obesity: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2018 Jul 30;17(1):72.