As another year comes to an end, my mind is again going on the same track (it follows) every year around this time: how to make the next year healthier. What five habits can we change that can help us stay fighting fit and (importantly) disease free too? After the onslaught of non communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disorders like asthma; even cancer is a deluge now, the bad news (as well as good news) is that they are all heavily influenced by our lifestyle, of which our diet is a huge part.

Yes, what you eat (and don’t eat) can heavily tip the scales either way (missing or inviting the diseases over).

So the sooner we begin altering it (the diet), the better it is for us. And why wait for next year to begin? Starting now (till the end of December) every Monday, for five weeks, I will share one basic habit to change, and tell you how to do it. This way we have a shot at beginning 2017 on a healthier note.

Love the veggies

Now if I had to pick that one habit I wish I can build up on (and I wish the same for everyone else reading this too) it would have to be eating more vegetables. So, that’s the one I am going with first. And by eating more vegetables I don’t mean just those (one or two) that you like or can tolerate, but to learn to eat a whole variety of them.So here are my pick of vegetables and one compelling reason (of course there are plenty more) why you just “must” eat them:

Pumpkin: For the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, which gets con-verted to vitamin A in the body and helps decrease the risk of lung cancer; yes, even in smokers substantially.

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Spinach: To decrease craving for unhealthy foods. It helps up the production of satiety hormones, which leads to better appetite control, healthier eating habits and increased weight loss.

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Eggplant: For the antioxidants, particularly chlorogenic acid, which works on four fronts: fights free radicals and many viruses, lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, and provides protection against cancer. Yes, it’s that good!

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French beans: For the mineral silicon. Though lesser known com-pared to calcium and magnesium, it is extremely important for bone health and for healthy formation of connective tissue. French beans are loaded with it.

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Jackfruit: For lignans, isoflavones and saponins, which have anti-cancer and anti-aging properties. These phytonutrients help eliminate cancer-causing free radicals from the body.

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Mushrooms: For zinc, which adds power to the disease fighters – white blood cells. Basically they help strengthen the body from inside by upping our natural resistance to diseases. Zinc has a huge say in our brains’ health too, and helps keep Alzheimer’s away.

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Radish: For folic acid, Vitamin C and anthocyanins, which make it a very effective cancer-fighting food. Plus it is a natural diuretic, so it is perfect to cut the bloat, and clean the kidneys.

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Tomatoes: For vitamin K and Calcium; both help strengthen and re-pair bones; plus lycopene in it helps improve bone mass and keeps osteoporosis at bay.

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Zucchini: For the electrolyte potassium, which helps counter the ill ef-fects of too much sodium in our diet and keeps blood pressure in control. So yes, better heart health.

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Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and there are many other veg-etables to pick from (carrots, lettuce, cauliflower, sweet potato to name a few), and you must too, as all of them have something going for them. So make a list and incorporate one new vegetable in your diet every week, give it a fair shot – by that I mean cook it in at least three to four ways and then decide which one works for you. Yes, approach this exactly in the way mothers work with their kids when weaning them on new foods.

Trust me you will be surprised. Like this friend of mine was recently.

She had hated tomatoes all her life, but one day sitting with me she ate a plateful of fresh raw slices, doused with balsamic vinegar and just with a few basil leaves, pine nuts and a dash of herbs. Delicious, she declared. Went back home, called me and said that she now regretted that it took her three decades to discover the delight of this ubiquitous veggie. Next she is working on mushrooms.

So I suggest you too begin with veggies you can’t even fathom trying. Slowly with trial and error you will have a far more extensive repertoire of vegetables to choose from and eat than now. And your body will show its appreciation by keeping you safe from NCDs.

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