Introduction to Vegetables

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Vegetables

Vegetables are the parts of plants, or a plant, that we eat that does not include the seed. This means that vegetables are the leaves, stems or roots of a plant. Several vegetables can be eaten either raw or cooked and some may be also classified as fruits like Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, and Squash).

Many vegetables are green but many come in a wide variety of colors and it’s these colors that contain many powerful antioxidants and compounds that can help heal and protect our bodies.
 

Daniel Parks / Flickr

Green vegetables have the highest nutrient density of all foods. They give you the most nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants…) per calorie of food. These nutrients will help protect your body from just about everything from colds to cancer. The general rule for green vegetables is the darker the green, the more health benefits it contains. So foods like Spinach, Kale and Collards Greens will contain more healthy compounds than a lighter colored vegetable like Lettuce. There may be a link between those who don’t have many dark leafy greens in their diet and an increase in the risk for developing colon polyps.

Chewing dark leafy greens more helps release enzymes from them that can turn on other cancer fighters in your body so when you eat vegetables CHEW CHEW CHEW it really makes a difference. Some leafy greens may have a bitter taste to them so mixing them with yogurts may help take out some of the bitterness. You can also turn many vegetables into chips simply by baking them. Roasting vegetables helps bring out their sweetness so sprinkle them with a spice mix or salt and pepper and a little oil before roasting them for an excellent taste.

Purple foods contain anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that helps protect and heal cells. Some of these purple vegetables are purple potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, Purple carrots, beets and eggplants. They help promote eye and heart health and can help stop cancer cell growth.

Foods that are dark colored, like black/dark purple or deep blues, is an excellent sign that the vegetable or fruit is an awesome cancer, disease, and inflammation fighter. The anthocyanins responsible for this can also be found in foods like honey, wine, nuts and grains. Dark green, purple, orange and yellow natural foods should be a part of your diet at least 4-5 times per week in order to get the most benefit out of them.

In addition to all of these health benefits, most, if not all, vegetables are prebiotics. Prebiotics are foods that cause an increase in the number or activity of the good bacteria in your gut. Fermented vegetable like kimchi or sauerkraut is a great example.
 

 
Cruciferous

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Cruciferous Vegetables

These are vegetables that are in the Brassica family. Some other members of this family include Arugula, Bok Choy, Kale, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Turnips. This large family contains a couple of different and very powerful cancer fighting antioxidants known as Isothiocyanates, Glucosinolates and Kaempferol. These compounds have been shown to fight off lung cancer (The #1 cancer killer of women), breast, colon, stomach, colon/rectal and prostate cancers so far.7 These vegetables also contain a powerful antioxidant called brassinin, which has been shown, in some studies, to stop cancer cells in their tracks and may even help keep them from forming in the first place.8-11

When eaten raw or lightly steamed, these vegetables have the ability to lower your blood cholesterol levels by keeping bile from being recycled in the body. Bile is primarily made up of cholesterol. When your body needs to produce more bile, it uses cholesterol from your blood stream. When you eat foods that sweep bile out of the body, cholesterol gets swept out too. The fiber and other nutrients in cruciferous vegetables are great at sweeping out bile. Legumes and Whole Grains like Oats are great at this too. This is how you can effectively reduce your cholesterol levels without using any medication and lower your risk for heart disease as well.

Another important role that cruciferous vegetables have in our body is breaking down estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that signals cells to start dividing. It’s a very important hormone in women as well as men. It can also increase your risk of developing hormone driven cancers like breast or prostate cancer because of its role in the body. The ability of cruciferous vegetables to help break down estrogen is even more crucial these days because of the presence of pesticides and industry pollutants that can act as estrogens in the body. An example of this is the compound Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to make certain plastics. It has a structure that is similar to estrogen, which may fools our bodies into thinking that it is in fact estrogen. To help your body, try eating more organic foods and make sure plastics you use are BPA free. Eating more cruciferous vegetables can provide an added layer of protection against the side effects of estrogen.

Some other members of the cruciferous vegetables include: Mustard Greens, Cabbage, Rapeseed, Canola, Rutabega, Turnips, Cabbages, Collard Greens, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Radish, Kale, Brussels Sprouts, Kohlrabi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Watercress and Wasabi to name a few.
 

 
Allium

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Allium Vegetables

The most common and popular members of this family are Garlic, Onions, and Leeks. The secret of the allium family is in its’ scent. The aroma that comes off of many allium vegetables is from a compound called Allicin, which is a super strong antioxidant and cancer fighter. Alliums, particularly Onion and Garlic, have been shown to help fight off stomach cancers primarily by killing off a virus associated with stomach cancers called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Alliums have also been shown to help fight off prostate cancer as well.

Allicin molecules are formed once the vegetable is cut or crushed. In fact, the compound does not exist until the cells are damaged, allowing the compound alliin to interact with the enzyme alliinase and eventually form allicin. So, the more the cells are damaged, the more allicin is produced. Chop or dice the vegetable and let it sit for five to ten minutes after you’ve cut them to allow more allicin molecules to form. Allicin has anti microbial, anti fungal and anti cancer properties to it, which makes these vegetables a very good weapon against all kinds of diseases.
 

 

Vegetables are grouped alphabetically. Click on the pictures or titles to learn more.

 

 

Beets Tim Sackton Flickr

Asparagus – Escarole

 
Garlic

Fennel – Kimchi

 
Onion

Leek – Potato

 
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Rhubarb – Watercress

 

 

References:
  1. Bengmark S, Mesa M, Gil A. Plant-derived health: the effects of turmeric and curcuminoids. Nutrición Hospitalaria: Organo Oficial De La Sociedad Española De Nutrición Parenteral Y Enteral. May 2009;24(3):273-281.
  2. Sabater-Molina M, Larqué E, Torrella F, Zamora S. Dietary fructooligosaccharides and potential benefits on health. Journal Of Physiology And Biochemistry. September 2009;65(3):315-328.
  3. Kahlon T, Chiu M, Chapman M. Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage. Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.) [serial online]. June 2008;28(6):351-357.
  4. Kurilich A, Tsau G, Brown A, et al. Carotene, tocopherol, and ascorbate contents in subspecies of Brassica oleracea. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry. April 1999;47(4):1576-1581.
  5. Gonzalez C, Riboli E. Diet and cancer prevention: where we are, where we are going. Nutrition And Cancer. 2006;56(2):225-231.
  6. Song W, Derito C, Liu M, He X, Dong M, Liu R. Cellular antioxidant activity of common vegetables. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry. June 9, 2010;58(11):6621-6629.
  7. Manach, Claudine, et al. “Polyphenols: food sources and bioavailability.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 79.5 (2004): 727-747.
  8. Mezencev, R., et al. “Antiproliferative and cancer chemopreventive activity of phytoalexins: focus on indole phytoalexins from crucifers.” Neoplasma 50.4 (2002): 239-245.
  9. Izutani, Yasuyuki, et al. “Brassinin induces G1 phase arrest through increase of p21 and p27 by inhibition of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signaling pathway in human colon cancer cells.” International journal of oncology 40.3 (2012): 816-824.
  10. Kim, Sung‐Moo, et al. “Brassinin Induces Apoptosis in PC‐3 Human Prostate Cancer Cells through the Suppression of PI3K/Akt/mTOR/S6K1 Signaling Cascades.” Phytotherapy Research 28.3 (2014): 423-431.
  11. Mehta, Rajendra G., and John M. Pezzuto. “Discovery of cancer preventive agents from natural products: from plants to prevention.” Current oncology reports 4.6 (2002): 478-486.

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