5. Bring on the Veggies!
Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds. Some plant chemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which cells reproduce, get rid of old cells and maintain DNA. Leafy greens are basic staples with not-so-basic health benefits.
Researchers at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Molecular Immunology division discovered8 that a gene, called T-bet, which is essential for producing critical immune cells in your gut, responds specifically to leafy green vegetables. Those immune cells are thought to play an important role in controlling inflammatory diseases, and may even prevent the bowel cancer.
According to the featured article,9 eating one cup of cooked greens per day cut middle-aged people’s risk of dying in the next four years in half, compared to those who didn’t eat any leafy greens. Other power players in the vegetable kingdom include the following:
- Broccoli contains dozens, maybe even hundreds, of super-nutrients that support optimal health, including immune-boosting and anti-cancer compounds. Eating broccoli raw, as opposed to cooked, will help protect its nutrients. Broccoli sprouts are an even more nutritionally potent way to enjoy broccoli.
- Sprouts may offer some of the highest levels of nutrition available, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that help protect against free radical damage. Many of the benefits of sprouts relate to the fact that plants contain more concentrated amounts of nutrients in their initial phase of growth.
Sunflower seed and pea shoots, for example, are both typically about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables, and are among the highest in protein.
- Fermented vegetables: Almost everyone has damaged gut flora these days, unless you’re part of the minority that eats a strict organic whole foods diet and avoids antibiotics. Fermented vegetables are one of the most palatable fermented foods that can provide you with a robust dose of beneficial bacteria, which are critically important for optimal physical and mental health.
Fermented foods are also potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals, including some pesticides.
- Tomatoes are one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, which has been shown to have anti-cancerous activity, and may reduce your risk of stroke. Just remember to consume your tomatoes, whether raw or cooked, with some type of fat, such as olive oil, since lycopene is a fat-soluble nutrient.
- Cabbage is actually among the most potent medicinal foods available, and including cabbage as a regular part of your diet, at least two or three times a week, may offer many significant health benefits. It contains compounds that help prevent cancer, as well as high concentrations of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. To obtain the most nutrients from your cabbage, eat it raw, lightly cooked, or fermented.