Beyond Weight Loss: 4 Ways Vegetables Improve Your Health
Doctors across the country are prescribing fruits and vegetables to their overweight and obese patients. But the health benefits extend beyond weight loss.
1. They’re full of phytonutrients. These plant-based micronutrients may protect against chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
2. They feed your body — and your brain. According to Mark Hyman, MD, plant-based carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruits play an integral role in brain function and mood regulation.
3. They’re a good source of fiber, a natural detoxifier that impacts health in more ways than one.
4. You can grow your own. The act of tending a garden has numerous health benefits beyond the edible harvest, thanks to the physical.
One of the first signs that winter is over, asparagus is bursting with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients.
- Recent research has shown that asparagus contains saponins, phytonutrients that fight inflammation and chronic diseases such as cancer. They also help with blood pressure and blood-sugar regulation.
- Asparagus is also rich in glutathione, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E and several flavonoids that make it an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powerhouse.
- Inulin, a prebiotic, is found in asparagus (as well as in chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke and other foods). It helps nourish probiotic (good) bacteria in the large intestine that improves nutrient absorption and balances biochemistry while lowering the risk of allergies and many chronic diseases. Because asparagus is also high in fiber, it’s excellent for digestive health.
- High amounts of B vitamins in asparagus help lower blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine and contribute to heart health.
Kale Cooking Tips
- Blend a few chopped-up young kale leaves — but not the stems or very thick leaves — into fruit smoothies. It’s a great way to sneak greens into the diets of the veggie-averse, especially kids.
- Add kale to breakfast egg dishes. Try an omelet with par-cooked potatoes, caramelized onions and steamed kale — or a scramble made with tomatoes, bell peppers, green onion and kale sprinkled with feta cheese.
- Whip up a quick summer kale sauté with garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and basil. Sauté kale with small amounts of bacon for flavor, then lightly braise it in vegetable stock to soften. Great with roasted turkey, meatloaf or grilled tofu.
- Chop, cook and mix kale with grains to add nutrients and flavor to dishes like barley risotto or rice pilaf.
- Kale is wonderful in miso soup or tossed with rice noodles.
- Kale’s earthy flavor pairs well with hearty meats, beans and sausages. I particularly like kale with braised pork. I often substitute sautéed kale for cooked spinach in spanakopita, on pizza, or layered with ricotta cheese in calzone.
- Blanched and frozen kale is great to have on hand. If you gently break it in the bag, it can be easily added to simmering marinara sauce, soups, stews and beans.
Produce travels 1,500 miles on average from farm to table. Minimize this by buying food grown locally. To get you started, here is a season-by-season list of when 10 common fruit and vegetables are locally available around the United States.
Click through for the big version.
This is a great chart!
FUN FACTS: CERTAIN VEGGIES AND HERBS LINKED TO REDUCING MEMORY PROBLEMS
Compound in Celery, Peppers Reduces Age-Related Memory Deficits
A diet rich in the plant compound luteolin reduces age-related inflammation in the brain and related memory deficits by directly inhibiting the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain, researchers report.
Luteolin (LOOT-ee-oh-lin) is found in many plants, including carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile.