If you are like me, you will have heard both your mother and grandmother tell you to “eat your vegetables” and if like me, at the age of 5 you thought, “why do I need to eat my vegetables? I don’t want to!” and perhaps hid them under your bread or fed them to the dog!
Well, now science can now prove what your granny and mother already knew. That eating vegetables were not only good for you (i.e. keep you healthy, grow strong bones, give you energy) but are essential for fighting off some of the world’s most deadly diseases.
Scientists now know that many food plants are rich in pharmacological substances which are as effective as any drug prescribed by a doctor, and without side effects.
So, what I am saying here is that vegetables are essential for living a long, healthy and fun life. Vegetables could save your life!
Let me tell you a bit more about why you need to eat them so that the knowledge will make it easier for you to eat them!
Vegetables are super foods, extra rich sources of the natural goodness we all need. Treat these foods as extra insurance at times of need, either physical, mental or emotional; during pregnancy, flu epidemics, periods of overwork, or unusually high stress, or after an indulgent holiday. Use them at time of illness to hasten your recover and above all, make sure they feature in your everyday eating.
So, what do vegetables do that is just so great? Let me break down a little of the science for you.
Antioxidants are substances or nutrients found only in our foods which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage.
Oxidative stress, as it is also known, is increased through pollution, taking medication, smoking, drinking alcohol, flying in an airplane, having an X ray, sunlight, eating food of poor nutrition, stress and exercise. So pretty much everything we do, right? Health problems such as heart disease, muscular degeneration, diabetes and cancer are all contributed by oxidative damage.
Antioxidants act as “free radical scavengers” and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals. Antioxidants may also enhance immune defense and therefore lower the risk of cancer and infection.
Here is a list of the most Commonly Known Antioxidants- let’s see how many of them are in vegetables shall we?
- Vitamin A and Carotenoids Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots (bright-colored fruits and vegetables!)
- Vitamin C Citrus fruits like oranges and lime etc, green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries and tomatoes
- Vitamin E
- Selenium Fish & shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic
Other Common Antioxidants
- Flavonoids / polyphenols soy, red wine, purple grapes or Concord grapes, pomegranate, cranberries, tea
- Lycopene Tomato and tomato products, pink grapefruit, watermelon
- Lutein dark green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, kiwi, brussels sprout and spinach
- Lignan flax seed, oatmeal, barley, rye
The Bottom Line
Antioxidants are found abundant in vegetables, fruit, beans and grain products. Look for fruits with bright color – lutein in some of the yellow pigments found in corn; orange in cantaloupe, butternut squash and mango; red from lycopene in tomatoes and watermelon, and purple and blue in berries. So enjoy eating a variety of these products. It is best to obtain these antioxidants from foods instead of taking isolated vitamins.
However, if like me you find it difficult to eat more than 7 to 9 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, I am happy to turn to a wholefood supplement proven to increase these oxidants in my body.