Scientific research shows that some veggies that we all write off are actually nutritional all-stars. The nutritional power from some of them help reduce the risk of cancer and boost your immune system
One word of caution: the chemical compounds in these natural gems are so potent they can interfere with some prescription drugs, so if you’re taking medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist before you add them.
If you think of celery as a diet food, or believe that the stalks are nothing more than sturdy swizzle sticks for your Bloody Mary, think again. Evidence suggests there’s a world of health benefits in every crunch. Dieters count on celery because it has only 10 calories in a large stalk, but it also delivers phthalides, which are thought to act as a natural diuretic. Those same phtalides support the circulatory system, and can help to reduce high blood pressure.
Mushrooms, from the humble button mushrooms to more exotic shitakes—have been shown to improve the body’s immune system and reduce risk of colon, stomach, and prostate cancer. In one study, eating mushrooms cut the risk of Chinese women getting breast cancer by 64%.
Mushrooms also contain vitamin D and long-chain polysaccharides that can help boost your immune system to help you fight the common cold. To access all the nutritional goodness of mushrooms, be sure to cook them, rather than eat them raw.
The Brussels sprout is a cancer-fighting wonder. Brussels sprouts contain more anti-carcinogenic compounds called glucosinolates, than any other cruciferous vegetable. One of these compounds, called sinigrin, causes cancer cells to self-destruct.
More good news? Using a Brussels sprout extract, researchers at the National Institute for Health showed that the glucosinolates also are able to stabilize DNA in white blood cells by blocking offending enzymes.
Carrots are associated with good eyesight. The beta-carotene that makes them orange is converted to vitamin A by your body and that can help protect you from macular degeneration, as well as glaucoma. Eating carrots can even help to improve night vision, which is important when driving after dark.
But according to research, carrots contain a powerful antiseptic compound that kills germs and can prevent infection and help wounds to heal more quickly. Shred them raw, cook them and mash them, or soak a cloth in carrot juice and apply it to an infected area. An NIH study found that peeled, shredded carrots inhibit food spoilage bacteria, which supports the theory that carrots have beneficial antiseptic powers.
Onions contain compounds called thiosulfinates and they could keep you from having a stroke, according to some studies. Thiosulfinates act as a natural blood thinner and can keep blood platelets from clumping. In addition, the quercitin in onions has been shown to relax and dilate blood vessels, which also aids in stroke prevention.
Onions are high in vitamin C, provide calcium, iron, folic acid, and dietary fiber. And, because they can kill the H pylori bacteria, they may also help to prevent, but not treat, stomach ulcers.
Bell peppers are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. One red bell pepper will provide almost twice your daily allowance for vitamin C. Bell peppers also are an excellent source of vitamin B6, which is used by your body to help regulate metabolism and to enable the cells in your brain to communicate with one another.
Bell peppers also contain minerals, including potassium, zinc, and manganese. According to The Linus Pauling Institute, their high levels of manganese may help to prevent osteoporosis.
Garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties, and fresh garlic may help to prevent some cases of food poisoning by killing E coli and salmonella bacteria. It’s been credited in studies with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, protecting the heart, boosting the immune system, and regulating blood sugar levels.
Also, according to research, garlic may help protect against breast, colon and other cancers. And according to research done at the Mayo Clinic, garlic can kill the rogue cells that cause prostate cancer. Maybe that’s part of the reason the Mayo Clinic suggests that men with enlarged prostate—which includes 50% of men over the age of 60—use garlic to season their food.
Kale provides a daily dose of vitamin A, more vitamin C than an orange, and supports bone health with vitamin K and more calcium than an 8-ounce glass of milk. It’s also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which means a diet that includes kale will give your brain a boost, helping to fight depression. Those same fatty acids, along with kale’s quercetin supply, will fight inflammation and can help to prevent or alleviate arthritis.
If all that good stuff isn’t enough to convince you, how about a longer life? Dr. Drew Ramsey, author of “50 Shades of Kale” says that the kaemferol in kale literally can turn on the genes that promote longer life.