When it gets to that point of the year, when the sun starts to disappear, and the days start to get a little bit colder, you have to start thinking about your garden and the things you can grow, especially if you grow a lot of your own vegetables.
Growing up, my mother always grew her own vegetables and when I could, I would help her. She would send me down to the bottom of the garden to the Plastic Shed she kept all of her gardening tools with the mission of getting her a shovel and me a trowel. I wouldn’t really do anything important, but I’ll always remember feeling proud when I had helped her dig up the various vegetables that we would be eating that night. It’s a tradition which I have continued and will hopefully pass on to my children when the time comes.
My love for all things fresh and natural has continued and is a key focus ofmy life. In this article I want to focus on a particular area I like to talk about – The health benefits of vegetables.
Now, most people know that vegetable are “good for you”, but don’t look into it much further than that. Many vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that are not only vital to good health, but also capable of helping you recover from a multitude of ailments*. I like to call these vegetables super-foods. Here, in no particular order, are my favourite five.
1. Beet Root
Beet Root is the derivative of Sea Beet, which is also known as Wild Spinach, which was native to the coasts of Europe, Northern Africa, Southern Asia, and some shores of Great Britain. Beet Root contains high levels of Magnesium, Vitamin C, Potassium and Betaine.
Betaine in particular is very beneficial in cardiovascular health. By working with Folic acid, Vitamins B6 and B12, as well as S-adenosylmethionine, it reduces the concentration of Homocysteine, which is part of the Cysteine family – naturally occurring amino acids that can be harmful to blood vessels, and are known to contribute to Heart Disease, Stroke and Peripheral Vascular Disease.
Recent studies have also shown that Betaine, is effective at protecting against Liver damage related with excessive drinking and Diabetes. It also increases stomach acid, which can aid sufferers of Hypochlorhydria – a disease in which sufferers experience abnormally low levels of stomach acid.
Many external issues such as Eczema, Acne, Fatigue, Bloating, and Rosacea can be the result of an internal issue, especially when your digestive system and liver, filter out many of the toxins in your body.
Sometimes people focus on treating these symptoms, instead of treating the cause and although eating Beet Root is unlikely to simply just cure your ailment, it can go a long way to easing or preventing the symptoms.
The humble Carrot is famous for the urban myth, perpetuated by the British Air Force during World War II. The myth claimed that carrots were being eaten by all of the pilots and could therefore see at night to shoot down enemy aircraft when in fact it was the newly developed radar systems that allowed for this. The myth was designed to promote the idea of growing carrots to the citizens during times of ration. They’ve been a staple of the British diet ever since.
The strange thing is carrots do help you see well. Not in a night vision sense though. See, Carrots contain a high level of beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A by Bile Salt found in the intestine. A lack of vitamin A can cause blurry vision, which can be fixed by returning Vitamin A into the diet.
Well known to the ancient Egyptians, garlic has been found to have originally come from Asia and most of the Mediterranean before spreading throughout Europe. Garlic is claimed to prevent Heart Disease including high blood pressure, and high cholesterol as well as Cancer.
The Cardio-protective benefits of Garlic could be down to the production of Hydrogen Sulphide gas. Red blood cells can take the Sulphur containing molecules in Garlic and use them to produce the Hydrogen Sulphide gas. This gas causes blood vessels to expand, which keeps blood pressure in line.
There are also claims that Garlic helps fight the common cold. This theory has centuries of herbal medicinal uses behind it, especially the Cherokee, who used it for the prevention of coughs.
Garlic has also been found to help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent some complications of Diabetes. Although it is not recommended that diabetics take medicinal levels of Garlic without consulting a doctor first.
It’s also worth noting that many forms of processed Garlic cannot be used by our bodies and that it is much more beneficial to receive Garlic in food form.
I think if I had put these in order onions would have been my number #1. The beneficial power of onions seems endless. Onions are good for things such as: asthma, influenza, colds, insomnia, pneumonia, obesity, blood pressure, fighting worms and parasites, sinus conditions, and vertigo as well as the skin, hair and nails.
High in vitamin C, fibre and folic acid, onions also contain a high level of calcium, iron, and protein.
Onions contain quercetin, a flavonoid - a category of antioxidant compound. Studies have shown that quercetin helps to destroy free radicals in the body, to inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation (an important reaction in coronary heart disease), and also protect and regenerate vitamin E.
Some studies show that the consumption of onions may be beneficial in reducing the chance of certain diseases. Eating a large amount of onions may prevent stomach ulcers by fighting free radicals and preventing the growth of the ulcer-forming microorganisms.
American researchers found that pungent onions exhibit strong anti-platelet activity. Platelet aggregation is associated with atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Broccoli is the descendant of a wild Cabbage plant found throughout Europe. Since the Roman Empire it has been a valued Italian vegetable. Rumour has it that it was introduced to America by Italian Immigrants during the 1800s, but did not become widely popular until at least 1920.
Broccoli is often cooked, and many people are actually unaware that many of its health benefits can be lost through cooking and, in many cases; it is recommended that it be eaten raw.
Broccoli is extremely high in Vitamin C as well as Selenium, Glucoraphanine and Diindolylmethane; the previous three being known anti-cancer minerals. Broccoli is also beneficial for innate immune response system as well as being anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
High intakes of broccoli have been known to reduce and prevent the risk of aggressive Prostate Cancer and Heart Disease. High intakes of broccoli have also become popular with Acne sufferers with very progressive results.
Broccoli sprouts (3-4 day old sproutings) have been proven to be even more beneficial than fully grown Broccoli due to an abundance of Sulporaphane – a known and effective anti-oxidant. Although medical research in regards to Broccoli and Broccoli sprouts continues to grow, and common opinion seems to be in agreement, the US FDA has not reached any conclusion on the health benefits of Broccoli.
*I would like to state that I am not a medical professional. My knowledge is gained through research over time, or given to me by the school of life. I have tried to reference as many medical studies that I can in relation to the points I have made to back up my statements, but please understand that unless stated most of what I say should be considered opinion, please accept at your own discretion, or that of a medical professional (which again, I am not). What I have written is advice, these are not cures for diseases and any treatment needed for any mentioned condition should be sought from a doctor.
A.D.A.M., Inc., ed. (2002), Betaine, University of Maryland Medical Center
A.D.A.M., Inc., ed. (2002), Betaine, University of Maryland Medical Center