Three Ways Green Vegetables Can Help Protect Your Health and Prevent Disease
Every day, we hear we should eat more green vegetables for better health. But what exactly can they do for us and are they really that important? Here are a few ways that vegetables can transform our health and achieve successes that were previously thought to be possible only with drug treatment.
Increases Blood Flow in the Arteries
Did you know that green vegetables can help increase blood flow throughout the body? Here is how it works: Green vegetables contain nitrates. These nitrates are converted in the body to nitric oxide, a compound which signals the arterial walls to relax, thus allowing greater blood flow through the arteries. Nitroglycerin, which we know about from its use with heart patients, works in the same way by inducing nitric oxide production in the body and therefore allowing increased blood flow. This mechanism is also behind the effectiveness of the popular erectile dysfunction medications. Consuming more greens is a great way to help increase blood flow without medication. Some of the richest nitrate-containing green vegetables are: parsley, celery, spinach, lettuce, arugula, cabbage, and kale. Try some in your salad and enjoy the benefits.
Helps Prevent Cancer
There are few vegetables that can match the nutritional punch of the Cruciferous family of plants. Cruciferous vegetables derive their name from the cross or crucifer shape of their flowers, which form a cross with their four petals. These vegetables contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavor of cruciferous vegetables. The breakdown of these chemicals through chewing, blending, cooking, chopping, and digestion releases their anti-cancer ingredients. These ingredients have been found to inhibit the growth of cancers like prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer. Here are a few of these vegetable super heroes: broccoli, broccoli sprouts, watercress, Brussel sprouts, arugula, collards, and kale. We can saturate our sensitive tissues with these power-packed vegetables to assist our body in its path to health. Throw some kale and berries into a blender for a delicious cruciferous smoothie.
Makes Fiber and Protein Requirements Easier
It is not news to most of us that animal products have been implicated in the development of many diseases. Recommendations are made daily that we try to include more plants and plant protein in our diet. How do we meet our body’s requirements for protein without consuming animal products? Very easily, it turns out. For instance, leafy greens contain almost half of their calories in protein. Beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds are superior sources of protein. Consuming plant products is a very healthful way to get our required daily amount of protein.The other great news is that plant proteins are not only able to meet our nutritional need for protein, but they also give us something that animal products cannot: fiber.
Fiber is crucial to the healthy functioning of the body and is absent in animal products. High fiber foods assist in elimination, cholesterol lowering, and strengthening of the immune system. Daily intake of high-fiber foods can make a profound difference in overall health. Try some broccoli, Brussel sprouts, peas, or artichokes for an instant green boost of fiber in your meal.
So, can greens really save your life? I think the answer is that greens can so enhance your health and well-being, and for such a low price, that they can really be invaluable to your health. Perhaps the day will come that our doctor will prescribe a trip down the produce aisle instead of to the pharmacy. Eat some broccoli sprouts and cabbage, and call the doctor in the morning to tell her how great you feel!
Johnston N. Sulforaphane halts breast cancer cell growth. Drug Discov Today 2004;9(21):908.
Finley JW. The antioxidant responsive element (ARE) may explain the protective effects of cruciferous vegetables on cancer. Nutr Rev 2003 Jul;61(7):250-254.
Higdon JV, Delage B, Williams DE, Dashwood RH. Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacol Res. 2007; 55(3):224-36.
Hayes JD, Kelleher MO, Eggleston IM. The cancer chemopreventive actions of phytochemicals derived from glucosinolates. European Journal of Nutrition 2008;47 Suppl 2:73-88.
Hecht SS. Inhibition of carcinogenesis by isothiocyanates. Drug Metabolism Reviews 2000;32(3-4):395-411.
Murillo G, Mehta RG. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. Nutrition and Cancer 2001;41(1-2):17-28.