Understanding the Power of Vegetables by Reinier Van Coevorden, M.D. Everyone has probably heard that you need to “eat your vegetables” because “vegetables are good for you,” at some point in life. Most people also know they should probably eat more vegetables than they presently do. For those that just love veggies and have no problem working them into your daily routine, keep at it! For the rest of us that need that extra bump of motivation to get more veggies into your life, then this article is for you. When people understand the actual benefits and ways that vegetables work to improve your health, the more likely they are to stick to a greener, healthier diet. In this article, I want to introduce different ways of working vegetables into your diet, in hopes of motivating you to eat green. A brief history lesson Humans have understood the life-giving, nourishing power of vegetables for thousands of years. The word “vegetable” comes from the Latin word “vegetare”, which means animating or to give life. That’s exactly what veggies do, Give Life! The history of vegetables goes back to the most distant reaches of humankind, back to when hunter-gatherers left Africa and began spreading across the earth. Vegetables have long since been identified as the source of great medicinal and nutritional power. The history of the tomato dates back 2500 years to the people of the ancient Aztec civilization, who understood the value in the plant and integrated it into their medicine and cuisines. Now, this plant is regarded as one of the most popular vegetables on the planet. The incredible history of the Carrot dates back over 5000 years to the fields of Iran and Afghanistan, before spreading through Asia, and eventually turned orange in the European scientific community. Some Interesting Vegetable Facts In Dr. William Li’s excellent, and highly worthwhile TEDTalk: Can We Eat to “Starve” Cancer, Dr. Li outlines a group of cancer-fighting dietary sources that contain Antiangiogenic inhibitors, naturally occurring properties that prevent and reduce the growth of blood cells that feed cancers and fat cells. Many of the sources he lists are vegetables that contain naturally high levels of Anitangiogenic inhibitors. Vegetables contain many beneficial properties that nourish, heal, and strengthen our bodies. Here’s just a few interesting vegetable facts: Asparagus is one of the best foods to eat for detoxification and can also help with arthritis and rheumatism. Avocados are one of the healthiest sources of fat available. They contain loads of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. Eating avocados can help improve blood cholesterol, and can even help you lose weight despite containing fat! Beets are great for healing the liver and break down fat deposits. Carrots contain beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A by our bodies, and is non-toxic unlike the synthetic vitamin A. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Cooked tomatoes contain high amounts of phytonutrient lycopene which is a cancer fighting agent. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, and radishes are powerful cancer fighters, help your body burn fat deposits, detoxify the liver, and keep high blood pressure in check. Garlic has been shown to reduce risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, colon cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Garlic also has antibacterial and antiviral abilities, so it is a great remedy for many common infections and colds. Onions have been shown to significantly lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, and can also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and prevent blood clots and strokes. They have also been shown to stop tumor growth! Red bell peppers are actually ripe green bell peppers, and contain high amounts of vitamin C, beta-caratene, B vitamins, and cancer-fighting lycopene. How to Eat More Vegetables There are other ways to eat veggies besides the usual raw or cooked. With all the new juicing equipment out there, it’s easy and fun to watch veggies get pulverized into fresh, healthy and vitamin-rich juice. Adding in fruits adds complex sugars and flavors that can help make your juicing concoctions more palatable. When juicing, be sure to buy organic produce, especially when juicing fruit or veggies with the skin. Washing vegetables is also important, especially when using non-organic produce. There are some great natural vegetable washes available on Amazon that contain natural substances that do a good job at removing pesticides, chemicals, and dirt. There are some dehydrated and powdered vegetable concentrates out there, that when mixed with water provide a quick and easy way to meet your daily veggie quota. This is great for traveling and other times when bringing fresh veggies is not convenient or possible. Just add water, and you have yourself a healthy, vitamin rich smoothie. Be sure to look for the organic varieties, it makes a big difference. Another great tip is to keep raw veggies sliced and available for eating. I find that when veggies are washed and cut, I’m much more likely to grab a handful here and there throughout the day. And really, I would much rather be snacking on some fresh veggies than potato chips or other junk food. The easier I can make eating vegetables, the more likely I will choose veggies over other less-healthy options. Hopefully I’ve inspired you to consider incorporating more vegetables into your diet. With increasing cancer and obesity rates, it’s important for everyone to do what they can to defend their bodies from disease, and it all starts with the food you eat. We’ll be posting some great recipes soon in an upcoming article, so stay posted!