We all know that veggies are good for us, but how many of us know the benefits of specific vegetables? The old saying goes, let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food. This rings very true when we examine different vegetables and the benefits they offer our bodily functions. Here’s a refresher on 7 vegetables you should include in your daily diet to keep your body strong and in optimal condition. By taking care of yourself from the inside out, you will have more energy to give your best in and out of the office. Although it may not often be spoken, physicians are examples to our patients of what health should look like, so let’s look at 7 veggies that can help us be at our best:
1. Carrots The most well-known healing component of carrots is beta-carotene. It has been shown to help reduce a wide range of cancers including bladder prostate intestinal stomach lung mouth throat In fact, another substance called falcarinol found in carrots, has been shown by Danish researchers at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences to slow down the growth of cancer cells. To be accurate, there are also some studies that show that too many carrots may actually cause cancer, but you would have to be eating 2 – 3 kilograms of carrots daily for that to happen. Remember, everything in moderation! Beta carotene is also proven to prevent night blindness and promote overall healthy sight. 2. Cruciferous Vegetables If your parents encouraged you as a child to eat your broccoli and Brussel sprouts, or cooked cabbage on a regular basis, they were wise parents indeed! The cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels, cabbage, and cauliflower all contain a component called indole-3-carbinol. This compound protects against and combats breast cancer cells by converting cancer promoting estrogen (E1) to more protective estrogens in the body. In addition, these vegetables contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help decrease prostate and other cancers. Broccoli, and sprouts also contain sulphurane, which has been shown to activate certain enzymes that deactivate free radicals and carcinogens in colon and rectal cancers. Strengthen your cancer defense with these cruciferous vegetables. 3. Kale (and other green & yellow leafy vegetables) Kale has indoles, as well as nitrogen, which help to stop the conversion of certain lesions to cancer cells in estrogen-sensitive breast cancers. In addition, isothiocyanates found in kale are thought to suppress tumor growth and block tumor cells from reaching their targets. Kale is great for sautéing, juicing, and using in soups. It also promotes the production of red blood cells, and lowers blood pressure. Having a day full of stressful patients? Opt for a kale salad for lunch. 4. Chili Peppers & Jalapeños Chili peppers contain a compound called Capsaicin which is known to be a potent anti-inflammatory. Capsaicin is used to decrease the inflammation in muscles and joints, so is great for arthritis. Capsaicin is also thought to neutralize certain cancer causing substances (nitrosamines) and may help prevent cancers such as in the stomach. 5. Sea Vegetables (Seaweed) Sea vegetables and seaweeds are great sources of iodine which promote healthy thyroid function. They are also rich in beta carotene, vitamin b12, protein, fiber and chlorophyll, which make them great for cardiovascular health. In addition to iodine, many sea vegetables contain high mineral concentrations of potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. The chlorophylones in sea vegetables are an important fatty acid compound that may fight against breast cancer. Most sea vegetables are great in stir fry’s. However there are seaweed snacks called Laver, that can also be a tasty on the go treat. Throw them in your work bag for a healthy snack at the office. 6. Sweet Potatoes While technically sweet potatoes are a legume, their properties are worth mentioning. Like carrots, sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene and they protect the inside of a DNA cell’s nucleus from cancer properties outside of the cell membrane. These topped with chopped pecans are a great side dish. 7. Mushrooms This non-vegetable fungi also has properties worth including in the discussion of Veggie “Must haves”. Many mushrooms have been shown to have healing properties including Shitake, Reishi, Maitake, Agaricus blazei, and Murill, and Coriolus Versicolor. They contain polysaccharides that help build immunity in the body, and are a great source of beta glucans, another immunity boosting component. They also contain a protein called lectin, which has been shown to attack cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. Mushrooms can stimulate the production of interferons in the body and are being tested for their use as chemotherapeutic agents in Japan. Help protect yourself against the body invaders you encounter each day by incorporating mushrooms into your meals. Mushrooms are delicious sautéed in an omelet for breakfast, on a salad or topping chicken breast for dinner. Conclusion: The moral of the story is simple. Get your 3-4 servings of vegetables daily to strengthen your body against cancer cell growth and potential illness. In our field as physicians, we are surrounded by potential attacks on our immune system and need to take extra precautions to make sure we are in our optimal health condition. There are plenty of great, simple, and yummy recipes out there to help you get started.