Super Fruits & Vegetables

Every Sunday morning I rush to my Farmer’s Market ( to taste the latest local delicacy. It’s the highlight of my week. Lately I’ve been buying several quarts of strawberries weekly, but starting soon, I’ll have cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plums, peaches, and more to choose from!

This is the perfect time of year to enjoy the most ripe, fresh, flavorful fruits and vegetables – as you can get just about everything you need locally. Whenever my clients make a large purchase at their Farmer’s Market, they see a nice reduction on their scale. This is because fruits and vegetables are the lowest calorie foods you can eat. But they also give you plenty of volume from their naturally high water content – and this helps you feel nice and full.

Fruits and vegetables not only help you lose weight, but improve your health dramatically.

More than 200 studies of various research designs have revealed a strong association between diets high in vegetables and fruits ( five cups daily) and a lower risk for cancer. This is why the National Cancer Institute recommends a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

The American Heart Association is also getting into the act. Its latest guidelines place more emphasis on eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, rather than on restricting fat because of fruits’ and vegetables’ influence on the prevention of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Many other health organizations, as well as the United States Department of Agriculture, are getting on the bandwagon and recommending a plant-based diet as protective against chronic diseases.

The research is clear and compelling. We‘ve known the positive statistics for decades. (Of course, our grandmothers knew them before the scientists did… and Thomas Jefferson, before that!) But scientists are just beginning to understand why fruits and vegetables prevent disease so effectively.

Apparently, each fruit and vegetable is a little factory of nutrients and chemicals — called phytochemicals — with potent powers of healing. An apple alone contains more than 150 beneficial, disease-fighting chemicals. And these are substances you can’t get from a pill. They act synergistically in the foods so the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. While an apple has only 6 mg of Vitamin C, it has 1,500 mg of Vitamin C anti-oxidant activity because of the interaction of the Vitamin C and the other nutrients in the apple.

Research has found that when some substances are added together, they boost each other and produce more than a double effect. This may explain why studies on supplements have failed to show the same health-enhancing and cancer-preventive effects as a diet high in vegetables and fruits — the whole foods..

The phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables, when eaten whole, have antioxidant effects, stimulate the immune system, enhance cancer-fighting enzymes, influence hormone metabolism positively, and even have antibacterial and antiviral effect. Phytochemicals are the compounds found in plants. (“Phyton” means “plant” in Greek.) By definition, all plants contain them. The term technically includes vitamins, minerals and fiber. But in the common usage, it has come to refer to all the other compounds in plants that our bodies have evolved uses for. Many of these compounds are potent antioxidants. Others are anti-inflammatories, and still others stimulate the body’s detoxification enzymes.  You get them in sufficient quantities by eating the 5 cups of fruits and vegetables that the USDA recommends. All fruits and vegetables contain them–but the greatest concentration of beneficial phytochemicals is generally found in the most intensely colorful fruits and vegetables. (Notable exceptions would be onions, garlic and cauliflower.)

More than 900 different phytochemicals have been found in plant foods and more will be discovered. These protective plant compounds are an emerging area of nutrition and health, with new research reported every day.

Recommended book: The Color Code: A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health

Powerful Fruits and Vegetables That Hold Promise for Human Health

While eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is recommended for maximum health, there are some which we call the “superstars,” which you should try to eat daily.

1. Broccoli Family

People who regularly consume brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli have reduced incidence of certain cancers, especially cancer of the colon. They actually provide potent anti cancer enzymes in the body.

2. Tomatoes

Men who consumed 10 or more servings of tomato products a week had a 35% decrease in risk of prostate cancer relative to those who consumed 1.5 servings or fewer per week. This is largely attributed to “lycopene” in the tomatoes, which is also in other red fruits such as watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava. Men with lycopene levels in the top 20% had a 46% decrease in risk of heart attack compared to those in the bottom 20%. Lycopene is a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals.

3. Dark Green Leafy Veggies (kale, spinach, collard greens and turnip greens)

People who consumed spinach or collard greens 2 to 4 times per week had 46% decrease in risk of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of preventable blindness) compared to those who consume these vegetables less than once per month. This is attributed to the phytochemical “lutein” in the carotenoid family. Absorption of carotenoids in your body is increased by cooking and by the presence of fat (so cook in a little healthy olive or canola oil!)

4. Garlic

The Iowa Women’s Study found the risk of getting colon cancer was decreased by 32% in realistic periodic consumption of garlic. This is largely attributed the the “alliinase” found in garlic. Allinase is preserved in foods if garlic is crushed and allowed to stand for 10 minutes before it is cooked. This result should also be found in other “Allium” family foods: onions, leeks, chives, scallions.

5. Berries and Red/Purple Grapes

Red/Purple fruits and vegetables such as red and blue grapes, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, beets, eggplant (skin), red cabbage, red peppers, plums and red apples are loaded with powerful antioxidant called “anthocyanins.” They delay cellular aging and prevent formation of blood clots. Full of potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. In animal studies.

“In tests at Tufts University, blue foods quenched more free radicals than any other foods. Blueberries and blackberries were clear winners among fresh fruits.”

(“The Color Code: A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimal Health” by Joseph, Nadeau and Underwood)

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