Fruits and vegetables offer amazing micronutrient profiles that support our well-being and health. Studies have taken nutritional research beyond the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals and into the realm of phyto-compounds which are naturally occurring plant chemicals in the herbs, spices, medicinal plants, fruits and vegetables.
With the advancement of food and dietary research they are continuously finding new plant chemicals, properties and their health benefits. There is so much more exciting new research coming up that will further our understanding on the potential health properties of plants, fruits and vegetables and their comprehensive plant compounds.
Here are a few foods that have received a lot of attention in recent years for their research-supported health benefits:
Of course this little gem needs to be mentioned. With its amazing ability to support and reduce the incidence of cancer and other health diseases. Key active ingredients are curcuminoids particularly curcumin. This spice offers a long list of health benefits such as improving the livers’ detoxification pathways, prevention of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and helps reduce cholesterol levels. All these benefits are due to its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This spice is also used for pain in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
They contain anthocyanins, antioxidants whose anti-inflammatory effects may help reduce pain. The darker the cherry’s color the higher the anthocyanin content. They have also been shown to contain melatonin which enhances sleep onset, depth and length of sleep.
Blueberries offer an amazing array of antioxidants and would be one of the most potent foods to consume for long-term health. Studies indicate that blueberries have the ability to reduce the aging of the brain and can help reverse dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. Blueberries contain anthocynanins and chlorogenic acid which offer its high antioxidant profile which supports the immune system, heart health, eye health and helps prevent cancer. Here is more on the benefits of eating blueberries.
Onions offer an array of health properties and have been included in folklore medicine in cultures around the globe. Onions have been shown to reduce the oxidation of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and reduce plague formation and raise the HDL ‘good’ cholesterol which offers a protective effect against heart disease.Onions have also been shown to reduce the incidence of viral and bacterial infections due to the quercetin content, reduce bronchial constriction in asthmatics therefore reducing the incidence of asthma attacks.
- Shiitake Mushrooms
They offer a wide variety of healing properties particularly towards the immune system. Studies continue to examine how shiitake mushrooms may fight cancer and inhibit viral replication by boosting the immune system through the compound lentinan, which is believed to slow tumor growth. Another compound called beta-glucan has also been shown to reduce cancer activity and reduce the side-effects of cancer treatments. A compound called eritadenine is also showing promise in its ability to reduce the ability of cholesterol to be absorbed into the blood stream thus reducing cardiovascular disease. For more information American Cancer Society. Other medicinal mushrooms are maitake, turkey tail, reishi and oyster mushrooms.
- Fermented Foods
Good bacteria found in foods have been shown to offer health benefits for the immune and digestive system and may even have a strong role to play in the fight against inflammation and cancer. The human intestinal tract contains a complex microbial community that plays a central role in our health.Fermented foods or probiotics may reduce the incidence of IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, allergies, diarrhoea and intestinal infections. Foods include kefir & yogurt (coconut or organic dairy), kombucha, kim chi, miso, sauerkraut or a supplement can be taken.
Ginger is well known for its medicinal healing properties. It is a very well researched and a loved spice all around the world. Key active ingredient in ginger is gingerols & shogaols. Ginger may reduce pain and inflammation such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis & rheumatism, spasmodic period pain, nausea, morning sickness, vomiting from cancer treatments and exercise induced muscle soreness. It can also be beneficial in acute infections such as a common cold and respiratory inflammation such as bronchitis & asthma. Ginger is a great addition in many juice recipes and meals.
Sulforaphane, a powerful compound in cabbage, has been shown to consistently lower the incidence of cancer. This specialized compound has also been shown to help kill H. pylori (the bacteria that causes gastric and peptic ulcers) before it can get to your gut, and may even help inhibit the growth of gastric tumors. Another natural chemical found in cabbage, apigenin has been found to decrease tumor size in an aggressive form of breast cancer. The glutamine content of cabbage also protects and lines the gut against irritating agents and acts as a healing food to the villi in the intestinal lining. Other cabbage family vegetables also offer the sulforaphane content and other important phyto-compounds.
This is a very special culinary herb. Oregano has a high nutrient and antioxidant profile, it has been shown to reduce respiratory and digestive infections due to a compound called carvacol. A group of researchers found that oregano oil was effective against 41 strains of the food pathogens. In one study they found it could kill the hospital superbug MRSA. Scientists have also concluded that oregano may have chemo-preventive and therapeutic benefits that modulate breast cancer growth and metastasis.
- Aloe Vera
This is not so much a food but rather a medicinal plant. Aloe vera gel, which is the fleshy pulp within the leaf, is used as a healing agent for the skin for burns and skin irritations and it also has these wonderful benefits within the digestive system helping soothe an irritated digestive system. If you have a plant it’s great to add a little flesh to a juice regularly. Of course there are many more wonderful healing foods but these get a special mention today. These foods and plants can be easily incorporated into your diet to ensure excellent health and well-being. Prevention is always better than cure! Enjoy!