Happy Canada Day! Eat your Reds and Whites
You've probably heard the expression "Eat the rainbow", well, while that is right we also don't want to forget about the variety of nutritious white foods. But don't get confused with the white flours, breads, pasta, cakes and cookies that are tasty but yet offer little nutritional value. I'm talking about white veggies and legumes that offer an explosion of vital nutrients.
Cauliflower is one of the cruciferous vegetables, the same family that also includes its nutrition packed cousins such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, turnip, and kohlrabi. Not only is cauliflower an excellent source of vitamin C, but it also offers a broad spectrum of antioxidants that helps protect our cells from damage and the risk of developing cancer. Cauliflower also helps support our detoxification systems and reduces inflammation. Eating cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables on a regular basis helps to prevent the accumulation of toxins and inflammation in our bodies which can eventually lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Garlic contains very potent sulfur-containing compounds that protect our heart and cardiovascular system in a number of ways. The most commonly known compound, allicin, can help to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, lower our blood pressure and protect our blood vessels from inflammation--the culprit underlying atherosclerosis (plaque build up in our arteries). Aside from being a heart health superhero, garlic is also known for it's ability to fight infections. At the onset of cold or flu symptoms eating garlic raw--chopped or crushed is the best way to get the active compounds.
Like garlic, onions also belong to the Allium family and provide those essential sulfur-containing compounds critical for detoxification. Onions are also a very good source of biotin, an important nutrient for our skin, hair and nails. Quercitin, a potent antioxidant, is also found in large amounts in onions helping to boost our immune system, keeping those allergy symptoms at bay as well as protecting our cells from oxidative damage which accelerates the aging process.
This tiny white bean is a fibre all-star helping to lower cholesterol, promote detoxification and stabilize blood sugar. They are also a great source of magnesium--a critical nutrient to over 300 processes in the body--as well as iron and B vitamins, such as folate. If you are vegan or vegetarian these little guys are protein powerhouses offering about 15g of protein per 1 cup serving. And when combined with other legumes and grains will offer complete protein that you would otherwise get from eating meat.
Tomatoes are very high in antioxidants and one of the richest sources of the phytonutrient, lycopene. Lycopene has a variety of benefits to the body especially in reducing the risk of cancers, particularly prostate cancer. To get the best cancer fighting effects out of tomatoes, they are best eaten cooked. Tomatoes are also high in the compound lutein which helps protect our vision and prevent eye diseases such as macular degeneration.
Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. Make sure to keep steaming and roasting times to a minimum as this can deplete the amount of betalains. In particular, beets can boost the liver's level of glutathione which is known as the mother of all antioxidants plays a critical role in preventing chronic disease. And don't forget to eat your beet greens too. They may be the healthiest part. Beet greens are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, riboflavin (B2) and K, as well as the minerals copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium. Enjoys these delicious beet recipes.
Watermelon: Mother Nature's Viagara
Like tomatoes, watermelon is also a great source of that cancer protecting lycopene as well as beta-carotene. Make sure that your melon is optimally ripe to get the best lycopene and beta-carotene benefits as the antioxidant concentration increases along with ripening. Although higher in sugar than some other fruits, it's high fibre and water content make it gentler on our blood sugar. Watermelon may also be considered mother nature's viagara! It helps boost our bodies ability to make nitric oxide (NO) through it's rich content of the amino acid citrulline. When we ingest citrulline, our body converts this to the amino acid arginine and then into NO through a series of biochemical conversions. NO is a muscle relaxant and helps to dilate the smooth muscles in blood vessels, increasing blood flow through our circulatory system and the...well, you know :)
Research has demonstrated the heart healthy benefits of pomegranate juice. In both animal models and humans, pomegranate juice reduces high blood pressure and prevents the oxidation of fats in the blood leading to plaque buildup in the arteries. In a study involving patients with type 2 diabetes, drinking 250 ml of pomegranate juice daily for 12 weeks significantly reduced the inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, an important factor in cardiovascular disease. Besides it's tasty nectar, tossing the seeds on salads or simply eating them for a snack provides good sources of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium and fibre.
Mind Body Green, The Cleansing Power Of Beets: 10 Delicious Recipes For A Healthier Liver, http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17222/the-cleansing-power-of-beets-10-delicious-recipes-for-a-healthier-liver.html
The Huffington Post, Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/glutathione-the-mother-of_b_530494.html
The World's Healthiest Foods, whfoods.com