Basil, Berries and More!

Basil

A member of the mint family, basil is a source of magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. Basil contains flavonoids, phytochemicals that protect cells in the body from damage.  Basil also has been shown to have “anti-bacterial” properties, which come from its volatile oils.  Lab studies show the effectiveness of basil in restricting growth of numerous bacteria. Like many other herbs, basil has anti-inflammatory effects and may be able to provide important healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.

Berries

Berries are brimming with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  Foods high in vitamin C probably protect against cancer of the esophagus, while foods containing dietary fiber can probably decrease one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. All berries, but particularly strawberries and raspberries, are rich in a substance called pelagic acid. In laboratory studies, this phytochemical has shown the ability to prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung, esophagus and breast.  Research suggests that ellagic acid seems to utilize several different cancer-fighting methods at once: it acts as an antioxidant, it helps the body deactivate specific carcinogens and it helps slow the reproduction of cancer cells. Strawberries also contain a wide range of other phytochemicals, called flavonoids, each of which seems to employ a similar array of anti-cancer strategies.  Blueberries contain a family of phenolic compounds called anthocyanosides, which many scientists believe are among the most potent antioxidants yet discovered.  These anthocyanosides also appear to have brain and heart health-promoting actions.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and contains potassium, folate and fiber.  Cauliflower along with broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale are part of the family of vegetables called crucifers.  Research on cruciferous vegetables highlights several components that have been linked to lower cancer risk, including glucosinolates, crambene, indole-3-carbinol and, especially, isothiocyanates (which are derived from glucosinolates).  Several laboratory studies have suggested that cruciferous vegetables help regulate enzymes in the body that defend against cancer.  The compounds in these vegetables have the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells in various cell, tissue and animal models, including tumors of the breast, endometrium, lung, colon, liver, colon and cervix.

Potatoes

Potatoes are a rich source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.  Potatoes also contain vitamin B6, fiber, magnesium and folate.  Potatoes also contain a variety of phytochemicals that have antioxidant activity. Among these important health-promoting compounds are carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, which exhibit activity against free radicals.

Plums

Plums contain vitamin C, vitamin A, and fiber.  Plums are a source of phytochemicals called phenols.  Phenols prevent damage and are particularly effective in neutralizing “free radicals”.  Phenols have also been shown to help prevent damage to fats that are part of brain cells, those circulating in our bloodstream, and those fats that make up our cell membranes.  Plums are know to stimulate bowel movements and are good for promoting regularity.  If you don’t want that effect peel the fruit since it is the skin of the plum that contains the substance responsible for that effect.

Sweet Peppers

Sweet peppers are a great source of vitamins A and C.  Peppers contain several types of carotenoids, a group of phytochemicals that are powerful antioxidants.

Summer Squash

Squash belong to the plant family that includes melons and cucumbers. The skin and rind of summer squash are rich in the nutrient beta-carotene, but the fleshy portion of this vegetable is not. To gain the full nutritional benefits of this vegetable, the skins or rinds must be eaten.

Swiss chard

Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and fiber.  It also contains iron and calcium.  Along with other dark green leafy vegetables, Swiss chard contains a wide range of phytochemicals called carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin, along with saponins and flavonoids.  Foods containing carotenoids have been found to probably protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx.  Researchers believe that carotenoids seem to prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants.  Antioxidants neutralize potentially dangerous “free radicals” before they can do harm to the body. Some laboratory research has found that the carotenoids in dark green leafy vegetables can inhibit the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells, skin cancer cells, lung cancer and stomach cancer.  Additionally there is probable evidence that foods containing folate decrease risk of pancreatic cancer and that foods containing dietary fiber probably reduce one’s chances of developing colorectal cancer.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are actually members of the fruit family, but they are usually served and prepared as a vegetable.  Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A. The tomato’s red color comes from the phytochemical (naturally occurring plant chemicals) called lycopene.  Tomatoes have attracted particular attention from prostate cancer researchers because lycopene and its related compounds tend to concentrate in tissues of the prostate.   There is now substantial evidence that foods containing lycopene probably protect against prostate cancer. Lycopene is more easily absorbed when tomatoes are consumed in a processed form that allows these natural compounds to be released, such as tomato sauce, tomato paste or tomato juice. Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, has shown anti-cancer potential in a variety of laboratory studies. In the laboratory, tomato components have stopped the proliferation of several other cancer cells types, including breast, lung, and endometrial.

 

Information sources: www.aicr.org, www.whfoods.comwww.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov