Friday, November 6, 2009

Health Benefits of Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs and Spices

You may have heard about "Cancer-curing" foods and thought to yourself that it sounds a little outrageous that a simple food can cure a disease that we have been researching for decades. This may not be totally true but certain foods do contain plant chemicals that can have many beneficial effects on your body including the ability to slow the growth of cancer.

Certain plant chemicals prevent oxidative damage to important molecules in the body. Eating the following antioxidant rich foods daily will help keep you healthy and energized. Remember to buy local, try your community's farmer's market, and organic, to get the freshest, pesticide-free produce you can find.

Kale, and dark green vegetables such as swiss chard, spinach, dandelion greens, and beet greens, contain carotenoids and lutein which can slow cataracts and macular degeneration.

Tea, grapes and berries, including strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberriescontain phenolics and anthocyanidins that slow the development if heart disease.

Carrots, squash, such as acorn and butternut, as well as pumpkins are high in carotenoids which reduce DNA damage and slow the development of cancer. So do the phenolics in tea, thechlorophyll in green vegetables, and the glucosinolates and thiocyanates found in broccoli,daikon, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choi and other members of the cabbage family.

The salicylates found in raisins, dates, chillies and tomatoes moderate the body's inflammatory response and slow the development of heart disease and cancer.

The phenolics and flavonoids found in many fruits and vegetables can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and tumors well as reduce the body's own production of DNA-damaging chemicals. The cabbage family especially red cabbage and red beets are extremely high in flavenoids, the purple color of both being the result of such a high content. Soybeans, grapes, berries, flax, andrye, are high in phenolics. The carbohydrates in mushrooms and the terpenes in citrus fruitscan have the same effect against cancer cells and tumors.

Onions and parsley have been shown to slow the body's removal of calcium from it's bones. Theinulin found in the onion family and in sunchokes encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine.

Cranberries and grapes contain phenolics and proanthocyanidins that prevent the adhesion of infectious bacteria to the walls of the urinary tract.

The sulfur compounds found in garlic have been found to neutralize carcinogens.
Beans such as lentils, chick peas, black beans, kidney beans, fava beans and white beans containprotease inhibitors, compounds which make it difficult for cancer cells to invade adjacent tissue.

Consumers of whole grain products such as breads, cereals and pasta have been shown to have a 33% lower rate of cancer.

To help you to eat these healthful fruits and vegetables here are a couple of simple seasonal recipes containing ingredients high in beneficial plant chemicals.

Squash Soup with Kale and White Beans

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
I white onion, diced finely
3 celery ribs, diced finely
1 large carrot, diced finely
3 cups diced butternut squash (from 1 medium 2-3 lb. squash)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red finger chili, sliced finely (for less heat, remove seeds)
1 cup dry white beans soaked overnight (or preboiled for 15 minutes), drained
1 14 oz. can organic diced tomatoes
4 cups kale (about 1 bunch) ribs removed and finely chopped
7 cups water or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, basil or oregano (why not all 3)
Fresh Parmesan shaves for garnish (optional)

Bring olive oil to almost smoking point in a large pot, add in onion, carrot and celery and saute over medium heat until lightly browned. Add squash and turn up heat slightly to brown well.

Add garlic and fresh chili and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add beans, then tomatoes and cook until most of the moisture from the tomatoes has cooked off. Add water or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Skim off any impurities that may rise to the surface of the soup and turn down to a low simmer. Add bay leaf.

Simmer soup for around 35-45 minutes until beans are tender. Add kale and cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Taste and season well with salt and pepper. Add fresh herbs just before serving.

To serve top each bowl with Parmesan shavings and a drizzle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil with a slice of rustic whole wheat bread you will have a lovely fall meal!
serves 6

Healthy Apple Cinnamon Raisin Muffins

1.5 cups pastry flour
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup bran
1/4 cup flax seeds
3 tbsp baking powder
1tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
2.5 cups organic unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup natural, unpasteurised honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
2 cups diced fresh apples ( about 3 large apples)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In medium sized bowl whisk together flours, bran, flax seeds, baking powder spices and salt. Whisk until well combined, set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together apple sauce, buttermilk, eggs, honey and vanilla until well blended.
Add dry ingredients to we and fold together gently until almost all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients, add the apples and raisins. Stir once or twice more to incorporate fruit.

Line a muffin tray with 12 muffin tins. Fill each cup to the top. Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Enjoy these healthy muffins as a quick breakfast or a wholesome snack.
makes 12 muffins.

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