“Let your food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Hyppocrates summed up the situation well when he spoke these words more than two thousand years ago. Many ailments are either caused by, or made worse by, a poor diet. By the same token, many ailments are improved by the right sort of diet. A balanced diet has long been known to improve health in general, particularly a diet that includes several daily portions of fruits and vegetables. They nourish the body and sustain energy, and they provide essential nutrients that meat often does not.
Both of these food types have advantages when it comes to preparing and eating them. There is a great variety of both from which to choose, they often go well together and they can be enjoyed at any time of day and in a variety of forms. They can be eaten raw as a snack or as a side dish, and used as a dressing or dip when eaten with other foods. They can also be juiced for drinking. The wide variety of fruits and vegetables also adds colour and taste thus adding to the enjoyment of healthy eating.
The science behind the goodness of these foods often takes second place to the simple idea that “they are healthy” with the emphasis being given to variety and ease of preparation. It is useful, occasionally, to review the value of these foods. There are three main elements to consider.
Literally “plant chemicals” are antioxidants, and are found in all fruits and vegetables. They provide the colour seen in so many fruits, which is one reason we are advised to eat the rainbow. The greater the variety of colour in our vegetarian diet, the more antioxidants we take in.
The value to the human body is that they enable cells to last longer. All cells die but cells where electrons have been lost because of a build-up of free radicals, caused by oxidation, are destroyed more rapidly. The destruction is associated with inflammation as well as with more serious diseases including cancers, alzheimer’s disease, as well as more simple conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
A doctor’s advice is paramount when such cases exist but, for the rest of us, we can look at how we can protect ourselves and, perhaps, add years of healthy living to our existence.
Some plants contain as much as a hundred different oxygen inhibitors, giving them a broad range of healing capability. Eating a variety, therefore, adds to the healing power simply because of this abundance. The greater the variety of fruits and vegetables, the wider the range of phytochemicals and so the greater the impact on health.
Everyone knows that calcium helps to build strong bones and teeth. It is the most common element in the body and is, for example, essential for muscle contraction, heart rhythm, eye health and a strong nervous system.
People also know that if too little calcium is ingested, the body will take it from the bones to use elsewhere. A lack of bone calcium increases the likelihood of brittle bones as one ages and a lack, in general, will affect heart, muscle and nervous system functions.
Green leafy vegetables, like kale, broccoli and sprouts are all high in calcium.
All plants contain both types of fibre – both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre binds with fatty acids and so should reduce the levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, in the body. It also reduces sugar intake and slows the amount of time to empty the stomach. This, in itself, reduces appetite and so should reduce the desire to over-eat.
Insoluble fibre cannot be digested, so it promotes healthy bowel movements just by shifting bulk through the alimentary canal. By so doing it increases the removal of toxic waste and helps to maintain an optimum pH balance in the intestines, Optimum pH helps to reduce the likelihood of bowel cancers in later life.
Fruits and vegetables contain many elements and compounds which the body needs to fight disease, treat ailments and add to both the length and quality of life. They are readily available in a wide variety of tastes and can be prepared easily. Regardless of whether they are eaten raw of cooked, they keep their healing properties.