Sunday, September 9, 2007

Ten Veggies You Should Have on Hand


September is Fruit and Vegetable Month, and we're doing our part by offering this list of the 10 vegetables that Dr. Weil recommends you have on hand in your kitchen.


Onions: This classic, pungent vegetable adds flavor to any meal. Allicin, a phytonutrient found in most varieties of onions, may be responsible for its health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.


Garlic: This fragrant bulb contains many of the same phytonutrients as onions, as well as antibiotic and antiviral compounds. It may help boost the immune system, prevent colds, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and fight fungal or yeast infections.


Spinach: This dark leafy green (and others like it, such as kale and collards) contains lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidant carotenoids that may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Spinach is also a source of calcium and folate, a B vitamin that helps to prevent birth defects. Buy organic spinach, since pesticides are commonly used on conventionally grown varieties.


Cabbage: This low-cost yet highly nutritious cruciferous vegetable contains nutrients called indoles, which may protect against both breast and prostate cancer. It also provides significant amounts of fiber and vitamin C.


Sweet potatoes: Rich in beta carotene, these vegetables may help boost the immune system, deliver vitamin C and folate (which may reduce the risk of heart disease and prevent certain birth defects), and are low on the glycemic index and glycemic load charts.


Beets: The deep red color of these root vegetables comes from anthocyanins, phytonutrients that protect against carcinogens and may help prevent heart disease. Beets are delicious hot or cold, versatile, and inexpensive.


Squash. With a wide variety of types, flavors, shapes, and sizes, squash is very versatile - it can even be used in pie! It provides beta carotene, potassium, and fiber, nutrients that are necessary for good overall health.


Tomatoes: This red fruit (often considered a vegetable) contains lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight heart disease and some types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Use tomatoes in everything from salads to sauces, but know that the lycopene is most easily absorbed when the tomatoes are cooked with a little oil.


Broccoli. This vegetable platter classic and other cruciferous vegetables offer cancer-protective benefits. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin K and calcium - both of which help keep bones strong. It is tasty both raw and cooked, and can be a stand out in soups, casseroles, and salads.


Mushrooms. Prized for their tonic effects, mushrooms can help address a host of illnesses.

Maitake mushrooms (known as "hen of the woods" for their resemblance to the fluffed tail feathers of a nesting hen) are particularly valued in Asian cooking, as they have anti-cancer, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties, and may also reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. Shiitake, enokidake and oyster mushrooms also have immune-boosting qualities, and are easily included in many main courses.