Carrots are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into anti-oxidant vitamin A. This helps to strengthen cells against viruses, to fight cancer and prevent heart disease. It also aids vision. We use the vitamin K present in carrots for blood clotting and healing of wounds, while their fibre content aids digestion and keeps the heart healthy.
The chromium found in carrots helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, making this vegetable useful for controlling diabetes and sugar cravings.
Potatoes are one of the cheapest and most readily available sources of vitamin C; a nutrient that is vital for keeping the immune system healthy. New potatoes are richer in this antioxidant than old ones. Most of the fibre, which aids digestion and lowers cholesterol, is found in the skin. Potatoes also contain vitamin B6 which helps to make the immunity-boosting amino acids that are crucial for good health. Vitamin B6 is needed by phagocytes to mop up waste matter in the cells.
Onion has an exceptionally high level of flavonoid quercetin, a strong antioxidant which can block the formation of cancer cells. Quercetin is anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and anti-viral and like beta-carotene, not destroyed in cooking. Onion is also thought to suppress the activity of the helicobacter pylori bacterium, which causes stomach ulcers and food poisoning. It can also help- to lower the cholesterol, thin the blood and prevent the formation of clots.
Red peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C, which is crucial for immune function. They also contain flavonoids that are thought to enhance vitamin C’s antioxidant action by strengthening it’s ability to protect the body against disease. Peppers have high levels of beta-carotene, which the body turns into anti-viral, immunity-boosting vitamin A, and also contain fibre, which is important for preventing the build up of cholesterol.
Rich in iron, beetroot enhances the production of disease-fighting antibodies, white blood cells (including phagocytes). It also stimulates red blood cells and improves the supply of oxygen to cells. It contains manganese, which is needed for the formation of interferon, a powerful anti-cancer substance, and is given its color by the pigment betanin, an antioxidant anthocyanin which can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Beetroot is thought to have detoxifying properties which improve liver and kidney health, and is high in fibre, important for both heart and digestive health.
As effective cooked as it is raw, fresh beetroot can be juiced, used in salads or made into a soup. Beetroot tops (leaves) are also rich in Vitamin A and C, iron and calcium and can be used in a similar way to spinach. Simply boil them for a few minutes and serve warm with a little olive oil.
Tomatoes are full of Vitamin C, which is powerfully anti-viral and crucial for all functions of the immune system. They are also packed with lycopene, a type of carotenoid, that helps to prevent cancer particularly cancer of the prostate. Tomatoes contain high levels of beta-carotene – necessary for the production of Vitamin A. This helps to maintain a healthy thymus gland, which plays a vital role in immune response. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin E, which helps to protect the body from toxins.
Orange-fleshed pumpkins contain high levels of carotenoids, which studies suggest may help to prevent some forms of cancer – including cancer of the colon – as well as heart disease. Pumpkins are also rich in antioxidant vitamin C, which is needed for efficient immune system function, and can help to fight viruses such as colds, and improve general resistance to disease. In addition, pumpkins contain fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol, and promotes good digestion by encouraging the elimination of waste.
Even in small amounts, chillies are helpful addition to the diet – one small red chilli contains high levels of anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-oxidant carotenoid beta-carotene, some of which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Both these nutrients help to prevent the damage caused by toxins in the body, and can help stave off cancer and premature ageing. Chillies also contain capsaicin, a plant chemical that has natural analgesic properties, which can be used both internally and topically to ease headaches, arthritis and sinusitis.
Spinach is rich in carotenoids, which the body converts to antioxidant vitamin A to help to trigger immune response to fight infections. This vegetable helps to prevent lung, breast and cervical cancers, as well as to fight heart disease. Its vitamin C content keeps skin and mucous membranes healthy, while its B vitamins improve energy and nervous system conditions. Spinach is also rich in zinc, required to promote T-cell activity.
Brussels sprouts are one of the best sources of glucosinolates, which help the body to produce cancer-preventing enzymes. They are high in vitamin C and folate, which encourage the body to heal itself. They also contain vitamin B5, an immune stimulant that triggers the production of antibodies. Dense in fibre, Brussels sprouts keep the digestive system healthy and cholesterol low.
Like the other members of the Cruciferous family, cauliflower contains glucosinolates, plant chemicals that can help prevent cancer, especially of the lung, breast, stomach and colon. It also contains vitamin C and zinc, which are both crucial for strengthening the immune system. Cauliflower is a good source of B-vitamins, including folate, which is vital for good reproductive health, and B5, needed for antibody production.
Broccoli is a powerhouse of antioxidant vitamin C, which is crucial for immune response. It is also a rich source of carotenoids, which are importantfor the thymus gland which regulates the immune system, and is packed with B-vitamins, needed for good immune and nervous system health. Broccoli contains sulphoraphanes, powerful anti-carcinogenic chemicals that fight the development of tumours. It’s also full of fibre, vital for a healthy digestive system, and has detoxifying properties to help cleanse the liver.
Fitness is not about being better than someone else… IT IS ABOUT BEING BETTER THAN YOU USED TO BE.
— Gordon Slanquit, Personal Trainer