We know that eating a variety of healthy plant foods should be part of a healthy diet. Plant foods like greens, potatoes, tomatoes, legumes, peppers, and berries can help us stay slim, and reduce the risk of disease. And they’re easy to grow yourself.
Growing Greens in Your Garden
There are many types of greens that you can grow in your garden that are perfect for salads, side dishes, and sandwiches. Greens are great for your health since they contain phytonutrients and antioxidants. A salad full of greens with a little balsamic vinegar will help your body produce nitric oxide, which is necessary for the proper dilation of our arteries and blood vessels. The healthy greens you can grow include:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Romaine and butter lettuce
- Brussels sprouts
Peppers for Health
There are many kinds of peppers that will easily grow in your home garden. Bell peppers have almost twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. They also have a good amount of vitamins B6, K1, E, A, and folate, plus lutein for the eyes, and quercetin, which is thought to prevent cancer. The bright colors are an indication of their high antioxidant levels.
Chili peppers like cayenne, jalapeno, and other varieties have capsaicin. Capsaicin has numerous health benefits including raising metabolism, improves digestion, alleviates migraines, and fights the cold and flu. A few of the popular pepper varieties you can grow include:
- Bell peppers
White Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
White potatoes are full of vitamin C, B6, potassium, fiber, and low in fat and calories. For centuries, populations have not only survived but also thrived on white potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are in a different family of tubers than white potatoes but just as healthy. Sweet potatoes have a high amount of beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, biotin, manganese, and numerous B vitamins. White and sweet potatoes are also high in healthy fiber, which is important for healthy gut bacteria and can reduce the risk of cancer.
Like peppers and white potatoes, tomatoes are in the family of nightshade vegetables, and just as healthy. The best-known health benefit of tomatoes is that they contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Studies have found that eating tomatoes can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35%, and a reduced risk of advanced stage prostate cancer by 53%, raw or cooked.
In addition to lycopene, tomatoes have a good amount of vitamin C, A, B2, folate, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants.
Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are very high in the antioxidants anthocyanins and resveratrol. Blueberries have one of the highest amounts of anthocyanins of any food. These two potent antioxidants remove free radicals from our body, improve eyesight, and have anti-viral properties. In addition, studies have found that berries inhibit the growth of cancer cells and induce cancer cell death.
Peas are the powerhouse of vegetables containing a good amount of protein, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc, lutein for eyesight, and fiber for digestion. In addition to the vitamins and minerals, peas also contain alpha-linolenic acid, which converts to omega-3 fatty acid in the body. Green peas are also lower in calories compared with other legumes like peanuts.
Beets and beet greens are some of the healthiest foods you can grow. Beets are high in nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide, and necessary for proper endothelial functioning of our arteries. This helps the vessels dilate so the blood can flow properly. This also has a healing benefit for the coronary arteries and can help reduce blood pressure.
Growing these healthy foods in your garden is a great way to have healthy foods close by. There is nothing like picking your own salad greens and vegetables for dinner or berries for your dessert from your own garden.