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Five Fruits and Vegetables and Diseases They Fight

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Fruits and Vegetables

Better health and disease prevention comes from exercise and good dietary habits. We all know the facts – eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and at least walk for 30 minutes a day five days a week. Despite the fact that we know how to improve our health, few Americans get enough fruits and vegetables, preferring processed foods with consistent taste and a long shelf life.

Most studies agree- a diet consisting of foods from nature really can fight disease. Processed foods make us obese, yet they continue to reign in the American diet.

According to David L. Katz, DL, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, Director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, we have many changes to make if we are to move away from diets that come from assembly lines.

Dr. Katz says, "That we are what we eat is as irrefutably true as it is inscrutably hard to see. Just as we extract lumber from trees to build houses that don't resemble the woods, so we extract nutrients from foods to replace the cells we turn over each day by the millions, or to construct the growing bodies of children. What we eat matters".

According to the March 2008 issue of Hypertension, vegetables may help keep blood pressure lower and prevent injury to the blood vessels that can lead to heart disease. Dr Andrew J Webb (Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK) found that drinking a glass of beet juice daily, along with eating green leafy vegetables, is a valuable way to fight against heart disease.

Vegetables promote a healthy cardiovascular system in ways unrelated to their antioxidant properties. The researchers discovered that saliva converts nitrates in vegetables into nitric oxide, which then circulates in the body to promote healthier blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and protecting blood vessels from injury. (1)

Consider the disease fighting properties of these five fruits and vegetables:

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· Cherries and cherry juice have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help prevent muscle pain from overuse. A study from 2006 showed that a group of study participants experienced less muscle soreness and loss of strength from ingesting the beneficial juice from cherries. The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Because cherries have anti-inflammatory properties, many arthritis sufferers find benefit for pain relief.

· Grapes have also been shown to help fight against heart disease. The benefits of grapes go beyond their anti-oxidant powers, according to a study from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, published October 2008. The study, from Mitchell Seymour, M.S., showed that grapes have "a direct impact on cardiovascular risk, beyond the simple blood pressure-lowering impact that we already know can come from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables." (2)

· Watermelon is special when it comes to health benefits. Last summer Texas A&M researchers created a stir when they suggested watermelon might improve erectile dysfunction. The truth is, all fruits and vegetables can keep our body parts in good working order, but watermelon contains arginine and citrulline – compounds that relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow. Watermelon is also rich in Vitamin C, and A, as well as lycopene found in tomatoes. Lycopene research shows us it is powerful for cancer prevention.

· Broccoli can help fight colorectal cancer. Broccoli also reduces the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Li Tang, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in Buffalo, New York researched the power of broccoli for reducing lung cancer risk in smokers. The study revealed a 22 to 50 percent lower risk of cancer among smokers who consumed at least 4.5 servings of raw cruciferous vegetables a month. Another study, published in 2006, also showed that broccoli and other green vegetables could protect from visual loss as we age. The study involved women, and the findings showed that ingredients in broccoli, lutein and zeaxanthin seemed to protect older women from macular degeneration that can lead to complete loss of vision. (3)

· Tomatoes are well known for their health benefits. Put them on a sandwich, eat them in tomato sauce, or just slice them up with some herbs on top. Tomatoes fight all types of cancer. A study from University of California, San Francisco, published in 2004 showed that men who eat at least two servings of tomato sauce weekly have a 28% reduced risk of prostate cancer.

Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diets is mandatory for better health. Grab a handful of grapes for a midmorning snack tomorrow, raw broccoli (or other cruciferous vegetable) mid afternoon, and have some cherries before you go to bed. We haven't even mentioned a light breakfast that might include blueberries, banana or other fruit. Put a tomato on your sandwich for lunch (or eat some wheat pasta and spaghetti sauce for dinner). Sliced watermelon makes for a delicious and easy dessert anytime. Remember to mix up your fruits and vegetables for best results.

The take-home message is that we all need to increase our intake of fruits and vegetables to fight disease. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables really is easy.

(1) 'Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective and anti-platelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite'
(2) http://www2.med.umich.edu/prmc/media/newsroom/details.cfm?ID=799
(3) Moeller, S. Archives of Ophthalmology, August 2006; vol 124: pp 1151-1162. News release, JAMA/Archives



The Canadian Cancer Soceity now recommends that everyone take daily vitamin D to prevent cancer.
Great post about fruit and tart cherries. A friend just spent me a link to a free tart cherry juice report. It is packed full of great tart cherry information.
There does not seem to be any reliable evidence that tomatoes actually fight cancer, according to the FDA. Nor is there any evidence that anti-oxidants are beneficial. In fact there is some significant evidence that they are actually harmful. WebMd suggest that watermelon Viagra is far from proven.
Right - in each instance the studies are mixed. Some studies are positive for lycopene in tomatoes lowering cancer risk and others are not as conclusive. The American Cancer Society writes: "Evidence is strongest for lycopene's protective effect against cancer of the lung, stomach, and prostate. It may also help to protect against cancer of the cervix, breast, mouth, pancreas, esophagus, and colon and rectum." Same with arginine in foods like watermelon for improving blood flow, but more studies are emerging regarding the benefits. Johns Hopkins is conducting a study now to find out how fruits and vegetables or if they improve prostate cancer outcomes. Too many antioxidants can be harmful - also true. We need some free radicals too. It is about balance. You should never focus on one food or food group for optimal health for sure.