Showcasing the Mediterranean diet and Asian diet  














Some of the special disease-fighting compounds found in vegetables and fruits include antioxidants, phytochemicals, dietary fiber, and a host of essential vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also a good source of energy-boosting carbohydrates, they're generally very low in saturated fat and calories, and they're incredibly versatile.

Vegetable and fruit superfoods

All vegetables and fruits contain health-giving compounds, but researchers have identified a number of vegetables and fruits that are particularly beneficial. Not surprisingly all of these vegetables and fruits are eaten extensively throughout Asia and the Mediterranean.

Garlic. Garlic is full of health-promoting compounds including vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, selenium and a number of amino acids. But one of the most important health-giving compounds found in garlic is allicin, a phytochemical compound which is formed when garlic is cut or crushed. Garlic has been shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol and help raise good HDL cholesterol, boost immune function, and help protect from certain types of cancer. In a recent study of 42,000 women in Iowa, for example, those who ate garlic more than once a week were half as likely to develop colon cancer as non-garlic eaters.

Tomatoes. 57 separate studies have linked tomato consumption with reduced cancer risks—particularly cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. Other research has shown that tomatoes can significantly cut the risk of heart attack. Scientists believe that lycopene, a powerful phytochemical that gives tomatoes their red color, is responsible for their powerful disease-fighting properties. A recently completed five-year Harvard study of more than 48,000 men found that those eating 10 servings or more a week of lycopene rich tomato products had one third the risk of developing prostate cancer than those eating two servings or less a week. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C and beta carotene (two powerful antioxidants), dietary fiber and potassium—all of which have been shown to be beneficial to overall health.

Berries. Strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries—they're all packed with powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals that can ward off disease and premature aging. Berries also supply your body with a host of other essential nutrients including potassium, vitamin C, iron, B vitamins such as niacin (which releases energy from food and protects against heart disease) and folate. Raspberries and strawberries are one of the richest food sources of a phytochemical compound called ellagic acid, which has been shown in studies to be a powerful cancer blocker. Cranberries and blueberries contain antibiotic-like compounds that help prevent bladder and urinary tract infection. And all berries contain high amounts of pectin, a soluble fiber that has been shown to be effective at lowering blood cholesterol levels by binding with cholesterol and eliminating it from the body.

Cruciferous vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, choy sum, gai lan, mustard greens, Swiss chard). About 20 years ago studies first indicated that a high consumption of cruciferous vegetables equaled a reduced risk of certain cancers. Then in the early 1990s a phytochemical called sulforaphane was identified in cruciferous vegetables that was found to guard against cancer by stimulating the production of protective enzymes that detoxify carcinogens (cancer causing compounds). In addition, another compound was discovered called indol-3-carbinol which was found to reduce breast cancer risk by preventing estrogen overproduction. A Harvard study even found that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, could reduce bladder cancer risk in men. Cruciferous vegetables are also a rich source of many other potent disease-fighting substances including potassium, calcium and dietary fiber. And broccoli and cabbage are a good source of immune system boosting, antioxidant-rich vitamin C. For example, one medium stalk of broccoli provides 200 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C.

Carrots. Carrots are rich in beta carotene, which is converted by the body into Vitamin A, a nutrient essential for the proper functioning of the retina of the eye. Beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant, has also been shown to improve immune function, inhibit the early stages of tumor development and lower cholesterol levels. In one study, participants who ate seven carrots a day for three weeks dropped their cholesterol levels by 11 percent. Carrots are also one of the best vegetable sources of health-giving dietary fiber, containing high amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Citrus fruits (Oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, grape fruit, tangerines and tangelos). All citrus fruits are a good source of flavonoids—a special group of phytochemicals which have been found to inhibit the growth of breast, prostate and skin cancer cells. In addition, oranges and tangelos are a rich source of a phytochemical called 5-desmethyl sinensetin which has been shown to effectively inhibit human lung cancer cells. Citrus fruits, as we've always been told, are also a good source of vitamin C (one orange, for example, contains two times your daily requirement for vitamin C). Vitamin C not only works as a powerful free radical destroying antioxidant, but also makes blood less likely to clot, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Citrus fruits also contain high amounts of a soluble fiber called pectin which helps lower potentially harmful LDL blood cholesterol levels.

Onions. Onions share many of garlic's health-giving properties. They've been shown to boost good HDL cholesterol levels while lowering potentially harmful LDL cholesterol. They increase blood clot dissolving activity in the blood, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. And studies have identified a plant chemical in onions called quercetin which is a powerful antioxidant.

Bell peppers (capsicum). Bell peppers come in many colors— green, red, yellow, and even orange. Their color depends on the variety and their stage of ripeness. Red peppers are particularly healthful because they are a rich source of the powerful antioxidants vitamin C and beta carotene (red peppers contain around 10 times more beta carotene than green peppers). One 3½ ounce red pepper contains the recommended daily allowance of beta carotene and more than 3 times the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C.

Avocados. Avocados are one of the few fruits that are high in fat. But unlike saturated fat, which can raise potentially harmful LDL cholesterol levels, the fat in avocados is mostly made up of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Avocados also contain high amounts of special phytochemical compounds called phytosterols. Studies have shown that phytosterols can inhibit cholesterol absorption from the intestine which results in lower levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. In animal studies, phytosterols have also been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer tumors. In addition, avocados are a rich source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant vitamin that protects your cells from free radical damage. They also contain high amounts of folate which has been shown to protect against heart disease as well as prevent birth defects in pregnant women. And they are one of the richest sources of the mineral potassium, which helps to maintain the stability of heart cells and the central nervous system.

Garlic can be used in a myriad of dishes including pastas, stews, pizzas and salad dressings. It can be rubbed raw onto toasted olive oil brushed bread to create bruschetta (Italian toasts). Garlic is also an essential ingredient in many Asian dishes such as stir-fries and curries.
There are so many delicious ways to enjoy tomatoes: as the base of a pizza or pasta sauce; in salads and sliced fresh onto sandwiches, subs or burgers; they give texture and flavor to soups, stews and curries; and sun-dried tomatoes add a full-bodied taste to a wide range Mediterranean-style dishes.
Enjoy berries sprinkled over cereals, added to fruit salads, whipped up in a smoothie, served with a scoop of your favorite ice cream, or simply eaten by themselves as a sweet and juicy snack.
Use avocado diced into salads and sandwiches, blend them up with some lemon juice and salt for an instant guacamole dip, or try them Japanese-style in sushi rolls with smoked salmon or shrimp. A particularly good way to enjoy avocados is as a healthy alternative to butter. Simply mash some avocado in a cup or bowl and smear it onto your sandwich before you add the fillings.

Cruciferous vegetables add flavor, depth and texture to a wide range of dishes from soups, salads and stir-fries to curries, stews and pasta dishes.

Carrots make a colorful and crunchy addition to stir-fries and noodle dishes, they taste wonderful finely chopped in pasta dishes, shredded on sandwiches, added to salads or simply eaten raw as a snack.

Citrus fruits can be enjoyed in dozens of different ways. Oranges, tangelos and tangerines can be eaten by themselves, juiced or chopped and mixed in with other fruits to make a variety of fruit salads. Citrus fruits also go well as a sweet addition to savory salads. Lemon or lime juice and zest can be used as a flavor enhancer in a myriad of dishes such as curries, pasta dishes and soups; and lemon juice or lime juice adds a delightful tang to salad dressings. Fresh lemon juice squeezed over fish and shellfish is also the perfect accompaniment.
Sautéed chopped onions are used as the base for a wide variety of Mediterranean and Asian meals including risottos, curries, pasta dishes, pilafs and paellas. Thinly sliced raw onion adds a wonderful boost to salads, sandwiches and burgers (red onions are particularly good because they're milder, sweeter and more colorful than regular onions). And when whole onions are roasted they lose their potency and become sweet delicate vegetables.

Bell peppers can be cut into thin strips and lightly cooked in stir-fries, or cooked until melt-in-the-mouth tender in stews and pasta sauces. Roasted and marinated peppers also go wonderfully in an Italian antipasto platter or a Middle Eastern meze platter. And thinly sliced raw peppers make a crunchy and colorful addition to salads and sandwiches.


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