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 Foods: Vegetables 
 

Artichokes. These are a special treat and a meditation to eat, unless we gobble or add to our salad the oil-marinated artichoke hearts. Eating the fresh, steamed artichoke involves trimming the stickers and then peeling the tender leaves one by one to slide the edible parts through our teeth into our mouths; and then, we eventually get down to the hairy heart, which, after a shave, is a real delicacy. The whole experience can take half an hour or more, not counting steaming the artichoke for that long at least to make it tender and edible. Artichokes are good in fiber, low in calories (if not drenched in butter or mayonnaise), and pretty well endowed with folic acid and potassium. Some vitamin A and C, calcium and magnesium, phosphorus, and iron are part of the artichoke.

Broccoli. Sometimes eaten by children because they look like such cute little green trees, broccoli is also nutritious and very low in calories. The protein content is about one-third of its nourishment. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is thought to have anticancer properties and is rich in vitamins A, C, and folic acid. Some other B vitamins and most of the minerals are also present, being particularly best in potassium, along with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Broccoli should be eaten raw or lightly steamed, not boiled or overcooked, to maintain its nourishment.

Brussels Sprouts. These are one of the cruciferous vegetables recently known for their ability to reduce cancer potential. Even though they are not many people?s favorite vegetable because of their peculiar taste (sulfur) and the fact that they seem to be gas producing, they are definitely loaded with nutrition. They were always fascinating to me in the way they grow and by their miniature replication of cabbage.

Brussels sprouts are high in vitamins A and C, folic acid, and fiber and fairly high in calcium, sulfur, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and iron. These little sprouts from Brussels are nearly half protein, though not completely balanced in their amino acid distribution. If we can get children to eat Brussels sprouts, that is a real victory on several levels.

Cauliflower. A cauliflower is really a little head of thousands of compact flowers. It is white because it contains no carotene pigment, and is thus low in vitamin A, but it is rich in potassium, folic acid, and vitamin C. It is also about 25 percent protein and one of the cancer-preventive* cruciferous vegetables. Cauliflower can be eaten raw with dips and steamed or cooked with other vegetables. Curried in eastern Indian cooking is a very tasty way to eat cauliflower.


Flowering Vegetables

Cucumbers Pumpkins
Eggplants Squahes
Peppers Tomatoes


These plants are many, mainly growing on small bushes and vines. Each one that I will discuss here has many different varieties. The flowering vegetables are botanically like fruits in that they carry the plant?s matured seeds for the next generation. These vegetables grow after and in replacement of the flowers, much like a citrus tree. And some, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, are as juicy and nutritious as many fruits.

Tomatoes are the very popular ?fruit of the vine? that were once thought to be poisonous. There was also a question as to whether they were a fruit or a vegetable until the United States Supreme Court ruled that they are vegetables. Actually, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are all members of the nightshade family of plants, which are thought to be possible joint irritants in arthritis. Potatoes and tobacco are also in the nightshade family.

Squashes are multiple and vary from small, soft, high water content zucchini and summer squash to hard, starchy drier ones, such as acorn and hubbard squash. Even the pumpkin is in the squash family. Many beans, especially green peas and green beans, are also flowering vegetables, though these will be discussed in the section of legumes.

Cucumbers. The ?coolest? of vegetables, cucumbers are actually used medicinally for burns or irritated tissues. Laying a slice of cucumber over each eye is a soothing treatment for stressed or inflamed eyes, or for hot or burned skin. Cucumbers are eaten in their unripe state and usually raw, though some cultures cook them. The smaller cucumbers may be ?pickled? to make a fermented vinegary fruit, namely ?pickles.? Some people find cucumbers difficult to digest, in particular the skins, though they contain the cuke?s folic acid. Cucumbers are not really high in any nutrients, but they are almost devoid of calories as well. They are, however, the best source of vitamin E (in the seeds) of the vegetables. Cucumbers also have some vitamins A and C, and contain potassium and other minerals as well. Cucumbers are commonly eaten raw in salads, as in cukes and sour cream, or as pickles.

Eggplant. Our main purple vegetable besides red cabbage, eggplant is usually eaten cooked. It is low in calories unless sauteed in oils; we must be careful with eggplant because it is like a sponge and can soak up large amounts of fats. Therefore, it is best to bake it first before cooking it in other recipes. Eggplant is used in many dishes throughout the world?in a Middle Eastern dip, in mixed cooked vegetables, and as eggplant parmigiana, something like noodleless lasagna or moussaka, a Greek eggplant casserole. Eggplants are mainly carbohydrate and contain no fat. They are not particularly high in nutrients, except for niacin and potassium. Calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A and C, and folic acid are also present. Eggplant is also a member of the nightshade family, and thus may be avoided by people with concern about arthritis.

Peppers. Peppers are also grown and eaten throughout the world in a great many varieties, shapes, and flavors, from sweet to very hot. We are most familiar with red or green ?bell? peppers and the hotter chili, cayenne, and jalapeño peppers. The bell peppers may be eaten fresh in salads or sliced with dips or stuffed with other foods, such as grains or meats, and baked. Some people have difficulty digesting peppers, especially the pepper?s skin. The hot peppers are used to spice up salsas, cheeses, and in many other dishes of South America, where they originated. The chilis and cayenne peppers contain capsaicin, with medicinal properties in cleansing the blood and stimulating the circulation and perhaps in reducing cardiovascular disease and cancer. They also stimulate the gastric secretions and help digestion.

All peppers are very high in vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and vitamin A. One sweet pepper might have over 500 IUs of A and nearly 150 mg. of vitamin C. A smaller hot chili pepper is more concentrated and so may have similar levels. Folic acid, potassium, and niacin are also present in fairly good levels, as are some other minerals and B vitamins. The seeds surround the inner core of the peppers and often concentrate the hot nature.

Pumpkins. Another festive vegetable, pumpkins are used decoratively for Halloween and cooked for the tasty pumpkin pie dessert, eaten mainly around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pumpkin seeds are also fairly popular. Some people eat baked pumpkin as they do other hard squashes, though it is more stringy, yet very high in fiber. Pumpkins are also high in vitamin A, as beta-carotene, the natural orange coloring. They are mainly a starchy carbohydrate with good water content. Pumpkins have some vitamin C, niacin, and pantothenic acid and are high in potassium. Other prevalent minerals include phosphorus, silicon, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and other minerals (see the section on Seeds ).

Squashes. These are also mainly autumn harvest vegetables. Many need to be cooked by baking or steaming, though the popular zucchini and yellow crookneck (both summer vegetables) can be sliced and eaten raw in salads or with dips. Most of the squashes are high in carbohydrates, mainly as starch, with a high fiber content. Many are high in vitamin A, especially the orange or yellow squashes. Vitamin C and potassium are also present in varying amounts, as are calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Zucchinis are probably the most commonly used squash in our culture because they are so easy to prepare. They are very juicy and flavorful after light steaming. The bigger ones can be stuffed and baked. Zucchinis can also be used raw in salads or for dips, or in soups or dipped in egg and breaded for deep frying. This vegetable seems to have a mild diuretic action and stimulates the intestines as well, probably because of its mucilage content.

Tomatoes. The vegetable mainstay of many Americans? diets and the diets of many cultures around the world, tomatoes have a wide variety of uses?juices, soups, raw in salads, stuffed, in sauces, in catsups and condiments, in salad dressings, in pizza and so many more. In 1980, it was estimated that nearly sixty pounds of tomatoes per person were consumed in the Unites States, though most of this was probably in catsup and sauces. The tomato, which is related to the belladona plant, was thought to be poisonous until one brave soul ate one in public and didn?t die. Whether tomatoes are a fruit or vegetable doesn?t really matter; they are a very delicious, mildly acidic food. The skins of the tomato are difficult to digest, and some people can suffer allergic reactions or irritation from too much tomato intake. Also, as a nightshade plant, they appear to be a joint irritant in some people with arthritis. Whether this is from allergy, acidity, or some other factor we do not know.

Tomatoes are not highly nutritious, though they are pretty well spiked with potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. They are low in calories and are mostly liquid and carbohydrate. Whole tomatoes contain some vitamin E, folic acid and other B vitamins, such as biotin and niacin, and a bit of iron, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Tomato juice and tomato paste are more concentrated in some of the nutrients. Fresh-picked is the best and tastiest way to eat those red, ripe jewels of the garden.


Ocean Vegetables?Seaweed

Agar-agar Kelp
Arame Kombu
Dulse Nori
Hijiki Wakame


The vegetables that come from the sea are some of the most nutrient-rich foods we have, particularly in iodine, calcium, potassium, and iron, and some being very high in protein as well. Since these plants are constantly bathed in the mineral-rich ocean waters, they have a regular supply of nutrients. Sodium, however, can also be concentrated in these saltwater vegetables that supply food for many fishes.

Most seaweeds contain algin, a fiber molecule that binds minerals. When taken into our body, it can attract various metals within our digestive tract, possibly including heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and take them out of our system. It is further wise to include sea vegetables in our diets more regularly to provide good mineral nutrition and reduce possible absorption and utilization of similar radioactive compounds, such as iodine 131, from environmental or medical sources.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
 
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