I know it is hard to think about planting cabbage when it’s 98 degrees outside, so if you haven’t got your cruciferous vegetables started after last week’s article, here is a little more incentive. Although gardening has recently been touted to be one of the best exercise programs, there are far more benefits to growing your own vegetable than just the squatting, bending and lifting.
According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a study of corn, strawberries and marion berries, has shown fruits and vegetables grown organically show significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally-grown foods. The research suggests pesticides and herbicides actually thwart the production of phenolic, chemicals that act as a plant’s natural defense and also happen to be good for our health. Fertilizers, however, seem to boost the levels of anti-cancer compounds.
Tomatoes — red ones — have been shown to be protective against prostate, ovarian and pancreatic cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research says, “In the laboratory, tomato components have stopped the proliferation of several other cancer cells types, including breast, lung and endometrial.” And who doesn’t love a big ol’ ripe tomato fresh out of the garden.
Orange produce like carrots and sweet potatoes protect against stomach cancer and have been shown to slow breast cancer growth. It appears to be the beta-carotene that exhibits anti-carcinogenic properties. Eating carrots and other vegetables rich in beta-carotene regularly could slash a woman’s chances of developing certain types of breast cancer by up to 60 percent.
Although we do not always like the way onions and garlic make us smell, here is an interesting statement from the AICR: “Onions and garlic contain antioxidants that can block highly reactive free radicals from damaging cell DNA and starting the cancer process. Laboratory studies have shown that onion and garlic compounds can increase enzymes that deactivate carcinogens in the body, enhancing our ability to eliminate carcinogens before they do any damage. Furthermore, in the laboratory onion and garlic compounds slow the growth and stimulate the self-destruction of cancer cells that form.”
If you can consume garlic and onions as close to raw as possible, you’ll reap more of the nutritional benefits. In addition, chop or crush garlic and allow it to sit for two minutes before using. Never microwave your antioxidant-rich foods since the process decreases the antioxidant content by more than 75 percent in just one minute.
Naturally-occurring folate is an important B vitamin that may help protect against cancers of the colon, rectum and breast. Asparagus contains a concentrated amount of many vitamins and minerals, including folate. In fact, a half-cup serving of cooked asparagus contains about 134 mcg of folate, or 34 percent of the daily value. Asparagus is also rich in antioxidants and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. What’s more, it’s an excellent source of heart-healthy fiber, knocking out up to 6 percent of your daily fiber needs in just one serving.
Dark green leafy vegetables such as mustard greens, lettuce, kale, chicory, spinach and chard have an abundance of fiber, folate and carotenoids. These nutrients may help protect against cancer of the mouth, larynx, pancreas, lung, skin and stomach.
And here is that seed-starting incentive I mentioned above. There is an abundance of evidence that suggests eating cruciferous vegetables — like kale, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower — is associated with a lower risk of stomach, ovarian, breast and colorectal cancers. Broccoli and cabbage seemed to provide the greatest protection. As long ago as 1982, the National Research Council on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer found that “there is sufficient epidemiological evidence to suggest that consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a reduction in cancer.”
Now, if that is not enough incentive to get those seeds started, hopefully it is enough to get you to eat your vegetables.
Peter Sutter is a life long gardening enthusiast and a participant in the MU Extension’s Master Gardener program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected]
Print Headline: Ask a Master Gardener: Reap the cancer-fighting benefits of vegetable gardens
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