Gardening for Your Health: Fruit and Vegetable Powerhouses

With gardening season in full swing, take advantage of the powerful disease-fighting compounds present in many fruits and vegetables. Though research is still emerging on phytochemicals and their effect on the human body, we do know that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help protect you from disease and contribute to your overall health.

The USDA recommends eating at least two and half cups of fruits and vegetables daily for adults, and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) advocates 7 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables, depending on age and gender. By incorporating a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet, you can boost energy levels while looking and feeling your best. Here are five plant powerhouses to incorporate into your diet:

Plant Powerhouse: Broccoli

Rich in: glucosinolates

How it helps: Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, is a rich source of glucosinolates, which have been linked to fighting lung and breast cancers. Broccoli contains ample amounts of vitamin C, calcium, folate and fiber, making it an especially wise choice for a healthy diet.

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Plant Powerhouse: Tomatoes

Rich In: lycopene

How it helps: Lycopene, an antioxidant that gives tomatoes, watermelons, and papaya their bold red color, helps your body make vitamin A. Tomatoes provide the most potent food source of lycopene, and may help to reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration.

Plant Powerhouse: Cherries

Rich in: anthocyanins

How it helps: Cherries, with their deep red pigment, have high levels of anthocyanins, a type of phytochemical that gives red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables their color. Anthocyanins have been linked to slowing tumor growth, preventing blood clots, and fighting inflammation.

Plant Powerhouse: Raspberries

Rich in: ellagicacid

How it helps: You’ll find ellagic acid in deep red fruits and some nuts and seeds, including raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, walnuts and pomegranates. Ellagic acid acts as an antioxidant in the body. In some studies, it has been shown to slow the growth of tumor cells in animals. Raspberries, known for their vibrant red hue, have been linked to improved wound healing and reduced risk for heart disease.

Plant Powerhouse: Kale

Rich in: lutein

How it helps: Lutein, found in leafy green vegetables, helps to promote healthy tissue in the eye by filtering harmful blue wavelengths of light. Lutein has been linked to reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Because lutein is one of only two carotenoids (healthy plant compounds) deposited in high levels in the eye, it’s essential to include leafy greens such as kale in your diet. Some studies have also shown that lutein lowers your risk of colon and breast cancers.

Putting healthy ingredients in your body can make a big difference in the way you fight off harmful toxins and diseases. Choosing the aforementioned foods to spruce up your garden can help you improve your overall health and add exciting ingredients into your daily recipes. Since we all enjoy different fruits and vegetables, our gardens will be unique with a variety of colors and plants.

Happy gardening!

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

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