Planting For The Future

By Judy Baehr

Hints for the Vegetably Challenged


acaMy husband’s views in this space last month, while nobly defending the male viewpoint on eating vegetables, may have caused some misconceptions. Thus, I am going to go back to the question I posed in my earlier column:

Why is the color of your vegetables important? The true answer is that strongly colored vegetables—the darkest green, the richest red, the brightest orange—have the most antioxidants and vitamins to help you stay young and healthy and avoid cancer and other maladies.

When we were growing up, the value of vegetables was not very well proven. We just had to follow our mothers’ advice. But today, scientific studies are determining just what compounds in vegetables protect our health, and why.

For example, researchers recently studied men who had pre-cancerous lesions that increase prostate cancer risk. They split them into two groups and one group had to eat four servings of either broccoli or peas each week for a year, while the other group ate their usual mashed potatoes.

Wait a minute, I know what you are thinking! You non-believers are saying to yourselves, “There are worse things than prostate cancer, and one of them is eating broccoli and peas for a year.” But the results were worth it! The researchers learned that men who ate broccoli showed hundreds of changes in genes known to play a role in fighting cancer. And more good news: the benefit would likely be the same in other vegetables containing a compound called isothiocyanate, including brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, watercress and horseradish!

(My husband wishes to note that having a Bloody Mary would give you horseradish, tomato juice and celery, which counts as three vegetables. So if you have more than one Bloody Mary at brunch, you’ve more than fulfilled your FDA daily requirement of vegetables!)

All vegetables are good for you, but some offer more nutrients than others. Why not eat the ones that really count? A recent article entitled “The 11 Best Foods You Are Not Eating” by nutritionist and author Johnny Bowden emphasized several vegetables you can add to your diet for extra points:

Beets: “Think of them as red spinach,” suggested the author, because they are a rich source of folate and natural red pigments that may fight cancer. (My husband wishes to note that thinking of something as spinach does not improve its allure for him.)

Swiss chard: It’s packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes. Try sautéing swiss chard in olive oil and garlic.

Purslane: Known in Mexico as verdolagas, purslane is among the best natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as carotenes and vitamin C. If you don’t like cooked greens because they are bitter and mushy, try purslane. It stays crunchy when lightly sautéed and has a mild peppery taste. For a salad, just pick the delicate tips and toss them with oil and vinegar.

ACÁ’s Great Greens include many highly colored ones, varying seasonally, and are available daily at the Lake Chapala Society. For the added benefit of fresh air and a view of verdant fields of greens, stop at the ACÁ demonstration farm and Eco Center in Jaltepec, about halfway between San Juan Cosala and El Chante (M-F 9-5, Sat 9-1).

Previous columns about ACÁ and vegetables are available on Under “Ojo del Lago” click on “columnists” and then on “Planting for the Future.”

A closing note in the interests of balanced reporting: The U.S. maker of Twinkies, Wonder Bread, Hostess Ding Dongs and Drake’s Cakes has emerged from bankruptcy. My husband gave me the clipping.


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