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It’s vegetables, love. Vegetables are the way out of illness and obesity. Our immune systems are dependent on the nutrients derived from plants.1 According to a 2008 study from the Journal of Community Health, one main reason so many of us suffer from obesity and mental health issues like depression has to do with our severe low intake of vegetables.2
In fact, Black folks are the least likely to meet the recommended requirements for the USDA requirement of vegetable and fruit intake. “African Americans consumed a mean of 112 more calories from candy, cookies, salty snacks and soda than did non-Hispanic whites”.3
Don’t let people tell you “all that healthy stuff is expensive…people got kids…yah yah yah”.
Have you seen the prices of fresh produce at the grocery store?
I’m talkin’ $2.50 for a week’s worth of Kale.
I think Black people can handle that.
None of this obesity/depression stuff is really our fault, though.
The average American consumer has roughly 10% of their diet from plant foods.4
We’ve all been raised to hit Micky D’s before we even hear the name “Bok Choy”.
If we’re honest, most people can say that they need more vegetables.
A healthier diet is linked with reduced cancer rates, increased life span, decreased body fat, psychological and mental well-being, and relative immunity from common colds and small bugs.5
My Beautiful Black people, these are the reasons I’m calling for more vegetables in your diet. This can be very easy.
Here’s why we must eat vegetables…
#1: Eat Vegetables for their Phytonutrient compounds
Phytonutrients are nutrient compounds inside vegetables that repair cellular damage and protect you against heart attacks, strokes, and dementia.6 A diet rich in phytonutrients can supply you with the following much needed compounds: alpha-lipoic acid, phenolic acids, lignans, & isothiocyanates among others.
The names are ridiculous…
It’s enough to know that you can get all of the phytonutrients you need from eating colorful vegetables, especially DARK GREEN VEGETABLES.
Now maybe, you’re saying “Nah, I’m straight. I take a multivitamin everyday”.
A multivitamin cannot replace the phytonutrient content of fresh vegetables. Period.
Phytonutrients produced in plants help you to
- Fight Free Radicals– Free radicals destroy waste and remove damaged cells, but when there are too many of them, they can destroy other healthy cells. Free radicals can be destructive molecules that tear ‘ish up when they interact with your cell’s structures. Phytonutrients help keep Free Radicals in check, regulating cell health like little guardians.7
- Improve your immune systems healing power– Phytonutrients boost your cytotoxic power. Cytotoxicity is your body’s ability to kill off unwanted microbes and cancer cells. This is MAJOR. I’m saying, along with Dr. Furhman, that by increasing vegetable intake, you can decrease all that snifflin’ you do throughout the day because your body naturally kills all of those little germs that bring on colds, flus, etc.8
- No lie, ever since I started increasing my vegetable content, I don’t have sick days anymore.
- Block DNA damage– Think about what cancer actually is. It is the unwanted growth and replication of cells. When you have cancer, your DNA is damaged because your DNA (your body’s genetic blueprint) is telling your body to grow cells unnecessarily. Eventually this growth destroys the body’s resources and the body begins to die. Phytonutrients have been demonstrated to block DNA by boosting the immune system, killing off cells with broken DNA.9 For example, Phytonutrients have been demonstrated to fight back breast cancer along with pancreatic & colon cancer.10
- Phytonutrients also have anti-obesity properties. Phytonutrients can actually impact fat cells AS they develop. Polyphenols, a type of phytonutrient, has been shown to suppress the growth of fat tissue.11
This means that the more fresh vegetable intake you have, the more your body FIGHTS AGAINST FAT & CANCER effortlessly.
Is it any wonder that raw green vegetables have been powerfully associated with the reduction of pancreatic, stomach, and colon cancer & lowered obesity rates?12
More vegetables could save scores of Black lives and stave off Black mortality rates. We have enough sources of death in our community, we don’t need to add to them by killing ourselves with low vegetable intake.
According to hearthealth.org, “African-Americans are disproportionately affected by obesity. Among non-Hispanic blacks age 20 and older, 63 percent of men and 77 percent of women are overweight or obese.”13
Let me be clear: Food deserts in the ‘hood are real, how we think about food as a SOCIETY is a major problem, & there is the persistent belief that healthy eating is unaffordable…
Food Deserts are Real
But None of that means we are powerless. We will make a way out of NO WAY…
We’ve been doing it for millennia.
Vegetables are the way out of illness and obesity. Provided you understand your MACRO-nutrients as I lay out HERE.
WE build our plates around veggies. In other words: VEGETABLES ARE THE MAIN COURSE OF EVERY MEAL. We then add a SIDE of Meat, potatoes, rice, etc.
So we know phytonutrients can protect against colds, cancer and obesity.
You can see how vegetables are key, right? I mean, the data almost sounds too good to be true. The problem is that the best things in life are often overlooked.
The Medical complex is a business. You know it pays more for the pharmaceutical industry to treat the symptoms rather than the cause of illness. I beg of you, please do not rely on hospitals to take care of you. They won’t.
There is no pill for a lifetime of bad nutrition.14
Your new prescription medicines are Cruciferous Vegetables.
What are cruciferous vegetables?
Cruciferous Vegetables are vegetables like: Kale, Watercress, Cabbage, Collards, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Turnips, Brussel sprouts. You know these vegetables by the equal length of their petals. When you chew these vegetables, a chemical reaction releases isothiocyanates (ITCs) that prevent cellular damage, protect against DNA damage and reprogram unruly cells so that they function properly again.15
The science is too real, love. But it gets better…
Additionally, these vegetables are associated with lower rates of heart disease. A few stats about Cruciferous vegetables:
- Cruciferous vegetables are twice as powerful as other plant foods. In population studies, a 20 percent increase in plant food intake generally matches a 20% decrease in cancer rates, but a 20 percent increase in cruciferous vegetable intake matches a 40 percent decrease in cancer rates.16
- 28 servings of vegetables per week decreases prostate cancer risk by 33 percent, but three servings of cruciferous vegetables per week decreases prostate cancer risk by 41 percent.17
- “One or more servings of cabbage per week reduces the occurrence of pancreatic cancer by 38 percent.”18
But for people who want to lose weight, you must also take in some MUSHROOMS.
Why? Because Mushrooms FIGHT Angiogenesis.19
Angiogensis is where our bodies produce more blood vessels to feed growing tissue.
Yes, angiogenesis helped you develop as a fetus in the womb of a Queen by supplying your body with more blood vessels to match your growing body.
Angiogenesis helped your body get blood during each of your growth spurts throughout your childhood.
But, Angiogenesis has a dark side. It can supply blood vessels to unhealthy body growth.
What is unhealthy body growth? Tumors and Fat.
You worry about angiogenesis. I do me.
Yup, when a person gets additional growth, be it from fat or from a cancerous growing tumor, the body sends a signal to produce more blood vessels because it mistakenly thinks that growth is a good thing.
This is Angiogenesis.
Mushrooms, onions, flax seeds, Cruciferous vegetables, and others FIGHT angiogenesis so that your body does not OVERFEED body fat.20
When body fat cells or tumors do not have nutrients to feed off, they die.
Stay lean and powerful.
That’s one of the reasons doctors continue to think about the role of mushrooms in cancer research.21
So yeah, eat some mushrooms (along with onions, flax seeds, cruciferous veggies- they do the same things).
What we eat = How we think:
I know depression runs in a lot of people’s families. Don’t you think food has something to do with it?
Have you ever thought about how vegetables can impact your mental health and psychology?
Depression is the #1 leading cause of disability in the world. Researchers know how dangerous it is to feel like your world CAN’T EVER be right.
A study conducted over the course of nine years saw that people who ate greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, had lower rates of depression and anxiety.22
While more research on depression is needed, we know that PHYTONUTRIENTS have an impact on our brain’s ability to function.
Phytonutrients regulate cellular metabolism and enhance our brain’s ability to send appropriate messages to the body and to fight off mental illness. Vegetable nutrients have been shown to prevent neurodegeneration, or the death of brain tissue and neural pathways.23
For example, green tea leaves have been shown to provide higher levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is associated with better mood function, cognitive function and helps the brain resist neural degeneration.24
Additionally, researchers believe that a diet rich in B12, folate, and omega-3’s can help prevent and reduce depression rates.25
A 2010 study found that adolescents who took in 4 servings of vegetables a day had reduced likelihood of having Depression compared with their peers.26
Other research demonstrated that the constant flow of B12 and other micronutrient vitamins was related to a 2% LOWERING of depression rates every year in elderly adults.27
Additionally, lack of folate has been tied to increased rates of depression in U.S. populations.28
Other data states that the addition of B12, folate are likely essential for long-term control over depression in our diets.29
Particularly for women, Omega 3’s have been shown to reduce depression symptoms.30
Most importantly, research with Black folks demonstrates that low urban diet quality is tied with higher depression rates for Black people.
As diet quality increases, depression symptoms recede.31
So our diets need to be on point.
But what foods have B12, folate and omega 3’?
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, & Brussel sprouts are good for Folate and plant based seeds like flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, are cool for Omega 3’s.
Remember those Free radicals I was just talking about? When we eat the wrong kinds of foods, Free Radicals can interact with our body’s cells and destroy DNA, lipids, and proteins.
Well, our brains are made up of cells too.
When too many Free Radicals are unleashed due to a rich diet of cheeseburgers and fried wings, we run the risk of neurological injury. I’m not just talking about depression here, as we age, the risk of Alzeheimer’s Disease also increases with the higher presence of Free Radicals.32
And remember those Mushrooms?
Since 95% of our body’s serotonin, the chemical that helps us maintain sanity, is produced in the stomach. That means that our ability to feel happy is connected with our gut.33
When we eat mushrooms, we receive a healthy dose of L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan, two products that help our bodies produce serotonin and keep our mood in check.34
Even cooked mushrooms can do this. Try Shiittake mushrooms.35
And if all of that is not convincing enough, common sense tells us that the health of our body’s cells is dependent on the food we eat.
Eat the right foods & get the full benefit of healthy cells. This includes brain health, mood health, everything.
When I eat an assortment of green vegetables, my mood stays normal, when I don’t…it’s all bad, sometimes it’s difficult to face the day. But hey, depression runs in my family.
If you are dealing with depression, of course seek help as needed, but just remember: you can’t sleep on the diet.
How to Fix it- The Low-key way to get more vegetables:
It can be difficult to eat 5-9 servings of vegetables that do not taste good. There are ways to prepare vegetables to flavor.
I know people who can’t touch vegetables “cuz they don’t taste right”.
Really, we must come to think of vegetables as medicine.
Every time you step into the produce aisle in the grocery store, you are in a preventative Pharmacy.
Ask yourself: would I rather learn to like what’s good for me or am I willing to open my body up to more preventative diseases?
Yes, you can season this to taste. Over time though, rely less on high sodium seasoning.
If you want to transform your Life: Make a veggie porridge.
- Get a Very Large Pot
- Get out a cutting tray
- Your prescription includes:
- Bok Choy
- Mustard Greens
- Mushrooms- shiitake, White, Jersey (your choice)
- Green and Red peppers
- Cut ingredients (or blend) into as small of pieces as possible
- Place ingredients in the Very Large Pot
- Pour water to the top of the Pot
- Heat just until Boiling
- Store in refrigerator
Here’s the thing, you just prepared vegetables for the entire week. No, you’re not going to nor do you need to eat all of this at one time.
Your goal is to eat 3-4 spoonful’s with each meal. This will get your 5-9 recommended servings.
A lot of people don’t know that vegetables have protein. For instance, two cups of spinach has 10.8 grams of protein. That’s more than a glass of milk.
My beautiful Black people: that means not only are you getting Phytonutrients with this soup, but you are also getting healthy amounts of protein at a low calorie cost.
This is how vegetarians can still retain great muscle mass.
(If you want to know more about calorie deficits for cutting weight, check out this article HERE.)
Some people may be asking: “but if I cook the vegetables, won’t I cook out all the nutrients?”
You will lose some, but most will remain intact.
I encourage you to keep and drink the vegetable juice left behind in the porridge.
Any run off nutrients can be trapped in the surrounding juices. Drink up. Your body will thank you.
Your health is so important:
Think about all the problems that can go wrong when we miss the #1 Health Food Group. No wonder we feel cloudy all day, no wonder our stomachs stay on swole, no wonder we stay coughin’, snifflin’, & sneezin’.
But we can address this mistake. When we eat our cruciferous & colorful vegetables, we unleash our body’s capabilities to fight back disease, our brain’s ability to be happy, and our stomach line’s ability to recede.
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Hi, I’m Shawn, a Health researcher and writer deeply dedicated to the personal enhancement of Black Bodies, Black Minds, and Black Bank Accounts. I’m also the Founder of Black Health HQ. I created Black Health HQ to be a research driven platform for the development of Black physical, mental and financial health. Black Health HQ works toward the extreme well-being of Black people, offering free content along with services and products to assist you on your journey to maximum Black Living. Together, I believe we can build a vibrant and thriving Black community by strengthening what is most precious: our health and wealth.
- Joel Fuhrman.Super Immunity. New York: Harper Collins, 2011.
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- Deborah A. Cohen, Roland Sturm, Molly Scott, Thomas A. Farley, and Ricky Bluthenthal. “Not enough fruit and vegetables or too many cookies, candies, salty snacks, and soft drinks?.”Public health reports 125, no. 1 (2010): 1.
- United States Department of Agriculture: Economic Research Service. October 20, 2016. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data/foodconsumption/.
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- Anjali Soni and Sheetal Sosa. “Phytonutrient analysis and free radical scavenging potential of herbal and medicinal plant extracts.”Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 2, no. 4 (2013).
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- Praveen Rajendran, Emily Ho, David E. Williams, and Roderick H. Dashwood. “Dietary phytonutrients, HDAC inhibition, and DNA damage/repair defects in cancer cells.”Clinical epigenetics 3, no. 1 (2011): 4.
- Keith W. Singletary, Kwan-Jae Jung, and Monica Giusti. “Anthocyanin-rich grape extract blocks breast cell DNA damage.”Journal of medicinal food 10, no. 2 (2007): 244-251. Fuhrman, Joel. Super Immunity. New York: Harper Collins, 2011.
- David J., Williams, David Edwards, Ingrid Hamernig, Le Jian, Anthony P. James, Stuart K. Johnson, and Linda C. Tapsell. “Vegetables containing phytonutrients with potential anti-obesity properties: A review.” Food Research International52, no. 1 (2013): 323-333.
- Joel Fuhrman.Super Immunity. New York: Harper Collins, 2011. 26. David Williams, David Edwards, Ingrid Hamernig, Le Jian, Anthony P. James, Stuart K. Johnson, and Linda C. Tapsell. “Vegetables containing phytochemicals with potential anti-obesity properties: A review.” Food Research International 52, no. 1 (2013): 323-333.
- American Heart Association. “African-Americans and Heart Disease, Stroke.” Accessed August 30, 2016. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/African-Americans-and-Heart-Disease-Stroke_UCM_444863_Article.jsp#.WKh4n_ZVikp.
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- Marie Fanelli Kuczmarski, Alexandra Cremer Sees, Lawrence Hotchkiss, Nancy Cotugna, Michele K. Evans, and Alan B. Zonderman. “Higher Healthy Eating Index-2005 scores associated with reduced symptoms of depression in an urban population: findings from the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity Across the Life Span (HANDLS) study.”Journal of the American Dietetic Association 110, no. 3 (2010): 383-389.
- Joel Fuhrman.Super Immunity. 2011.
- Catherine Jonnakuty and Claudia Gragnoli. “What do we know about serotonin?.”Journal of cellular physiology 217, no. 2 (2008): 301-306.
- Bożena Muszyńska, Katarzyna Sułkowska-Ziaja, and Agnieszka Wojcik. “Levels of physiologically active indole derivatives in the fruiting bodies of some edible mushrooms (Basidiomycota) before and after thermal processing.”Mycoscience 54, no. 5 (2013): 321-326.