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Health Benefits of Other Vegetables
There are many botanical families that provide us with only a few vegetables each that we lump together in an “other vegetable” category. Because these veggies offer a diversity of nutrients, we can’t make generalizations about their health benefits; however, incorporating these vegetables into our diet can yield a number of health perks.
For example, across a variety of studies, okra and its components (such as okra lectin and okra polysaccharides) have been shown to reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, strongly bind with bile acids, induce cell death of melanoma and breast cancer cells, and reduce blood sugar levels (possibly by decreasing the absorption of sugar in the GI tract).
The high antioxidant and phytonutrient content of asparagus makes this vegetable particularly valuable for human health. The saponins diosgenin and protodioscin it contains have been shown to induce cancer cell death, reduce the uptake of cholesterol, lower LDL levels (while increasing HDL levels), and prevent the initiation and development of colon cancer in animal models. The flavonoids rutin and quercetin likewise have powerful antioxidant activity and also have anti-cancer effects. Extracts from white asparagus have been shown to kill cancer cells (in both human colon carcinoma cells and in vivo in rats), while also downregulating several pro-inflammatory mediators (including MMP-7 and MMP-9). Polysaccharides derived from asparagus have also been shown to have anti-cancer effects against liver cancer cells. And in hypertensive rats, a diet supplemented with 5% asparagus led to significantly lower systolic blood pressure, ACE activity, and protein/creatinine excretion in the urine—effects that appeared to be due to the 2”-hydroxynicotianamine content of asparagus.
Green beans and fresh peas both have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to their phytonutrient content, which includes carotenoids (including lutein, β-carotene, neoxanthin, and violaxanthin) and flavonoids (including catechins, epicatechins, procyanidins, quercetin, and kaempferol). Green beans, especially steam-cooked, have been shown to bind bile acid and subsequently exert a cholesterol-lowering effect. Similarly, diets rich in non-soy legumes (including green peas) have been shown to significantly lower LDL cholesterol. A case-control study found that compared to men who ate fresh peas three or fewer times per month, those who ate them at least five times per week had a 65% reduced risk for developing prostate cancer. Likewise, men who ate green beans at least twice per week (compared to less than once per month) had a 34% reduced risk of developing prostate cancer, though unlike peas, the number wasn’t statistically significant. Peas are also a source of saponins, which can potentially inhibit tumor growth and act as anti-cancer agents.
Eating artichokes is a great way to reduce our risk of a number of diseases. Artichoke leaf extract—a concentrated source of the polyphenols found in artichoke—has been shown to raise HDL cholesterol while reducing LDL (in one study, six weeks of taking 450 milligrams of extract daily lowered LDL by 22.9%!) and protecting LDL from oxidizing; the LDL-lowering effect appears to be due to luteolin, a polyphenol in artichoke that inhibits cholesterol formation. Artichoke extract has also been shown to improve blood pressure levels in people with hypertension, protect against liver damage and non-alcohol fatty liver disease (likely due to this vegetable’s cynarin and silymarin content), and exert anti-cancer activity in vitro. In healthy adults, eating boiled artichoke with a meal was able to reduce the subsequent glycemic response.
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Examples of Other Vegetables
- African moringa
- Alfalfa sprouts
- bitter melon (aka bitter gourd)
- edible flowers
- green beans
- heart of palm
- ivy gourd
- Prussian asparagus
- rhubarb (only the stems are edible)
- sea beet
- summer squash, all varieties
- squash blossoms
- West Indian gherkin
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Nutrients in Other Vegetables
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