Nutritional Tidbits (from Jorge Lopez): Eat Your Veggies

Meet my buddy, Jorge Lopez.

He and I attended Warren Wilson College together, where he studied biology with a focus on plants.  Prior to  "Wilson," he earned his AA at the University of Florida, served for four years in the US Marine Corps.  He's worked as an EMT for three years in New York City and for three years as an ER tech.  He also worked for a year in a health food store. Currently, Jorge's attending the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ.  It also so happens that he's an amazing cook.

A couple months back Jorge and I communicated via facebook about the possibility that he could guest-post on my blog to provide nutritional tidbits that link food gardening with healthy eating and health, in general.

This is the first of such posts.  Thanks go to Jorge.

"Eat Your Veggies"
- by Jorge Lopez-

When I was a child I remember my mom telling me, “Eat your veggies they're good for you."  I would often ignore my mom’s plea and go for the sweets. As I grew older and rediscovered the magic of growing and eating veggies I also felt a surge in my vitality. In a world of over processed food where our basic nutrients have to be reintroduced into food packages, the body forgets how good it is to eat fresh, nutrient rich, homegrown veggies. The benefits of eating veggies affect our bodies, minds and soul. One of the many organs in our bodies that a diet full of vegetables can benefit is the heart.

The leading cause of death in the US and other developed countries is heart disease. You would be surprised how a plate of veggies a day can change that statistic. Vegetables are of full vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals that are very beneficial for the heart and overall health. Let’s start with one of the most important benefits of veggies, fiber.

A significant amount of plant matter is composed of cellulose, hemicelluloses and other fibers. Fiber cannot be broken down by the body and passes through our digestive system. As fiber passes through the intestines it picks up cholesterol which is then excreted. Lowering cholesterol is very beneficial, but it’s not the whole picture.

A diet consisting of primarily vegetables is low in simple sugars. Foods containing simple carbohydrates like candy, bread, and pasta, just to name a few, increase the amount of sugar in the blood which can be converted to AGE’s (advanced glycosilated end products) which cause damage to the blood vessels. When the body uses cholesterol to repair this damage, a consequence is the formation of plaques on the walls called Atherosclerosis.

Another contributing aspect of veggies are vitamins like B5 (Pantothenic acid), folate, and E (tocopherols) that help maintain cardiovascular health. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) helps with the production of HDL’s (good cholesterol) that help to reduce LDL’s (Bad cholesterols) and reduce the occurrence of plaque formation. Folate along with methylcobalmine (B12) reduces homocysteine a very reactive amino acid that causes damage to the cardiovascular system. Vitamin E (Tocopherols) helps reduce platelet aggregation, lowers cholesterol and is also a strong antioxidant. Finally Phytoesterols are phytochemicals that reduce the amount of cholesterol by competing with fats in the gut.

These are only a few of the many benefits of eating fresh veggies, but they are significant in that they help maintain and care for your heart which in return will take care of you. The best part of eating right is the boost of energy and vitality you will feel. Always remember that optimum health is achieved through balance and that is maintained through eating a variety of foods rich in all nutrients.