It’s Easy Being Green and Smart

by Benita Zahn

As we head into the cold weather I want you to keep one word front and center when you go grocery shopping: CRUCIFEROUS. This refers to the veggies from the Brassicaceae, also called Cruciferae, family. They include cauliflower, cabbage, kale, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens and similar green leaf vegetables. While runners fret over carbs and protein we need to be sure to include these veggies in our diet for their immune building properties. 

Decades of research shows 'the cruciferous' pack some cancer fighting compounds. They are also rich in antioxidants. Think of your body as rusting from everyday use.  In essence that's what oxidation is. And when that happens free radicals are produced and they can damage our bodies. The way to slow and battle that rusting is by consuming foods filled with antioxidants, which neutralize the free radicals. (Yeah, I know this is simplified, but bottom line, cruciferous vegetables with their antioxidant properties help to slow what, in essence, ages us. And yes, dark chocolate fights free radicals but veggies are far less laden with calories.)

This family of vegetables also helps tamp down inflammation. In addition, cruciferous veggies help regulate blood sugar. 

Have I sold you yet? Need more reasons?

These foods are also high in fiber, the stuff that keeps our digestive system from becoming, er, backed up. Additionally fiber helps flush out cholesterol and it's the flushing action that moves carcinogens out of our bodies. High fiber foods also help reduce the risk of diabetes and stroke. 

Okay, you HATE veggies. I get it. But there are myriad ways to consume them and I suspect at least one will be appealing. Let me start with soup. You get all the good stuff without having to 'face' the veggie. Moreover, soup masks the texture of vegetables that you may not find appealing. Add spices that you like to the soup to enhance the appeal. 

Smoothies are another great way to eat your vegetables. I love what I call the Christmas smoothie. I blend strawberries with dark greens, some almond milk, a scoop of protein powder and I'm good to go, pun intended. 

Like pizza? How about adding roasted veggies to the topping? 

You can also blend veggies into sauce. 

And trust me, roasted veggies are a far cry from the over-steamed vegetables you may remember from childhood lunches or bad corporate dinners. When roasted, the vegetable's natural flavors are released, often rendering them sweeter than you expect. 

I recently had the good fortune to interview Jill Edwards, MS, CEP. Edwards is the director of Education for the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, which encourages a whole food plant-based diet for all the reasons I noted regarding the cruciferous family. In fact, as we began our conversation, I asked Edwards how we can all go about moving toward a plant-based diet. She was emphatic about cruciferous choices and spelled out the reasons I noted. And let me circle back to a key point: immune support. We all know that colds circulate more freely during the winter months. Covid is by no means gone and no one is sure what the flu season will look like. So if an ounce of prevention comes with a few servings of these veggies I'm all for it. How about you? 


BenitaLArticleLogoEndFinal.jpegBenita spent 41 years reporting and anchoring the news at WNYT Newschannel 13. Her focus was health and she continues hosting and producing HEALTH BEAT, a bi-weekly health program on WNYT.COM.

Benita's completed countless 5k and 10k races and a handful of 15k races and half marathons. She's also completed 5 marathons including Boston, NYC, Cape Cod and San Diego and competed in a handful of triathlons.

Benita holds a masters and doctorate in bioethics from Albany Medical College. She earned her certification in Health and Wellness coaching from WELLCOACHES in June 2021 and sees clients at Capital Cardiology - although you don't have to be a patient to be a client. 

When she's not working or running Benita is a proud member of Actors Equity Association and enjoys performing at local theaters.

Click here for all of Benita’s articles


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