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Health & Nutrition

Eating a vegetarian diet creates an excellent foundation for a healthy life. Here, you'll learn how to get best nutrition and good health from the food you eat.

cranberries

Cranberries aren't just for Thanksgiving anymore: starting your day with a shot of their crimson juice or tossing dried cranberries into salads and side dishes can confer copious health benefits. Antioxidant proanthocyanidins in cranberries have an antiadhesive quality that repels bacteria, preventing urinary tract infections.

onion

Onion's zesty flavor isn't the only thing that makes chopping one worth the tears it elicits: onions contain ingredients that fight colds and flu.

papaya

The only food source of papain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme that breaks down proteins, papaya aids digestion, eases stings, burns, and wounds, and slows clotting to improve circulation and hasten nutrient delivery to inflamed areas. Rich in folate and vitamins A and E, papayas have 33 percent more vitamin C than oranges. Carotenoids, antioxidants that give papaya its orange hue, combine with vitamin C to curb heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Papaya is also loaded with potassium and magnesium, which fight hypertension.

Apples are a sweet source of antioxidants, including vitamin C and an array of cancer-fighting polyphenols that work in concert to exert a powerful effect. A baseball-size apple contains, on average, just 6 milligrams of vitamin C, but because the phytonutrients work synergistically, the apple's antioxidant activity is equal to 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C. In a study of more than 7,000 adults, people who regularly ate apples experienced some very specific disease-preventing benefits: a 30 percent decreased risk for high blood pressure and significantly reduced inflammation markers.

cabbage

Coming in at fewer than 30 calories per cup, cabbage—be it green, red, or savoy—is a reliable source of vitamins C and K. Several studies suggest that higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, can safeguard against several forms of cancer, due in large part to an abundance of chemicals, such as glucosinolates, that help detoxify carcinogens. Among cabbage varieties, red has the highest antioxidant activity, mostly due to the wealth of anthocyanin compounds that provide the eye-catching hue.

Perhaps Bugs Bunny should have been a nutritionist. After all, his food of choice is a smart pick. Carrots, a member of the parsley family, contain a wealth of beta-carotene, which provides protection against age-related cataracts. The root veggies are also rich in vitamins C and K, potassium, and fiber. Deliciously sweet rainbow carrots, born from heirloom yellow, purple, and red seeds, contain several different disease-thwarting antioxidants (including lycopene and lutein), making them worth seeking out at farmers' markets.

A cruciferous relative of broccoli and cabbage, cauliflower abounds in cancer-fighting glucosinolates, which the body converts into compounds (including isothiocyanates) that increase the liver's ability to neutralize toxic substances. With only 25 calories per cup, cauliflower supplies a nice dose of folate, fiber, and vitamins B6, C, and K. Vitamin C provides many benefits, including protection against diabetes, asthma, and stroke. Orange cauliflower, a sweeter hybrid, has about 25 times more beta-carotene, which may help disarm free radicals, than its white counterpart.

chiles

Most North Americans associate chile peppers with Mexican cuisine, but the cultivation of the flavorful pods originated south of the equator. Chile peppers are native to the Amazon jungle, with a history dating back more than 6,000 years. Capsaicin, which gives chiles their heat, has anti-inflammatory properties; it's used to alleviate arthritis symptoms and chronic pain. Anti-inflammatory compounds prevent clots from forming and help prevent strokes and heart disease.

collard greens

Like other dark, leafy greens, collards are sky-high in vitamin K—a mere cup provides more than twice the daily requirement of this fat-soluble vitamin essential for proper blood clotting and bone formation. Further upping the health cachet of this Southern staple are impressive amounts of cancer-fighting beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C and folate. Collards are also brimming with lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant dynamic duo that help bolster eye health.

grapefruit

Although it may be best known for its low-calorie role in weight loss, the grapefruit contains a generous dose of health-promoting nutrients. Because it is rich in vitamin C, this winter citrus may help prevent colds and improve lung function. Lycopene, the pigment that accounts for grapefruit's pink color, has been linked to a reduced risk for prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. High levels of folate in grapefruit may also help ward off cardiovascular disease.

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