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Dr. Julia’s Inn: Gardening outside for health and activity

April 27, 2011

By Dr. Julia Whipkey-Michniewicz, N.D.
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Scientific studies have confirmed that when you eat a diet high in raw fruits and vegetables, particularly the darker, deeper colors, you have less heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and age-related neurologic issues.

The secret is in the color. I love reading gardening books and magazines. Recently, I read a quote from Mary Ann Lila, who directs the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University. Lila said: “Plants are the master chemists. Because plants can’t move around, they have to manufacture what they need. They have to defend, protect and heal themselves.”

It would make sense to study what a plant produces in response to stress, and it would help to use this information when a human is under similar circumstances.

Let’s turn our attention to plant pigments. The four main pigment components of plant leaves are chlorophylls, carotenoids, anthocyanin and betalains. Chemical compounds reflect certain wavelengths of visible light that make them appear colorful. Following is a breakdown of the benefits of each pigment class:

Chlorophylls

Color: Green

Plants rich in this: Deep-green leafy greens—spinach, kale, collards, broccoli

Health benefits: Help to deactivate carcinogens. Studies show chlorophylls may deactivate colon and liver cancer carcinogens.

Carotenoids

Color: Yellow, orange to red

Plants rich in this: Apricots, cantaloupes, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, winter squash

Health benefits: Protects from solar radiation and acts as an antioxidant. By eating these foods, they act like an immune builder. Studies show they may prevent heart disease, cancer and macular degeneration.

Anthocyanin

Color: Blue, purple, burgundy

Plants rich in this: Purple beans, purple cabbage, eggplant, purple potatoes, red onions, red and purple grapes, berries

Health benefits: Improves tolerance to stress, resist disease and prevents oxidative damage to cells. Studies show it may prevent or reverse neuro-degenerative disease, improves vision, promotes wound healing, helps to prevent cancer, heart disease, insulin resistance and obesity.

Betalains

Color: Red-violet

Plants rich in this: Beets, stems of swiss chard, veins of spinach

Health benefits: Studies show these foods may prevent cancer, heart disease, liver damage and ulcers.

This year in your garden, grow a rainbow—beets, red and green lettuce, red, yellow, green and orange peppers, carrots, eggplants and purple potatoes. While you are gardening for your health, you can burn, on average, about 272 calories per hour for exercise! Enjoy the outdoors, and labor for health in your garden.

I love to make my own pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie with home-grown pie pumpkins, home-grown sweet potatoes and home-grown squash. I bake all of them, blend them up, and insert them into my favorite bread and pie recipes. Look for our August and September articles, where we give you our favorite squash and sweet potato recipes and our array of pumpkin recipes—pumpkin pie, hummus, soup and bread.

Dr. Julia Whipkey-Michniewicz is a naturopathic doctor who has been in practice for more than 29 years. Dr. Julia had breast cancer and did not administer chemical or radiation therapy. She celebrated 11 years cancer-free in 2011. Visit www.drjuliasinn.net or call (815) 962-3326.

From the April 27-May 3, 2011 issue

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