In this week’s column, Nonie De Long explains why fresh produce can positively transform the health of the majority of people.
Dear readers, today’s question comes from May in Port Hope. She wrote to tell me that she had added fresh produce to her daily diet this year with huge benefits for her skin, energy and digestion. She notices that it doesn’t matter which ones she eats, as long as they are fresh. She measures and eats two cups of vegetables with her lunch and dinner and eats two fruits a day. Sometimes she cooks the vegetables and sometimes not. But she feels they have changed her health. She wants to know what is in the product that has made such a difference. How is it so transformative?
that’s a great question. Before I start bragging about the greatness of fresh produce, however, I want to mention that not everyone enjoys it like that. There are a few intestinal and autoimmune diseases that cause fresh produce to worsen health rather than improve it. If you’ve heard of Mikhaila Peterson, you’ve heard of her. Her severe RH arthritis did not improve until she went on a complete carnivore diet. My feeling is that this type of reaction to produce usually occurs after many disturbances in the digestive system. But for the vast majority of people, fresh produce can help transform health for the better.
What do fresh produce contain?
As you’ve probably heard, many vegetables are high in fiber. The various fibers in vegetables help cleanse the walls of the colon, stimulate peristalsis (which moves food), and feed the beneficial bacteria we need for good health. The downside of fiber is that when you’re not used to eating a lot, the results on your digestive system can be dramatic for a while. It’s best to make gradual changes or stay home when making more drastic changes to your diet until you know what to expect. Give yourself three to six weeks to adjust to any new eating routine to really test the impact on your digestive health.
Probiotics and prebiotics:
You might be surprised to learn that fresh produce is very high in bacteria, both on and in it. Studies are pouring in to show us just how essential they are for optimal health. How many bacteria does the product contain? “In a study from July in Frontiers in microbiology, researchers found that an average apple contains about 100 million bacteria. Most are inside, not on the skin. They came from many different taxa, unlike probiotic supplement pills, which tend to be just one type of bacteria. Of the millions of bacteria present in a given apple, there are very rarely any that cause disease; most are harmless or even beneficial. Source. I can’t find clear information on the role of pesticide and fungicide sprays and ripening on the development of these organisms. If you know the answer to this question, write to us to share it with us.
Soil organisms are bacteria that live in the soil and act as probiotics for plants. They do for plants what probiotics do for us: break down matter for nutrients, synthesize vitamins, develop and strengthen the immune system, fight harmful bacteria, and more. They make the soil welcoming for plants. Healthy soil is full of these organisms, and the fresh produce from that fertile soil is also full of them. When we consume fresh produce grown in healthy soils, we also consume these SBOs.
The role of SBOs in healthcare is only now being unpacked. Some scientists believe they can play a huge role in disease prevention. “This huge reservoir of extra antibodies is always on hand for the immune system to use, as long as the individual regularly ingests SBOs. Without SBOs, this reservoir of additional antibodies is completely unavailable. Thus, by regularly ingesting SBOs, the efficiency of the human immune system is greatly enhanced. This extra contingent of antibodies is always there to attack the infection; therefore, the immune system doesn’t have to work as hard as it normally would to fight infection.” Source And that’s just one of the complex roles of SBOs in human health! Read More more, click here.
Fresh produce is full of live enzymes. Until we cook it, that is! Enzymes are proteins that are responsible for chemical reactions and decomposition actions in the body. They are essential for liver health, breaking down food to release nutrients, building muscle tissue, and removing toxins from the body, to name a few important roles. Consuming a diet that contains fresh enzymes helps supply external enzymes to the body so that internal enzymes can be used in other ways. Think of it as resource conservation. You may not have realized it, but lactose intolerance is actually a deficiency of a specific enzyme needed to break down lactose in dairy products. Food enzymes help us get the most out of our food and function at optimal levels. This is why a portion of each meal should consist of fresh, uncooked produce.
The macronutrients in vegetables are usually carbohydrates and some proteins. Carbohydrates are used for energy and proteins are the building blocks of the body. The produce is generally not oily, with avocado being an exception. Because produce is mostly carbs, it digests quickly, which is why when you eat a meal that is mostly produce, you feel hungry soon after. Fast digestion leaves us less bloated and full than what we’re used to with our heavy, processed diets today.
Fresh produce contains many micronutrients. These include:
- Minerals and trace elements
- Phytonutrients (special plant nutrients responsible for their color, flavor and smell)
These nutrients are extremely important for many functions in our body, and some are even essential, which means we cannot make them but must get them from our diet. Deficiencies and imbalances of some of these nutrients can predispose us to disease. Fresh produce is a good source of many of these nutrients and the only source of phytonutrients.
If you don’t recognize the term phytonutrients, you’ve probably heard of carotenoids, flavonoids, lycopene, resveratrol and others. Broken down, phytonutrients simply mean plant-specific nutrients. These nutrients are known to be powerful in supporting immune function and cell regeneration. They can help fight cancer in the organs.
“Phytonutrients are actually the basis of more than 40% of today’s medicines, including those used to treat lung and heart disease, diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancer. They are also found in herbs and spices, as well as medicinal plants that have played an important role in ancient history in promoting well-being. Source These are nutrients you want in your diet. And the solution is simple: eat more fresh produce!
Thanks, May, for writing. As always, if readers have their own health questions, I welcome them! Just send me an e-mail. If you are looking for more specific health information, check out my website.