We all know that vegetables are good for us, right? I’m sure we all remember our parents telling us again and again that we should finish the vegetables on our plates because they contain fiber, vital vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need. But it seems that vegetables and fruits do even more than just providing us with essential nutrients. They provide us with powerful antioxidants, combatting free radicals, and recent studies by Dr. Mark Mattson, Dr. Leonard Guarente, and Dr. Toren Finkel show that vegetables and fruits contain toxins that actually improve metabolic function, helping the body to prepare to fight off infections and diseases.
Since plants cannot get up and run away from predators, they must find other ways to defend themselves. One of these ways is to develop a plethora of toxins over millions of years that promote a bitter flavor which discourage animals and pests from eating them. In turn, these toxins, when eaten by humans, stress the cells into performing tasks that improve the body’s ability to defend itself. According to Dr. Mattson, these toxins “activate signaling pathways in cells that bolster the resistance of the cells to stress and . . . can protect against diseases.” Arguably, you can look at these toxins as a fire drill that sends the cells into a systematic process that works to improve the function of the body and mind. These toxins have also been found to promote neurotrophic factors, which are proteins that contribute to learning, memory, and the survival and growth of neurons.
Other than providing us with helpful toxins, vegetables provide us with antioxidants that fight aging, cancer, and heart disease. Dr. T. Colin Campbell claims that a high protein diet promotes free radicals that can cause excessive oxidation, which deteriorates tissues within our bodies, leading to said diseases. Our bodies don’t produce their own antioxidants, so the ones in vegetables work to neutralize the oxidation process. Without consuming vegetables rich in antioxidants and helpful toxins, our bodies are more susceptible to heart disease, cancer, and more. Many who practice a vegetarian diet may not even be aware of how these antioxidants and toxins may be contributing to their longevity.
The vegetarian diet is becoming more and more popular among Americans for a variety of personal, ethical, religious, and cultural reasons. No matter the reason, even if one is adopting a vegetarian diet just to shed pounds, the benefits to one’s health is the same. In “Vegetarian Diets: what do we know of their effects on chronic diseases?”, Gary E. Fraser states, “There is convincing evidence that vegetarians have lower rates of coronary heart disease [due to] . . . low cholesterol.” And according to Dr. Mattson, epidemiological studies (the study of populations and their diet across the globe) suggest that the maximum healthy diet is one that is vegetarian since those who have adopted a primarily plant-based diet live longer and heathier lives.