Updated: Aug 23
Your body was made to respond to injury or infection with inflammation. It’s a very natural process. But persistent inflammation can actually lead to a great deal of health issues such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Your diet plays a critical role in the regulation of this inflammation.
Introducing a variety of vegetables into your daily diet can be a fantastic approach to reducing inflammation as well as boosting general health and wellness.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
The antioxidants and sulfur-containing substances inherent in cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, have been shown to have properties that lower inflammation.
Moreover, these vegetables also contain glucosinolates, which are converted into active ingredients that can lessen inflammation throughout the human body.
After eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables, one report noted an incredible decrease in inflammation indicators in human blood. According to a separate study, eating glucosinolate-rich foods, like broccoli, can lessen the blood levels of inflammatory indicators.
In addition to reducing general inflammation in the body, a third study found that consuming cruciferous vegetables could also protect against several different cancers, specifically prostate cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables can be enjoyed in salads, stir-fries, or soups. You can roast them in your oven with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Alternatively, if you don’t enjoy the taste of cruciferous vegetables, try blending them with more tasty ingredients like yogurt, honey, and fruits.
However you choose to consume them, there ought to be no question, eat your cruciferous vegetables!
Location: Keep your cruciferous vegetables in sunlight as they prefer this over shady environments. A six-hour minimum of direct sunlight is necessary for healthy cruciferous vegetables.
Soil Preparation: Discard the area of any weeds or debris. Improve the fertility and texture of the soil by adding manure or compost. Try to aim for a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5 as cruciferous vegetables grow best in moderately acidic soil.
Plant the Seeds: Seed packets will typically include instructions on the back. Cover seeds completely with soil and then provide them with water. Be sure there is sufficient space for growth between each plant.
Plant Care: Ensure your cruciferous vegetables receive plenty of water, as dry soil can be detrimental to the plant’s overall health. Keep the soil damp but not waterlogged. A healthy cruciferous plant also requires regular fertilization in order to survive and thrive properly. Find a balanced fertilizer and follow the package instructions.
Pest Control: Prone to pest infestation, especially broccoli, and kale, cruciferous vegetables will need special care in this department. Keep a close eye on your cruciferous vegetables and try to get on them quickly if you notice signs of pests. The first thing to prevent pests is to set up physical barriers; if this fails, a second option to consider is using an insecticidal soap or neem oil. Both keep and kill unwanted pests on cruciferous vegetables. Thirdly, companion planting (planting a companion plant for your cruciferous vegetable) like mint, marigold, or basil could also prevent pests.
Harvesting: Cruciferous vegetables are best when plucked young and tender. In fact, if cruciferous vegetables are left too long, they can actually become bitter and tough. When collecting your cruciferous vegetables, cut the stem just above the bud or leaf node.
2. Tomatoes (Technically a Fruit)
Interestingly enough, tomatoes actually give off the most amount of lycopene when they are cooked and processed. This means products such as tomato paste, and tomato sauce are all saturated with lycopene. To increase your intake of lycopene even more, consider cooking your tomatoes in olive oil. Also, consider roasting, sautéing, or grilling your tomatoes. You can even try making your favorite stuffed tomato recipe.
However, you’ll still get a good dose of lycopene when simply consuming the organic tomatoes from your garden, uncooked. So, you can never go wrong with raw, diced tomatoes on a salad, avocado toast, or salsa. You’ll also get a great dose of vitamin C and potassium.
Since tomatoes are a low-calorie food and grow excellently in home gardens, their popularity has remained consistent over the years.
Location: Keep your tomato plant in a sunny part of your garden, whenever possible.
Soil Preparation: Tomato plants require frequent fertilization to remain healthy and fruit-bearing. Most tomato seed packets will include instructions for proper soil prep. Consider adding mulch to your tomato plant to keep the soil moist, regulated, and free from weeds.
Plant the Seeds: Make sure seeds are planted deep enough that only the top leaves are surfacing. This will allow the plant to establish strong and deep roots.
Plant Care: Water your tomato plant once a week for good health. If the weather is hotter or dryer than usual, additional watering might be necessary. To prevent your tomato plant from contracting any type of disease, consider regular pruning. Also, to prevent stem damage, add stakes for support, which you can tie the plant to as it grows.
Pest Control: Tomato plants are no strangers to garden pests. The most commonly found pests on a tomato plant are aphids, hornworms, and whiteflies. Keep a close eye on your tomato plants, and don’t be afraid to apply pesticides when necessary. For a more organic pesticide alternative, try any of the following:
Neem Oil: Dilute with water and spray generously on the tomato plant.
Garlic: Smash 3-4 cloves of garlic and allow it to steep in water overnight. The next morning, you can add some dish soap to the mix. Spray generously on the tomato plant.
Companion planting: Just like with cruciferous vegetables, companion planting is a great solution for pest control. Some ideal companion plants for the tomato plant would be basil, borage, or marigolds.
Harvesting: When it comes to getting great-tasting tomatoes from your tomato plant, nothing is more important than harvesting at the right time. Keep a close eye on your plants to make sure you aren’t missing the ripeness window. Tomatoes that are ready to be harvested will be fully colored and ever-so-slightly squishy. The more you harvest, the more your plant will produce. So, harvest often, so long as the fruit is ready.
3. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers make the list because they are a great source of vitamin C, which is a well-known anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Bell peppers are also a low-calorie food, making them a great addition of crunch and color to salads, pasta salads, fajitas, soups, sandwiches, wraps, and more.
Bell peppers come in several colors, including green, red, and yellow, and are easy to grow and maintain in any home garden. They can be eaten raw or cooked. For the greatest amounts of vitamin C, consider eating red peppers over the green, as red peppers have almost double the amount of vitamin C as green.
While all bell peppers contain health benefits, red peppers possess the most. In fact, eating just a half cup of raw red peppers a day will provide 95 milligrams of vitamin C. This will provide you with 106% of the recommended daily value for adults.
In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, bell peppers have also been linked to an overall healthier immune system, maintained blood pressure, and improved heart health. Studies have also shown that bell peppers aid in digestion, prevent certain kinds of cancers, and, interestingly enough, improve eye health.
The healthiest way to consume bell peppers would be raw, perhaps, chopped up into a salad, used for dipping, stuffed in a wrap, or piled onto a sandwich. But they’re delicious when grilled, added to stir-fry, or stuffed with meats and cheeses.
So, don’t skip on those bell peppers!
Location: For healthy and thriving bell peppers, try to allow for the most sunlight possible. Your bell pepper plant should be receiving at least six hours of sunlight a day.
Soil Preparation: Add plenty of manure to the soil before planting the bell pepper seeds.
Plant the Seeds: Unlike the other plants in this list, bell peppers should either be started indoors or purchased from a local nursery and transported to your home garden. Allow for plenty of space between other plants.
Plant Care: Similar to tomato plants, bell peppers require weekly watering, sometimes more, if the weather is particularly dry or hot. Regular fertilization will ensure healthy and thriving bell pepper plants. Consider fertilizing every four to six weeks. Stakes alongside the bell pepper plant will support its growth and prevent it from touching the dirt below it.
Pest Control: Subject to many pests, there is hope for protecting your bell peppers from unwanted infestation. Consider neem oil, some type of protective cover, hand-picking the pests off your plants, or companion planting. Companion plants that might deter pests include parsley, basil, and thyme.
Harvesting: You’ll know your bell peppers are ready when they are firm to the touch and bright in color.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have become increasingly popular as a substitute for their starchy cousin, the potato. Many have begun to use sweet potatoes for fries, baked potatoes, and more. Not only are they a delicious substitute, but the health benefits are vast.
For starters, sweet potatoes possess vitamins A, B6, C, potassium, and fiber. They also contain beta-carotene and anthocyanins, which are the chemicals that give sweet potatoes their beautiful and vibrant coloring. But these chemicals are also linked to disease prevention.
Some of the benefits of beta-carotene and anthocyanins include anti-inflammation, reduced risk of diabetes, reduced risks of obesity, and overall improved cardiovascular health.
Sweet potatoes are relatively easy home garden additions and can be enjoyed by gardeners via boiled, baked, steamed, or even roasted.
Try making delicious sweet potato fries in your air fryer, mashing them up for a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes, or roasting them with some olive oil and seasonings of choice.
Location: Sweet potatoes need warm and moist conditions in order to thrive.
Soil Preparation: Standard procedure for planting sweet potatoes involves slips. Slips are the sprouts that grow directly from an actual mature sweet potato. You can purchase sprouts from a local nursery or try doing it on your own. Plant the slips in moist soil located in a warm spot that receives plenty of sunlight. On a side note, growing sweet potatoes via sprouts is a great science class experiment to be done with your children. Lots of fun learning and fulfillment that they won’t soon forget!
Plant Care: Similar to the other plants in this list, water your sweet potato plant around once a week. More watering may be required if the weather is particularly dry or hot. Your plant will benefit from regular fertilization as well as mulch.
Pest Control: Protect your sweet potatoes from pests by using a row cover. Common pests include flea beetles, sweet potato weevils, and cutworms. Check every so often for pest infestation on your plants.
Harvesting: You’ll know your sweet potatoes are ready when the leaves have turned a beautiful yellow color. Dig up the slips carefully, ensuring no damage is done. Leave the potatoes in a warm, humid place for several days before storing them in a cool and dry location.
Start simple. Grow beautiful bell peppers, bright red tomatoes, delicious sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, and nutritious cruciferous vegetables. Once you’ve mastered those, consider adding more variety to your garden.
Before you know it, you’ll feed the entire neighborhood with your delicious, nutritious, and 100% homegrown ingredients.
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