All berries are rich in antioxidants, but blackberries are gaining attention for their full nutrient content. They contain gallic acid, rutin and ellagic acid, which are all associated with protecting against cancer as well as having anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
All types of cherries do their part to protect health. Sweet cherries provide potassium that helps control blood pressure. Tart cherries are associated with reducing pain and inflammation. One study showed that tart cherries may help reduce post-exercise pain. Another study found that drinking two, eight ounce servings of tart cherry juice daily improved the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Tart cherries also contain melatonin, which has been found to lower body temperature and improve sleep.
Cucumbers contain plant lignans, which are associated with reduced risks for cardiovascular disease and some cancers. They also contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins that may work to block the development of cancer cells.
Research shows that eggplants contain the phytonutrient nasunin that has been found to protect cell membranes from damage. In animal studies, juice made from eggplants reduced blood cholesterol and improved blood flow. These results were attributed to the nasunin and other phytonutrients in the vegetable.
Lycopene is well known for its cancer-fighting properties, but it was once thought that this phytochemical was only found in red tomatoes. New research has revealed that tomatoes in varying shades of orange also contain beneficial amounts of lycopene. This is good news as more varieties and colors of heirloom tomatoes grow in popularity. Tomatoes also have the potential to improve heart health. Studies have shown that consuming fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts may reduce total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Capsaicin is an antioxidant responsible for the heat in hot peppers. A hotter pepper indicates higher antioxidant levels. Capsaicin has been found to produce endorphins, or feel good hormones. Some research shows it may also help fight cancer. Capsaicin has also been found to reduce appetite and raise body temperature, which could be beneficial for weight loss.
Purple or blue potatoes are full of flavonoids that have been linked to fighting heart disease and cancer. One study found that eating plain, microwaved purple potatoes two times per day lowered blood pressure. These results have been attributed to the colorful potato’s high concentration of antioxidants.
Red Bell Peppers
While bell peppers contain very small amounts of capsaicin, they are rich in vitamin C and carotenoids that act as antioxidants. Research has revealed that bell peppers are also a source for the cancer-fighting sulfur compounds most often associated with cruciferous vegetables.
Like tomatoes, the red flesh of watermelon is rich in the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene. The more ripe and red the melon, the greater the concentration of the phytonutrient. Watermelon also contains citrulline. Citrulline is converted to arginine in the body, an amino acid that is important for cardiovascular health.
A summer squash, zucchini is loaded with carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, which are associated with eye health. In addition to providing vitamin C, zucchini supplies B-complex vitamins, zinc, and magnesium, which all help regulate blood sugar levels.