Caption: Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant with many health benefits, including lowering the risk of certain types of cancer. Photo credit: MelindaMyers.com
by Melinda Myers
Cancer prevention starts on your dinner plate; actually, it starts in the garden. Growing your own nutrient-rich cancer fighting vegetables allows you to grow pesticide-free vegetables, harvest them at their peak, and use them right away, ensuring the highest nutrient value and best flavor.
Be sure to include some broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and turnip greens. These cruciferous vegetables release cancer fighting substances that help fend off lung, breast, liver, colon, and prostate cancer. Three weekly servings of these vegetables can greatly reduce your cancer risk. Include these vegetables in your stir fries, as a side dish, as an appetizer or eat them fresh as a snack.
If your space is limited, these plants can easily blend into your current garden space. The bold texture and form of red cabbage makes an eye-catching focal point. Turnips can easily be mixed with flowers or planted between longer season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Or mix some kale in with your flowers; the color and upright growth habit creates a nice vertical accent in the garden or containers.
Another popular vegetable that is a cancer-fighter, the tomato, can easily be grown on any size balcony or landscape. And nothing beats the flavor of fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. Whether eaten fresh, juiced, sauced, or added to your favorite dish, this lycopene vegetable (a powerful antioxidant) will help in the fight against cancer.
To grow tomatoes, all you need is a container of potting mix or a sunny spot in your landscape. Save space and reduce pest problems by growing these vines on a stake, in a tomato cage or supported by any decorative structure. Compact varieties like Patio Choice Yellow Cherry, Early Girl Bush, Window Box Roma, and Red Robin are just a few you may want to try.
Always select a tomato variety suited to your growing conditions. Check the plant tag to make sure you have enough warm frost-free days for the plant to grow and produce in your area.
Include fiber rich beans in your garden and meals. Regular consumption of this natural source of antioxidants and phytochemicals can help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Go vertical, growing pole beans on a support if space is limited and for making harvesting much easier.
Save a bit of room for red onions. Research at the University of Guelph found red onions had high levels of quercetin and anthocyanins that help fight cancer. Start onions from sets or plants and harvest when the bulbs are full-size, and the tops begin to yellow and topple.
Not only will you improve your health by growing your own nutrient-rich vegetables you will also improve your well-being. Tending a garden can help improve your mood and reduce stress.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including The Midwest Gardener’s Handbook and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her web site is www.melindamyers.com.