Grow your own vegetables and eat your way to better health

The Good Life Letter 

Sunday 19th June  2011

I've really enjoyed reader's comments about cucumbers since my letter last week.

There is a real underground movement in favour of what I had always thought of as a fairly staple but uninteresting salad vegetable.

One of the discussions sparked was about how the E.Coli infection was improperly blamed on the Spanish crop.

Not since Dallas and JFK have there been so many conspiracy theories!

My own personal theory is that with cucumbers, spring onions and bean sprouts all being on the suspect list I think someone has got it in for the Chinese restaurant business.

Anyway, I was musing on all this as I pottered around the garden, especially as I walked into my little greenhouse.

It suddenly struck me that my tomato, cucumber, green pepper and chilli plants actually represented a major contribution to my health.

I even considered hanging a red cross sign over the door as I sat and listed all of the good things that were on show in the various pots and grow bags.

Here's what I scribbled on each of my summer delights


A humble fruit rather than a vegetable, the tomato is one of the most versatile of all the summer salad crops - it turns out it probably has more health benefits than the scientific community has the space to write about. For instance:

  • The principle reason people talk about tomatoes as healthy foods is because of a very high level of lycopene, the compound which gives the fruit its deep red flavour. It turns out that it is one of the most powerful natural anti-oxidants helping prevent cancers, such as prostate and cervical cancer.
  • Recent research has also shown that tomatoes can significantly lower serum lipid oxidation and therefore can reduce the incidence of macular degeneration diseases which are the most common cause of eye problems and visual impairment in the western world.
  • Due to high levels of Vitamin A tomatoes are great for keeping hair strong and shiny, as well as looking after your teeth and nails. You can even use the skins as a tonic for your own skin!
  • Heart conditions can benefit from a diet rich in tomatoes which is due to the amount of Potassium and Vitamin B in them, which act to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.
  • As we approach summer it is often a good thing to try to kick the tobacco habit, but did you know that tomatoes can be beneficial in protecting you from the damage that smoking does to you? Tomatoes contain Chlorogenic Acid and Coumaric Acid, which help to fight against some of the carcinogens present in cigarette smoke.

Green Peppers

Always seen as the bridesmaid in a salad, these crunchy additions actually are real nutritional powerhouses in their own right, and probably deserve to get a better press than they do.

  • Just one green pepper actually contains over twice your daily requirement for Vitamin C alone, and we know how many benefits we get from this: Reducing the impact of aging on cells; improving the health of our lungs, skin, gums and teeth and even reducing cancer causing free radicals in the body are just a few.
  • Peppers can also legitimately be thought of as brain food due to the high levels of Vitamin B6 which supports the nervous system and is in high demand from the brain. You may recall that I discussed this in a letter from September last year where new research had been published showing that the effects of Alzheimer's could be delayed by this vitamin.
  • Colon cancers are prevented by a double pronged attack, firstly because of very high levels of folic acid (which is also helpful for mums-to-be) and secondly as a result of the amount of fibre present which aids gut motility.
  • Again smokers can be protected from some lung dysfunctions such as emphysema from a diet rich in peppers, which is due to their ability to help tissue healing (Vitamin C) in combination with their anti-oxidant properties and Vitamin A content, which has proven to be deficient in smokers due to a common carcinogen in cigarette smoke, benzoapyrene.


I can't deny that my love of curries and other spicy food tends to make me biased towards this firebrand fruit - indeed that is why I grow so many of them each year, and why I made them the star of my book The Spice Healer

Each year I soon begin the process of drying them, pickling them and freezing them so that they can used throughout the year. Believe me there is no better way to warm the cockles of your heart than a home made mutton curry with 'fresh' chillies in the depths of the English winter.

  • Chillies are excellent source of Vitamin, A, B, C and E with minerals like molybdenum, manganese, folate, potassium, thiamin, and copper. Chilli contains seven times more vitamin C than orange.
  • The antioxidants present in the chilli wipe out the free radical bodies that could build up cholesterol causing major heart diseases such as atherosclerosis.
  • Chillies can also help to dilate the airways to improve breathing function, and can be very useful to help sufferers of asthma and even hay fever.
  • A natural painkiller they can be used to reduce the discomfort of arthritic and joint pain, muscle spasms and even toothache.
  • Diets rich in chillies encourage gut health and also help the body rid itself of waste products.

Are you building your own health store?

I could go on, but I think you get the idea about my amazing greenhouse health store!

As a final push to get you to grow your own this year there is one global benefit to greenhouse gardening - it gets you outside and into the sun. So, if nothing else, you get a daily dose of Vitamin D and that's no bad thing.

Yours, as always



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