"Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases."
Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Antioxidant substances include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
When the body has an infection or an injury, it tries to cure the problem with inflammation to help heal or defeat the problem. When the inflammation doesn’t subside, research suggests it leads to disease. Preventing chronic internal inflammation leads to better health. This article from MNN summarizes it well.
Plant-based foods can mitigate inflammation in the body and potentially reduce chronic health problems according to this research from the NIH:
"Inflammation is a pathological condition underlying a number of diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and chronic inflammatory diseases. In addition, healthy, obese subjects also express markers of inflammation in their blood. Diet provides a variety of nutrients as well as non-nutritive bioactive constituents which modulate immunomodulatory and inflammatory processes.
Epidemiological data suggest that dietary patterns strongly affect inflammatory processes. Primarily the intake of fruit and vegetables as well as of whole wheat is inversely associated with the risk of inflammation. In addition to observational studies there are also data from human intervention studies suggesting an anti-inflammatory potential of these plant foods. At the level of bioactive compounds occurring in plant foods, primarily carotenoids and flavonoids seem to modulate inflammatory as well as immunological processes.
In conclusion, there is convincing evidence that plant foods and non-nutritive constituents associated with these foods modulate immunological and inflammatory processes. By means of anti-inflammatory activities a plant-based diet may contribute to the lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. A high intake of vegetables, fruit, and whole wheat as recommended by all international nutrition authorities provides a wide spectrum of bioactive compounds at health-promoting concentrations." Source
A vegan diet is rich in anti-inflammatory foods and spices. Raw ginger and turmeric both have anti-inflammatory properties. Cabbage and kale, again, are also great along with many other ingredients!
The health of the digestive system is important for everyone. A properly function digestive system and gut helps fight off disease and may boost the immune system. Within the digestive system are a large amount of bacteria – some are good and some are harmful. Probiotics are substances which stimulate the good bacteria and other microorganisms which have beneficial properties. When the good bacteria are activated, they can help prevent health problems by keeping the digestive organs functioning the right way.
The NIH provides this summary of probiotics:
"The World Health Organization defines probiotics as "live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host." The most common types of these beneficial bacteria are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Previous studies indicate that probiotics may have a role in treating gastrointestinal illnesses, boosting immunity, and preventing or slowing the development of certain types of cancer."
You can take advantage of several probiotic foods with a vegan diet including tempeh, miso, soy yogurt with active bacteria, kimchi, and sauerkraut. (Source: Wikipedia)
Our bodies function better when the toxins and pollutants from food and the environment are removed from our systems. By removing toxins, our digestive system functions better, the immune system improves, and the body feels better. Try eating restaurant food for a while and then having a home cooked meal. The fresh food will start detox-ing the body and you should feel better quickly!
A vegan diet is great for detox-ing. Many common ingredients perform this function including kale, broccoli, ginger, onions, lentils, and spinach. Apples, berries, and melons are also great detox fruits. (Source: the detox health-plan cookbook by Maggie Pannell)