Vegan Health ArticlesMaking the Healthiest Food on Earth Even Healthier
A Vegan Health Article from

These vegan health articles are presented to assist you in taking a pro-active part in your own health.

See Health Position and Disclaimer

From Michael Greger, M.D. 

A quote from the May 2005 issue of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's Nutrition Action Healthletter: "Get a bunch of nutrition experts in a room and the conversation will inevitably turn to dark leafy greens."[1] How true that is. And two new studies just discovered two ways to make your daily (at least!) green leafy salad even healthier.

It's not enough to eat healthy food, we also have to absorb it. One of the key components that makes dark green leafies so nutritious are the carotenoid antioxidants, like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein. These compounds are lipophilic, though. "Lipo-" is from lipos, the Greek word for fat (as in liposuction); "-philic" is from the word philia, one of the four Greek words for love (as in... well we won't get into that). So these carotenoid nutrients are fat-loving molecules, and as such our body can use ingested fat to entice out these nutrients trapped within our greens.

So researchers at Ohio State University paid about a dozen people to eat salads (this is America, you've got to PAY people to eat salad) with or without avocado, one of the healthiest sources of fat, and then measured the amount of carotenoids that made it into everyone's bloodstream. Those eating a salad including half an avocado absorbed about 10 times more carotenoids than those eating the fat-free salad![2]

Would the same hold true for the lycopene in salsa? Lycopene doubles as an extremely powerful carotenoid antioxidant and the red pigment that makes fruits and vegetables like watermelons and tomatoes red. Adding avocado to salsa more than quadrupled the amount of lycopene absorbed by test subjects.[3] (You wouldn't have to pay me to be in that study--yum!)

The other salad enhancement study recently took place at the Universitia di Urbino in Italy. With the understanding that it's the antioxidants that give fruits and vegetables their anticancer, antiviral, and anti-inflammation properties, scientists experimented with adding different fresh herbs to salads and measuring their resultant total antioxidant content. They found that adding just a single sprig of fresh herbs (the weight of 3 paper clips worth of thyme, sage or marjoram--a kissing cousin of oregano) literally doubles the antioxidant power of a bowl of salad. It's almost like eating two salads for the price of one! The researchers conclude: "We stress the need to introduce aromatic herbs as a seasoning supplement in the diet of every age group."[5]

Right now at farmers' markets and plant nurseries across the country are little pots of herbs desperate for a good home. Take them in, nurture them, then rip off their limbs and eat them.


[1] "Easy Greens." Nutrition Action Health Letter 32(2005):16.

[2] Unlu, NZ, et al. "Carotenoid Absorption from Salad and Salsa by Humans Is Enhanced by the Addition of Avocado or Avocado Oil." Journal of Nutrition 135(2005):431-436.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ninfali P, et al. "Antioxidant Capacity of Vegetables, Spices and Dressings Relevant to Nutrition." British Journal of Nutrition 93(2005):257-266.

Return to Vegan Health Articles
Visit Food Hazards in Animal Flesh and By-products Health Position and Disclaimer

We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.