Eat your broccoli. You might think that’s what my mom would say, but she limited her veggies to the fab four — corn, green beans, lima beans and peas — all canned, of course. I bet you can guess which of these veggies I’d feed to our pet poodle, GiGi.
Now, as for salad, it was another big four — iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes and tomatoes. That was it in my meat-and-potatoes childhood. You might ask where pumpkins and squash fit into this narrative; they were there at Thanksgiving — one day a year.
My oh my, how times have changed, and for the better. Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle and have been asleep for 20 years, you know that fruits and veggies of all sorts are important for a good, strong, vibrant body and mind.
Are some better than others? Of course. We know iceberg lettuce isn’t as good for us as spinach. We know that the darker and more colorful a veggie is, the more chock-full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, fiber flavonoids and carotenoids it is.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at how different veggies affected cardiovascular health. Their marker, what they measured, was the thickness of one part of the carotid artery. When the inner-most lining of that artery, the intima, is thick, you have more “hardening of the arteries.” When it’s thin and pliable, you have arteries that are smoother, more resilient, less likely to clot and less likely to cause a heart attack or stroke.
The carotid is chosen because it’s a big artery that’s easy to measure and is responsible for feeding that most important softball-sized organ we have, our brain.
In 1998, women in this study started filling out food-frequency questionnaires, checking off what they ate. Researchers then compared cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, arugula, bok choi, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard greens, radishes, rutabagas, watercress and turnips, to those in the allium family, which includes garlic, onions, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots.
What did they find? Women who ate three or more servings of cruciferous veggies a day were less likely to have thicker carotids, which meant their arteries were healthier — less likely to cause a heart attack or stroke.
My spin: This doesn’t mean you should toss the other veggies. That’s the wrong interpretation of this study. It does mean that keeping your health robust involves eating a wide variety of vegetables.
You never know what the next study will show. Perhaps we’ll find out that canned peas and lima beans (yuck) are good for you. That would make my mom, may she rest in peace, really, really happy.
Dear Doc: Our 18-year-old son gets stoned several times a week. His grades in high school are OK. He’s planning on going to our local junior college. We tell him all the time that this will affect his brain function. He says there’s no proof of this. Who’s right? — J.P. from Pullman, Washington
Dear J.P.: A recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Psychiatry publication should help you with your quest to encourage your son to be drug-free. Researchers did a systematic review of 69 studies on cannabis use — studies from 1973 through 2017. The research included more than 2,000 adolescent regular users (like your son) with 6,500 “controls,” kids who used it from time to time but not regularly.
Well, I have good news and bad news for you. First, the bad news: Adolescent and young adult frequent users of pot scored lower on cognitive tests, even when they weren’t stoned. Bad stuff. Now, the good news: When they stopped using it for three days, that effect went away.
My spin: Smoking weed every day makes you dumb. Stopping that daily use makes you smart. Like any inebriant — and let’s include booze in that basket — regular consumption to the point of making you stupid is just a stupid way to live your life. Stay well.