(Health Secrets) Will you live a long life filled with vibrant health and wellbeing, or a shortened life riddled with obesity and degenerative disease? Will you be a person with energy and enthusiasm who others seek out, or a lifeless and cranky person nobody wants to be around? Surprisingly, the answers to these questions largely depend on what you choose to put in your grocery cart.
If you want to be the person with vibrant health, forget the cakes and cookies and treat yourself with a selection of the best superfoods nature has to offer. And if you are budget minded, remember there is no better value for your money in the whole store than buying superfoods, even though they are rarely on sale.
Superfoods are those foods containing compounds so powerful that they have a profound effect on your health profile. It’s been said that 50 to 70 percent of suffering could be eliminated by choosing a diet made up primarily of superfoods. If you already have one of the degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease, the impact on you from choosing a diet composed of superfoods will be nothing short of profound.
With a few exceptions, superfoods are the kind of foods you can just pick up and eat. They don’t require extensive preparation or cooking. They are eaten the way nature intended for you to eat food and are perfect for a family on the go. Nature has provided us with many superfoods. Here are just some of the foods that stand out as the best of the best:
Apples – Remember that old saying An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Apples normalize cholesterol levels, and reduce risk of stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. A recent study showed that apple eaters had a decreased likelihood of having metabolic syndrome when compared to those who didn’t eat apples. Metabolic syndrome was defined as having three or more of the associated symptoms related to cardiovascular risk, including elevated blood pressure, increased waist size, and elevated C-reactive protein levels.
The seeds of apples contain good amounts of Vitamin B 17, otherwise known as laetrile, and should be eaten right along with the fruit. New research suggests that apples protect against colon cancer and slow the growth of tumor cells as well as those cells which have become pre-cancerous.
Apples have been shown to improve lung function and lower risk for respiratory disease. They cut smokers’ risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in half. They have also been shown to protect from harmful plaque build-up by slowing the cholesterol oxidation process.
Loss of mental dexterity and age-related memory loss are slowed by apple consumption, as is bone loss. Apples are one of the best food sources of boron, a mineral critical to bone health. They also contain high amounts of the anti-cancer flavonoid, quercetin.
Berries – These tiny powerhouses of nutrition protect the body against the effects of free radicals, which can damage cell membranes and DNA, resulting in the chronic diseases associated with the aging process. Along with antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and bilberries contain anthocyanins and phenolics that also have tremendous antioxidant properties. The oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of berries is among the highest found in the fruit and vegetable kingdoms.
In a study, mice were fed the equivalent of a human eating one cup of blueberries a day, and were then run through a series of motor skills tests. The blueberry-fed mice performed better than their control group counterparts in motor behavioral learning and memory, and displayed an increase in exploratory behavior. An examination of their brains showed decreased oxidative stress and better retention of signal-transmitting neurons compared to the controls.
Berries are also a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. They are high in Vitamin A, folic acid, and manganese. They also contain carotenoids, ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, lutein and gallic acid. And just as with apples, the seeds of berries are a good source of the anti-cancer Vitamin B 17, or laetrile.
Cruciferous vegetables – This is a family of vegetables that includes broccoli, cabbage, kale, radish, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, mustard greens, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, arugula, and watercress. All these are rich sources of glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that when broken down result in the formation of biologically active components such as indoles and isothiocyanates. These prevent and fight cancer by enhancing the elimination of carcinogens before they can damage DNA and by altering cell signaling pathways in a manner that helps prevent normal cells from being transformed into cancerous cells.
A wealth of recent studies have documented diindolymethane (DIM) as one of the most effective phytonutrients in the prevention and treatment of breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers. DIM is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables that regulates hormone balance and cell behavior. DIM is unique among all phytonutrients with regard to its ability to modify estrogen metabolism through the 2-hydroxy estrogen pathway. Improper metabolism of estrogen allows for oxidation, damage to DNA, and cancer. DIM prevents excessive conversion of estradiol to estrone in both men and women.
Spinach– Whenever Popeye needed some extra strength and vitality, he grabbed a can of spinach for superfood nutrition. That’s because spinach is an excellent source of energy boosting iron, an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to all body cells. Cancer is only able to grow in cells where the oxygen level is deficient. Spinach contains at least 13 flavonoid compounds that act as antioxidants and anti-cancer agents, particularly for stomach, breast, and skin cancer. A carotenoid found in spinach called neoxanthin induces prostate cancer cells to self-destruct.
Spinach is an excellent source of the Vitamin K essential to bone health, and it provides an ideal balance of calcium and magnesium. Spinach boosts brain function and increases learning capacity and motor skills. Results from the Chicago Health and Aging Project suggest that daily consumption of spinach along with cruciferous vegetables reduces cognitive decline by 40%. This amazing result was credited to the substantial amounts of full range Vitamin E in these vegetables.
Gastrointestinal health, good eyesight, and low levels of inflammation are also promoted by the nutrients in spinach, such as Vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate, riboflavin, and Vitamin A. These nutrients also protect against cardiovascular disease.
Beans and lentils – These vegetables provide soluble fiber that passes through the digestive tract, grabbing and trapping bile that contains excessive cholesterol and removing it from the body. Eating a cup of cooked beans a day reduces risk of heart attack by almost 40%. This soluble fiber also creates more insulin receptor sites for insulin molecules to connect to, allowing insulin to get to the cells that need it instead of floating freely through the bloodstream. Anyone with insulin resistance may benefit from an increase in receptor sites.
In addition to good amounts of the usual nutrients, beans and lentils are one of the primary sources of phytic acid, also known as IP-6. This nutrient has been shown to have significant inhibitory effects against a variety of primary tumors due to its ability to restore cells to a normalized state. Phytic acid is even effective against deadly pancreatic cancer. In addition to normalizing cell physiology, phytic acid enhances natural killer (NK) cells, increases tumor suppressor P53 gene activity, inhibits inflammation, and inhibits angiogenesis (the process by which tumors set up their own blood supply).
Nuts and seeds – Eating these foods five or more times a week reduces your risk of heart attack by a whopping 60%. Research shows that people who eat nuts are generally thinner and have lower levels of LDL cholesterol and better bones. They are also at a lower risk for cancer and inflammation.
Nuts are nutrient packed. They have a fatty acid profile that favorably affects blood lipids and lipoproteins. They contain antioxidant polyphenols that prevent oxidative stress, a causative factor for neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease. And they provide high amounts of magnesium, boron, and zinc – minerals essential to bone and overall health.
Nuts and seeds are rich sources of the antioxidant mineral manganese, as well as Vitamin E, folate, copper, and the amino acid arginine, which is a precursor for human growth hormone, the hormone that keeps us looking and feeling young. Some nuts and seeds contain another amino acid called tryptophan, a stimulator of serotonin in the brain that alleviates depression and boosts relaxation. They are also high in phytochemicals that protect against cancer and other chronic diseases.
Salmon – This superfood really needs its own article to list all its health benefits! Eating just two servings of wild caught salmon each week provides as much omega-3 essential fatty acids as taking daily fish oil supplements. Omega-3 fats help prevent erratic heart rhythms, make blood less likely to clot, improve the ratio of cholesterol, and prevent cholesterol from becoming damaged. Salmon has anti-inflammatory properties on par with prescription drugs but without the side effects and is able to lower high levels of triglycerides. Salmon is a tremendous source of B vitamins, including B-12 that normalizes blood pressure and promotes heart health.
Eating salmon as few as 1 to 3 times per month offers protection against stroke caused by lack of blood supply to the brain. Eating it 4 times per month reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis by 30 to 45%.
Salmon benefits men and women by improving insulin response and lessening the threat of obesity. It stimulates the secretion of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate food intake, body weight and metabolism.
Salmon is the main ingredient in for beautiful skin as outlined in the book The Perricone Prescription. The anti-inflammatory effects of eating several salmon meals each week result in tremendous anti-aging effects on the skin by reducing wrinkles, increasing tone, and improving the underlying tissue.
Another agent of the anti-inflammatory effects of salmon is astaxanthin, the red pigment that gives salmon its distinctive color. Astaxanthin is nature’s sunscreen.
Salmon is good for the brain. Mood and clarity of thought are improved by salmon consumption. The human brain is more than 60% structural fat. For brain cells to function properly, this fat needs to be primarily omega-3 such as is found in salmon. Studies suggest a connection between increased rates of depression and decreased omega-3 consumption, and between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and decreased omega-3s. A robust correlation exists between greater fish consumption and lower rates of bipolar disorder. Another study has found a high correlation between adolescent hostility and low levels of fish consumption. Better brain functioning in older adults can be promoted by eating salmon. People who have a higher blood level of omega-3 were found to have a 47% lower risk of developing dementia.
Turkey – A four ounce serving of turkey provides 65% of the recommended daily value for protein, the building block of the structure of the human body. Turkey a super source for selenium, an essential component of several major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. There is a documented strong inverse correlation between selenium intake and breast cancer.
Turkey is a good source of cancer-protective B vitamins. Components of DNA require the B vitamin niacin, and deficiency of other B vitamins has been directly linked to DNA damage. B vitamins are important for energy production and aid in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Vitamin B-6 is essential for the processing of carbohydrates. B-6 and B-12 must be adequate for methylation to take place, a process resulting in the formation of a wide variety of highly important active molecules.
Turkey is rich in alpha lipoic-acid and acetyl-L-carnitine, the nutrients shown to improve short term memory by reversing metabolic problems caused by cellular aging and oxidative stress in the brain.
Add these superfoods to your grocery list today and take a big step toward improved health and wellbeing.