Originally published September 26 2008
Eight Superfoods for Health and Beauty From Your Local Grocery Store
by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) What you have in your mind when you go to the grocery store will pretty much determine whether you live a long life of vibrant good health with feelings of well being, or a shortened life riddled with obesity and degenerative disease. Will you be a person with energy and enthusiasm for life, a person who others seek out and want to be around? Or will be you a lifeless, cranky and unattractive person? The answer largely depends on what you choose to put in your grocery cart.
If you have chosen to be the person with the vibrant health, you will head to the store with superfoods in mind. If you are looking to treat yourself, there is no better way to do it than with a selection of the best nature has to offer. And if you are budget minded, 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 astounding. 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 food the way nature intended for you to eat food, and are perfect for a family on the go.
It is difficult to choose a list of superfoods. Nature has provided her children with a bounteous table of possibilities. Here are just some of the superfoods that stand out as the best of the best. You can find these at almost any traditional grocery store:
Apples – Remember the 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 don'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 from colon cancer and slow the growth of precancerous and tumor cells.
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.
Mental dexterity and age-related memory loss is 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 quercetin, one of nature's most powerful anti-inflammatories.
Berries – These tiny powerhouses of nutrition protect the body against the effects of free radicals that 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 display antioxidant properties. Their oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) is among the highest found among fruits and vegetables.
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. When a similar test was performed on humans eating a cup of blueberries a day, they performed 5 to 6 percent better on motor skills tests than the controls.
Berries are a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. They are high in vitamin D, folic acid, and manganese. They also contain cancer fighting carotenoids, tannins, ellagitannins and gallic acid, as well as quercetin and eye protective lutein. 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, 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 compounds such as indoles and isothiocyanates. These products of glucosinolates 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 has 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 in the direction of greater 2-hydroxy estrogen production. Improper metabolism of estrogen allows for oxidation, damage to DNA, and cancer promotion to take place. DIM prevents the 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. 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 also contains at least 13 flavonoid compounds that act as antioxidants and anti-cancer agents, particularly for stomach-, breast-, and skin cancer. A carotenoid called neoxanthin induces prostate cancer cells to self-destruct.
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, essential to bone health, as well a providing ample amounts of calcium and magnesium. It also boosts brain function, and increases learning capacity and motor skills. Results from the Chicago Health and Aging Project suggest that daily eating 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 the 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 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 this 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 IP6. This nutrient has been shown to have significant inhibitory effects against a variety of primary tumors due to its ability to promote appropriate programmed cell death. Phytic acid is even effective against the deadly pancreatic cancer. It helps normalize cell physiology, enhance natural killer (NK) cells, increase tumor suppressor P53 gene activity, inhibit inflammation, and inhibit angiogenesis which is 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, 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, zinc -- minerals essential for bone health.
Nuts and seeds are rich sources of the antioxidant mineral manganese, as well as vitamin E, folic acid, copper, and the amino acid arginine which is a precursor of human growth hormone. Some nuts and seeds contain 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 a 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 inside arteries, improve the ratio of cholesterol, and prevent cholesterol from becoming damaged and thereby preventing clogged arteries. It has anti-inflammatory properties on a par with prescription drugs but without the side effects, and is also able to lower high levels of triglycerides. It is a tremendous source of the B vitamins including B12 that normalize blood pressure and promote heart health. Eating salmon as little as 1 to 3 times per month offers protection against stroke caused by lack of blood supply to the brain. Eating it 4 times a month reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis by 30-45%, and the risk for atherosclerosis.
Salmon benefits men and women by improving insulin response and lessening the threat of obesity. The omega-3 fatty acid EPA stimulates the secretion of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate food intake, body weight and metabolism, and is expressed primarily by adipocytes (fat cells).
Salmon is the main ingredient in Dr. Nicholas Perricone's prescription for beautiful skin as outlined in his recent book The Perricone Promise. 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.
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have been shown to protect against many forms of cancer including colorectal and prostate which are stimulated by inflammation. Omega-3 fats stimulate the creation of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. These fats also offer significant protection against both early and late age-related macular degeneration. The risk for and incidence of dry eye syndrome is lessened by omega-3's.
Another agent of the anti-inflammatory effects of salmon is astaxanthin, the red pigment that gives salmon its color. Astaxanthin protects skin against sunburn and possibly skin cancer.
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 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-3's. Researchers have also found a robust correlational relationship between greater fish consumption and lower rates of bipolar disorder. Another study found a high correlation between adolescent hostility and low levels of fish consumption. Better brain functioning in older adults can be promoted by the consumption of 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 65.1% of the daily value for protein, the building blocks for the structure of the human body. It's also a super source for the trace mineral 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 cancer.
Turkey is also a good source of the cancer-protective B vitamins. Components of DNA require niacin. A deficiency of niacin and other B complex 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 B6 is essential for the processing of carbohydrates. B6 and B12 levels must be adequate for methylation, a process resulting in the formation of a wide variety of very important active molecules.
Turkey is an excellent source of the amino acid L-tryptophan. This amino acid can be metabolized into serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters that exert a calming effect and regulate sleep.
Silvina Lotito, Ph.d., "Why Apples Are Healthful", Linus Pauling Institute Research Report.
"Why Blueberries are Healthful", Blueberry Council.
"Cruciferous Vegetables", Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
"Nutritional Benefits of Beans", essortment.
About the authorBarbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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