12 superfoods offering super health protection

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The top 12 superfoods offering super health protection include beans, blueberries, broccolli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach ,tea (green or black), tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and yogurt.

 

Beans: High in fiber and anti-oxidants, plus protein rich

High in fiber and antioxidants, beans aren’t just good for the waistline, they may aid in disease prevention, too. More than just a meat substitute, beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week.

Beans are high in antioxidants, a class of phytochemicals that incapacitate cell-damaging free radicals in the body. (Free radicals have been implicated in everything from cancer and aging to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.)

In a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, researchers measured the antioxidant capacities of more than 100 common foods. Three types of beans made the top four: small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. And three others — black beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas — achieved top-40 status. Here are some Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas made with beans.

 

Blueberries are the top antioxidant superfood

Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, blueberries are also high in potassium and vitamin C, making them the top choice of doctors and nutritionists. Not only can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory.

“Inflammation is a key driver of all chronic diseases, so blueberries have a host of benefits,” says Ann Kulze, MD, of Charleston, S.C., author of Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan For Permanent Weight Loss and Lifelong Vitality. When selecting berries, note that the darker they are, the more anti-oxidants they have. “I tell everyone to have a serving (about 1/2 cup) every day,” Dr. Kulze says. “Frozen blueberries are just as good as fresh.”

 

Broccoli proven to lower the risk of cancer and other tumors

Broccoli and its cruciferous relatives are among the most powerful weapons in our dietary arsenal against cancer. That alone would elevate it to the status of a SuperFood. In addition, broccoli also boosts the immune system, lowers the incidence of cataracts, supports cardiovascular health, builds bones, and fights birth defects. Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense foods known; it offers an incredibly high level of nutrition for a very low caloric cost. A whole cup of broccoli has only 30 calories.

A researcher at Johns Hopkins University announced the discovery of a compound found in broccoli that not only prevented the development of tumors by 60 percent in the studied group, it also reduced the size of tumors that did develop by 75 percent. Find more Super Immunity Foods

 

Oats are low in calories, high in fiber and protein, and can lower cholesterol by 8 to 23 percent.

Oats are a rich source of magnesium, potassium. zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, thiamine, and pantothenic acid. They also contain phytonutrients such as polyphenols, phytoestrogens, lignins, protease inhibitors, and vitamin R (they’re an excellent source of tocotrienols and multiple tocopherols – important members of the vitamin E family). The synergy of the nutrients in oats makes them an outstanding and formidable SuperFood.  The degree of protection against disease offered by oats and other whole grains is greater than that of any of their ingredients taken in isolation.

It’s the cholesterol-lowering power of oats that drew the most attention to this humble grain. The specific fiber—beta glucan—in oats is the soluble fiber that seems responsible for this benefit. Study after study has shown that in-individuals with high cholesterol (above 220 mg/dl), consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day—or roughly the amount in a bowl of oatmeal—can lower total cholesterol by 8 to 23 percent. Given that each l percent drop in serum cholesterol translates to a 2 percent decrease in the risk of developing heart disease, this is a significant effect. Brain Healthy Recipes using oats, salmon, blueberries, and other superfoods.

Oranges help prevent a host of chronic ailments

Long recognized as a potent source of vitamin C, new studies suggest oranges support heart health and prevent cancer, stroke, diabetes, and a host of chronic ailments.

Many know that oranges are rich in fiber, which aids in digestion and thus helps speed up cleansing our systems. But growing evidence shows that oranges promote weight loss for other reasons than just the fiber. Researchers suspect oranges’ high content of vitamin C and beta carotene also ward off belly fat. Oranges are great for weight loss!

Nutritionists say, orange juice actually has more energy boosters than a cup of coffee. Oranges are packed with nutrients, minerals and phytochemicals and only have 60 calories per orange. They contain significant amounts of vitamins A, B and C. It has also been proven that eating oranges will help you absorb much more calcium, magnesium and other minerals.

Scientists do not know exactly why eating oranges does this, but they suspect it is because it stimulates the flow of higher levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.The higher hydrochloric acid that comes from eating oranges has a great effect on detoxifying the body as well.

Vitamin C contributes to collagen production making our skin look young, supple and taut. In one Harvard study, those who drank a glass of orange juice daily had a 25% lower risk of stroke. Oranges also reduce cholesterol, therefore preventing heart disease.

Experts are convinced oranges reduce the risk of cancer – particularly cancer of the stomach, mouth, esophagus and larynx by a whopping 50%. Oranges can also keep asthma and arthritis at bay. But if your top concern is losing weight – oranges help prevent diabetes and obesity.

 

Pumpkins are one of the richest sources of bioavailable carotenoids known to man.

Extremely high in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the SuperFoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids.

Foods rich in carotenoids have been linked to a host of health- promoting and disease-fighting activities. They have been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers, including those of the lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast, and skin. In the landmark Nurses’ Health Study. Women with the highest concentrations of carotenes in their diets had the lowest risk of breast cancer.

Carotenoids have also shown great promise in their ability to lower rates of heart disease. In one thirteen-year-long study, researchers found a strong correlation between lower carotenoid concentrations in the blood and a higher rate of heart disease. As has frequently been found, the correlation between increased carotenoid consumption and decreased risk of heart disease was higher when all carotenoids, not just beta-carotene, were considered.

Carotenoid consumption also decreases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

The two carotenoids that are richly present in pumpkin—beta- and alpha- carotene—are particularly potent phytonutrients.

Scientists reasoned that if the beta-carotene in foods helped to prevent lung cancer, it followed that a beta-carotene supplement would do the same. Two important studies showed that, to the contrary, smokers who took beta-carotene supplements showed an increase in lung cancer, while those that ate foods rich in these nutrients decreased their risk.

While beta-carotene has long been linked with health promotion, it’s the bounty of alpha-carotene in pumpkin that makes it a real nutrition standout. The exciting news about alpha-carotene is that its presence in the body along with other key nutrients is reportedly inversely related to biological aging. In other words, the more alpha-carotene you eat, the slower your body shows signs of age. Not only may alpha-carotene slow down the aging process, it also has been shown to protect against various cancers and cataracts, and the combination of carotenoids, potassium, magnesium, and folate found in pumpkin offers protection against cardiovascular disease.

Pumpkin is also a terrific source of fiber.

 

Salmon and other fish are omega3 rich superfoods for the heart, joints, and memory

“We know that the omega 3s you get in fish lower heart disease risk, help arthritis, and may possibly help with memory loss and Alzheimer’s,” Bowden says in his book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why . “There is some evidence to show that it reduces depression as well.”

Omega-3s are most prevalent in fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon: Look for wild (not farmed) salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. Aim for two-to-three servings a week. Other forms of omega 3s are available in fortified eggs, flax seed, and walnuts. These superfoods have the added benefit of being high in monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol.

“Fatty fish not only plays a vital role in the health of the membrane of every cell in our body, it also helps protect us from a number of key health threats,” says Laurie Tansman, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Some of those threats include heart disease, stroke, hypertension, depression, joint pain, and a number of illnesses linked to inflammation, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Fish may even offer some protection against Alzheimer’s disease.

 

The soybean was introduced to America in the eighteenth century by Benjamin Franklin.

Soy beans are an inexpensive, high-quality, vitamin- and mineral-rich plant protein with lots of soluble fiber, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and, most important, it offers a wealth of disease-fighting phytonutrients. Indeed, soy is the richest known dietary source of powerful health-promoting phytoestrogens. Soy has been recognized by many researchers as playing a positive role in preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis as well as helping to relieve menopausal and menstrual symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.

You don’t have to eat tons of soy to enjoy its considerable advantages. Soy offers the highest-quality protein of any plant food. Available in organic forms (and therefore free of any pesticides or other additives), it offers all nine essential amino acids and is a good source of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids.

 

Calorie for calorie, spinach provides more nutrients than any other food.

Spinach contains more iron than steak, plus carotenoids, antioxidants, vitamin K, coenzyme Q10, B vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, polyphenols, betaine and, plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids. This is a condensed list and it’s hard to convey the powerful impact of these nutrients as they work synergistically to promote health.

Eating spinach lessens the risk of cardiovascular disease including stroke and coronary artery disease; cancer including colon, lung, skin, oral, stomach, ovarian, prostate and breast cancer; age related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

Preliminary research also suggests that spinach may help prevent or delay age-related cognitive decline.

The vitamin C, beta-carotene and other nutrients in spinach work together to prevent oxidized cholesterol from building up in the blood vessel walls. Spinach is also rich in folate, which is an important contributor to heart health as it works, along with B6 and betaine, to lower serum levels of the dangerous amino acid homocysteine. We are learning more every day about the dangers of homocysteine and its association with heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and age-related cognitive decline.

The potassium and magnesium in spinach also make significant contributions to heart health. Both work to lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

 

After water, tea is the most popular drink in the world.

There are more than 3,000 varieties of tea available around the world. It has no calories and many health benefits. Tea lowers blood pressure, helps prevent cancer and osteoporosis, lowers your risk for stroke, promotes heart health, and plays a probable role in preventing sunlight damage to the skin (such as wrinkles and skin cancer).

One tea study found that in males, deaths from coronary artery disease were reduced by 40 percent among those who drank one or more cups of tea daily, and another study from Harvard showed that there was a 44 percent lower risk of heart attack in people who drank at least one cup of tea daily. Another study showed that tea consumption in the year before a heart attack is associated with a lower mortality following the heart attack.Tea also seems to play a role in keeping the lining of the blood vessels plaque free, which in turn lessens the risk of coronary artery disease.

Preliminary data also suggests that tea may actually help you lose weight by increasing energy expenditure.

Tea seems to have a positive effect on your dental health. Drinking tea lowers your risk of developing cavities as well as gum disease. One study found that tea may reduce cavity formation by up to 75 percent. This happens for a number of reasons. The fluoride content of the tea inhibits cavities from developing. Tea also seems to inhibit bacteria from adhering to tooth surfaces, while it also inhibits the rate of acid production of oral bacteria.

Both men and women can improve bone health by drinking tea. Studies that focused on the risk of hip fracture found that habitual tea consumption, especially when maintained for more than ten years, has been shown to have a significant benefit to bone-mineral density. This seems to be due to the fact that some of the flavonoids in tea have phytoestrogen activity, which benefits bone health. Some tea extracts also seem to inhibit bone resorption.

 

Tomatoes were first grown by the Aztec Indians in Mexico

When tomatoes were first imported to Europe by Spanish missionaries, they were viewed as a dangerous food by all but the Italians and Spanish. Someone once tried to assassinate George Washington by slipping some tomatoes in his stew. Today we know that tomatoes are one of the top beneficial superfoods.

Lycopene is rare in foods, and tomatoes are one of only a few that are rich in this powerful antioxidant. Ketchup, tomato juice, and pizza sauce account for more than 80 percent of the total lycopene intake of Americans.

Lycopene, a member of the carotenoid family, is a major contributor to the tomato’s health promoting power. Lycopene could be as powerful an antioxidant as beta-carotene. Lycopene is an important part of the antioxidant defense network in the skin, and dietary lycopene by itself or in combination with other nutrients can raise the sun protection factor (SPF) of the skin. Some studies have shown that people who eat large amounts of tomatoes are far less likely to die from all forms of cancer compared with those who eat little or no tomatoes.

There is strong evidence that lycopene prevents prostate cancer.  A growing body of evidence suggests that lycopene also provides some degree of protection against cancers of the breast, digestive tract, cervix, bladder, and lung.

Lycopene seems to reduce the risk of cancer in several ways. As a particularly powerful antioxidant, it helps block the ongoing destructive effects of the free radicals in the body. It’s especially effective when sufficient vitamin E is present. Lycopene also seems to interfere with the growth factors that stimulate cancer cells to grow and proliferate. It also seems to stimulate the body to mount a more effective immune defense against cancer.

Dr. David Snowdon of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky assessed eighty-eight Roman Catholic nuns ranging in age from 77 to 98. The nuns with the highest blood concentrations of lycopene were the most able to care for themselves and complete everyday tasks. Those with the highest levels of lycopene were 3.6 times better able to function in their everyday lives than those with the lowest levels. No similar relationship between vigor and the presence of other antioxidants (such as vitamin E and beta-carotene) was found.

Tomatoes are rich in a wide variety of nutrients, which seem to work synergistically to promote health and vitality. Low in calories, high in fiber, and high in potassium, tomatoes are not only a rich source of lycopene. They are also a source of beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and various polyphenols. They contain small amounts of B vitamins (thiamine, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and niacin), as well as folate, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.

 

Turkey is a SuperFood with half the fat of beef and 30% fewer calories

Skinless turkey breast is one of, if not the leanest meat protein sources on the planet. This alone could make it a SuperFood: but turkey also offers a rich array of nutrients, particularly niacin, selenium, vitamins B6 and B12, and zinc. These nutrients are heart-healthy and are also valuable in helping to lower the risk for cancer.

Selenium has been shown to inhibit cancer development, improve the immune system, and aid in the metabolism of our thyroid hormone. Each serving of turkey contains almost half of the body’s daily requirement for selenium.

Niacin and Vitamin B6 prevent the accumulation of homocysteine in our body. High levels of homocysteine damage blood vessels and significantly increase our risk for heart disease.

Tryptophan is a naturally-occurring chemical that is found in this superfood. It can also be found in supplements (often called L-tryptophan), and for good reason. Tryptophan has a calming effect and can even help people who have trouble sleeping. Tryptophan can help ease anxiety, panic, and other nervous problems.

Eating a handful of nuts about five times a week will reduce your chances of getting a heart attack by at least 15 percent and possibly as much as 51 percent. Even people who eat nuts just once a month have some reduction in risk. Nuts also reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, and a host of other chronic ailments.

Walnuts are one of the few rich sources of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids (called alpha linolenic acid, or ALA) along with canola oil, ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil, soybeans and soybean oil, wheat germ, spinach, and purslane. They are rich in plant sterols—plant sterols can play a significant role in lowering serum cholesterol levels—a good source of fiber and protein, and they also provide magnesium, copper, folate, and vitamin E. Finally, they’re the nut with the highest overall antioxidant activity.

One of the main contributors to heart health in nuts, particularly in walnuts, is the omega-3 fatty acids. This particular component of fat works in various ways to help guarantee a healthy heart and circulatory system. Like aspirin, omega-3s “thin” the blood, helping it to flow freely and preventing clots from forming and adhering to the vessel walls and also act as an anti-inflammatory, preventing the blood vessels from becoming inflamed—a condition that reduces blood flow. Walnuts are also rich in arginine, which is an essential amino acid. Arginine helps to keep the inside of the blood vessels smooth while it also promotes the flexibility of the vessels, thus increasing blood flow, reducing blood pressure, and thereby alleviating hypertension.

The fiber and magnesium in nuts help maintain balanced insulin and glucose levels.  The copper in nuts is helpful in maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol. It also contributes to healthy blood pressure and helps prevent abnormal glucose metabolism.

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects, particularly neural tube defects such as spinal bifida. Nuts are rich in folic acid, whose benefits go beyond its critical role in birth-defect prevention. Folic acid also lowers homocysteine (an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease) and helps prevent cancer and various causes of aging.

In 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report that found that a high dietary intake of vitamins C and E may lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In another study, vitamin E consumption was linked to a 70 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s over a four-year period. Nuts are one of the richest dietary sources of vitamin E.

Magnesium decreases heart arrhythmias and helps prevent hypertension. It’s also critical for normal muscle relaxation, nerve impulse transmission, carbohydrate metabolism, and maintaining healthy tooth enamel. Low magnesium intake is also a risk factor for migraine headaches. Almost half of patients who suffer from migraines have magnesium levels that are below normal.

Nuts are a rich source of dietary fiber. In one study, a gram a day increase in dietary fiber resulted in a 19 percent decrease in coronary heart disease risk. One ounce of peanuts or mixed nuts provides about 2.5 grams of fiber.

 

Any fermented dairy product — including yogurt and kefir — contains healthy probiotics

“We are sometimes led to believe that a specific food is healthier than it really is,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, MS, RD, author of Age-Proof Your Body. “Or that you need some exotic or expensive form of certain nutrients to gain benefits — and most of the time that’s not true.”

All low-fat yogurt contains healthy “probiotics” — bacteria with the power to protect you in myriad ways.

“There is a suggestion that yogurt may decrease the risk of breast cancer,” Somer says. ”And there’s very strong evidence it can reduce problems associated with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory digestive tract disorders — both conditions that impact women more than men.” Additionally, she says, yogurt can help reduce the risk of stomach ulcers and vaginal infections.

Enjoy a cup of yogurt at breakfast, lunch, or snack to help meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation for three servings of low fat dairy each day. “It’s loaded with bone-healthy calcium — something every woman needs more of at every age,” Somer says. One cup of yogurt has about 448 mg of calcium, compared to just 300 for eight ounces of skim milk.

The key, according to Somer, is to choose a low fat yogurt with live cultures — like Lactobacillus acidophilus. And do check the label, Somer advises. Some store brands may not have the level of cultures found in more established brands.

Also important: Skip the fruit-on-the-bottom or other flavored varieties. “Too much sugar,” says Somer, who also reminds us that, no, those two blueberries on the bottom of the container do not constitute a serving of fruit!