The Top Ten Super Foods of 2005
Choose to eat right and reap healthy rewards
The Top Ten Super Foods of 2005
Choose to eat right and reap healthy rewards.
by Christine Doherty, ND
There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is many individuals with food sensitivities or allergies are at high risk for nutritional deficiencies – and these deficiencies can persist for decades after a person goes on a special diet. The good news is that most deficiencies can be corrected within three months.
If you want to feel better, improve your mood and energy level and keep your body healthy, you have to fix your nutritional deficiencies. One of the healthiest ways to do this is to increase your intake of whole, nutrient-dense foods.
All whole foods have benefits. A healthy, balanced diet is one that contains a variety of whole foods, including plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. But there are ten whole foods in particular that are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting qualities especially good for people with celiac disease and other food intolerances.
In alphabetic order, these top ten super-performers are beets, Brazil nuts, broccoli, cabbage, flax seeds, kale, lentils, plain yogurt, pomegranate and quinoa. Here’s why each one is worth incorporating into your diet.
Beets contain vitamin C and B along with beta-carotene, manganese, potassium and dietary fiber. They also contain betaine, a substance that protects the liver, helps prevent coronary and cerebral artery diseases, and lowers dangerous homocysteine levels, an amino acid implicated in heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia. Consumption of beets stimulates bile secretion, which can improve digestion and relieve constipation. The purple-red color is betacyanin, a colon cancer-fighting agent. Animal studies show that beets have a significant tumor-inhibiting effect.
Brazil nuts are the highest dietary source of selenium, which is good for the liver, the immune system and for activating the thyroid hormone. These nuts have 2,500 times more selenium than any other nut, Even mild selenium deficiency, which is extremely common, causes depression and irritability. Just one nut a day can reverse these symptoms. Elderly people given selenium had significant improvement in mood and mental functioning and increased blood flow to the brain. Two nuts a day will give you your daily requirement of selenium. Don’t go overboard. Too much selenium can be toxic over time so don’t eat more than six daily.
Broccoli protects DNA replication, preventing colon and breast cancer by decreasing the carcinogenic effects of toxins. One cup of cooked broccoli contains 100 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Broccoli is high in zeaxanthin and lutein, which protect the eyes from free-radical damage. It also contains the phytonutrient, sulforaphane, which protects against helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers. Just an eighth of a cup of cooked broccoli daily can decrease your risk of developing cancer. Broccoli prevents loss of long-term memory and learning ability and protects blood vessels from free radical damage.
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, B6 and riboflavin. This vegetable is high in glutamine, an amino acid that helps heal the villi that line the small intestine and it’s rich in indoles, phytonutrients which lower breast-cancer risk. Cabbage juice is useful in healing stomach and duodenal ulcers and it decreases the incidence of colon polyps.
Flax seeds are high in omega three fatty acids, which improve immune function. They also contain lignan, a fiber that lowers cholesterol, prevents hormone-related cancers and reduces constipation. One tablespoon of flax seeds is loaded with magnesium, manganese, folic acid and B6 and contains 3 grams of dietary fiber. Flax seed oil has all the essential fatty acids but lacks the fiber benefit.
Kale is loaded with minerals like manganese, iron, calcium and potassium and is rich in sulforophane, zeaxanthin and indoles, which improve immune function. This leafy green is an excellent source of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, a common deficiency in celiacs. Beta-carotene boosts immune defense against viral and bacterial infections, as well as cancer. Kale contains almost twice the lutein as spinach. Lutein boosts eye health by reducing the incidence of macular degeneration and cataracts. One cup of cooked kale has 2½ grams of fiber. Unlike spinach, kale does not contain oxalate, a substance that blocks the absorption of minerals such as calcium and iron.
Lentils are loaded with iron, magnesium and B vitamins. They’re also high in soluble fiber, which decreases serum glucose, cholesterol and insulin need in diabetics. One cup of cooked lentils contains 90 percent of the RDA of folic acid, 16 grams of fiber (that’s six times more than a serving of Metamucil) and 18 grams of protein. Available in a variety of colors, these small, round beans are inexpensive, easy to prepare and store indefinitely.
Plain yogurt is a good dietary source of acidophilus, the live bacteria that help make this dairy product digestible for many with lactose intolerance. (Many frozen yogurts do not contain live bacteria.) These bacteria help prevent and treat diarrhea and help cure vaginitis. They also help neutralize cancer-causing agents in the intestinal tract. Daily consumption of a three-quarter cup of plain yogurt three months before pollen season starts up can significantly decrease hay fever symptoms, especially those caused by grass pollens. Two cups a day stimulate the immune system to attack viruses, reducing the frequency of colds and respiratory tract infections.
Plain yogurt belongs on the top ten list because it’s high in B12, a nutrient that has no significant vegetarian sources. One cup of yogurt contains 25 percent of the daily requirement of B12 and half the daily requirement of calcium. Yogurt is also high in riboflavin, selenium, B5 and zinc. Plain yogurt with honey and walnuts makes a delicious breakfast.
Pomegranate’s antioxidant power is six times stronger than green tea. Animal studies show a 44 percent reduction in hardening of the arteries and a decrease in blood pressure and bad cholesterol with daily consumption of pomegranate juice. Studies also reveal pomegranate’s anticancer effects against breast, prostate, skin cancer and leukemia. This fruit (actually a Quinoaberry) has antibacterial and antivirual effects and is very beneficial for the liver. It moderately inhibits strep mutans, the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Pomegranate juice even seems to improve bone density.
Quinoa is a very good source of manganese, calcium, iron, copper and phosphous. It’s also full of riboflavin and magnesium, nutrients that are beneficial for migraine sufferers. Cultivated for 5,000 years in South America, this small, round grain-like food (actually a fruit, related to Swiss chard and spinach), is high in lysine, an amino acid beneficial for tissue repair. Quinoa has a low glycemic index and is a vegetarian source of complete protein. In fact, it contains 50 percent more protein than most grains and is naturally gluten free.
No more excuses for nutritional deficiency! These ten foods are inexpensive, easy to find in your local grocery store and simple to prepare. The nutritional benefits they offer can’t be beat. You’ll be healthier for working them into your diet.
This article was featured in the Fall 2005 issue.