It doesn’t take the instincts of Heath Hound to know that an apple is probably better for you than a fried cheese and bologna sandwich!
We all know that there are some foods that are better for us than others but did you know that increasing the consumption of certain foods can boost your immune system, reduce stress, combat disease and lengthen your life? They are the group of foods collectively known as Superfoods.
Why Are They So Super?
Superfoods may not dress up in tights and capes, but the mostly are colorful and easy to spot. That’s because one of the things that all superfoods have in common are phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are the substances that give plants their color, their nutrition, and their disease resistance. The other things all superfoods have in common are antioxidants, high nutrition, and fiber. It’s a triple punch that adds up to maximum health.
As a group, all of the superfoods contain key nutrients that have been found in study after study to maximize health. For example a Japanese study published in 2004 entitled Flavonoids in food and their health benefits concluded: “The Flavonoids [found in superfoods] are shown to have antioxidative activity, free-radical scavenging capacity, coronary heart disease prevention, and anticancer activity”. In addition to flavonoids, the superfoods are rich in Vitamins A, B, and C. Critical minerals such as folate, magnesium, and potassium are found in the superfoods as are the “good fats” such as Omega 3’s and Gamma-Linolenic Acid. Yet these are the same nutrients that are lacking in the diets of most American women.
The third element contained in most of the super foods is fiber. The recommended daily in take of Fiber is 25 grams, but according to Diane Grabowski, RD, a nutrition educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center in California, “Most American women however, only consume about one-third of that total.” Fiber is like natures lubricant; its what keeps your body running like a well-oiled machine. Fiber aids in digestion, improves the absorption of vital nutrients, and enhances the effectiveness of insulin.
All of the superfoods are a great way to improve overall health. Many of them have been proven in clinical studies to aid in weightloss by boosting fat metabolism, and also prevent or combat specific disease states such as Cancer, Heart Disease, even Alzheimer’s
- Tart Cherries – Tart Cherries may very well be the ultimate super food. Tart cherries, not to be confused with sweet cherries, are found in the grocer in frozen, dried or canned form. Tart cherries like many of the superfoods on this list are rich in powerful antioxidants known as Flavonoids. Flavonoids are what give tart cherries and many other superfoods such as berries their deep rich color. The flavonoids in tart cherries have been shown to fight cancer, relieve pain, and improve memory. Tart cherries can be eaten whole, used in a variety of recipes, or juiced. A tempting dessert can be made by taking the frozen ones direct from the freezer and stirring them into yogurt or sour cream, for a healthy frosty treat with the antioxidant power to defeat more than a craving for ice cream.
- Green Tea – An ancient Chinese proverb says “Better to be deprived of food for three days, then tea for one”. The Chinese have long known of the medicinal and therapeutic value of teas. Specifically green tea. The ancient Chinese used green tea to treat everything from migraines to depression. Green tea has been shown to boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, control blood pressure and improve the health of skin.
- Wheat Germ – The center a kernel of wheat is a treasure trove of nutrition. Magnesium is an essential nutrient for women, especially post-menopausal women. And yet nutritionists say that three out of every four women do not get enough of this vital mineral. Just a half-cup of toasted wheat germ provides more than 50% of a woman’s daily requirement of magnesium. Magnesium reduces stress, prevents osteoporosis, and helps to regulate thyroid function, which can minimize some of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats. A recent Harvard study found that women who ate magnesium rich diets cut their risk of developing diabetes in half. Wheat germ also provides bountiful amounts of vitamins, including 100% of your daily need for folic acid, 50% for vitamin E, and loads of other good stuff such as zinc and iron
- Dark Chocolate – OK ladies, who says that a super food can’t be decadent as well as delicious? Forget the milk chocolate junk food that has virtually no nutritional value, but nature’s rich, succulent, deep-dark desire is a treat and a bounty of antioxidant goodness. The level of antioxidants in dark chocolate outranks just about any other superfood. Rich dark chocolate, 70% Cocoa or higher, lowers cholesterol, reduces blood clots, and inflammation in arteries – and just is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
- Oatmeal – Seems mom was right about this one too. A simple, old-fashioned favorite that possesses enough fiber to fill you up on less calories, and stave off hunger between meals, because it takes so long to digest. The soluble fiber in old-fashioned oats has been found to decrease cholesterol and lowers blood sugar levels. Stick to the “Old Fashioned” oats as they have much more fiber than the instant or quick cooking varieties.
- Berries– Blueberries have been called the best food on the planet to keep your mind young and sharp. With as much antioxidant muscle as tart cherries, but able to be enjoyed much more readily, berries strengthen tissue defenses against free radical oxidation and inflammation, which are the underlying factors in most age-related conditions including Alzheimer’s. Polyphenols in blueberries have been shown to improve short-term memory. Studies have indicted that all berries lower the risk for breast and colon cancer in women. Adding just one cup of berries a day to your diet is a delicious way to improve your health. Frozen blueberries make a great frosty after-dinner snack instead of ice cream. Any tossed salad improves with a handful of raspberries. Be creative, add berries to salsas, muffin batter, and if you are going to eat pancakes, or waffles, be sure they are whole grain and forget the syrup, top them with fresh blueberries instead.
- Broccoli – Broccoli is front and center in the war on cancer. Broccoli is particularly potent against lung, colon, and breast cancers. Like other cruciferous vegetables, it speeds up the removal of estrogen from the body, helping suppress breast cancer. It is also a super source of chromium that helps regulate blood sugar. Rich in calcium, broccoli also helps fights osteoporosis and bone loss in women.
- Beans – All beans are a great low-fat, low-calorie source of protein. Black beans in particular are cholesterol-free, practically fat-free, and rich in fiber and nutrients, supplying a woman with more than half the daily requirement for folic acid and generous amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
- Oranges – One of the most important water-soluble antioxidants is Vitamin C and oranges are the number one source of vitamin C in our diets. Vitamin C has been shown to have benefits for women ranging from lowering the risk of cancer to preventing premature aging of the skin. Oranges are also an excellent source of folate, the B vitamin that helps lower the risk of birth defects. If you are a woman who may be battling high blood pressure with a medication that depletes potassium, oranges are a great way to add potassium to your diet. Many women have found simply by increasing their intake of citrus, they have been able to lower the doses of such medications.
- Spinach – Popeye should have shared his secret with Olive Oyl. Spinach is probably the best superfood to prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration in women. It is also one of nature’s best sources of folate – the B vitamin that prevents birth defects, and colon cancer the third most common cancer in women. The lutein in spinach that prevents vision loss, may also keep those eyes looking good. Studies have found that lutein protects the fats in the top layer of skin from dehydration and roughness, and may reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time.
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