Category: Blog

Superfoods to the Rescue!

“Look up in the sky, it’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s…a bean sprout?” That’s right, gone are the days of the traditional superhero, for the age of the cell phone sadly breeds a lack of telephone booths/dressing rooms. Today’s superhero looks much like you and me, though they have a secret; a secret that gives them the energy and well-being needed in order to sustain a healthy lifestyle while traversing the stress-inducing, rigorous terrain that is modern, everyday life. Their secret: the all-powerful Superfood!

So what exactly is a ‘Superfood?’ They are “a special category of foods found in nature” according to FoodMatters. “Calorie sparse and nutrient dense, they are superior sources of anti-oxidants and essential nutrients- nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves.” These special foods are “powerful enough to help you lower your cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, maintain your weight, and, for an added bonus, put you in a better mood” according to WebMD. Moreover, there are no side effects as with prescription drugs when eating superfoods, as they are all natural, unprocessed foods that the body readily accepts.

Blueberries are known to have excellent antioxidant properties and they are also high in potassium and Vitamin C in addition to being anti-inflammatory. Another berry rich in antioxidants known to be one of the most powerful and nutritious superfoods is the Acai (ah-sigh-ee). The Acai berry’s high concentration of antioxidants and essential fatty acid and essential amino acid content make it great for cardiovascular and digestive health, muscle retention, and combating premature aging.

blueberries

 

“Green Superfoods” are known to have the “highest concentrations of easily digestible nutrients, fat burning compounds, vitamins, and minerals to protect and heal the body.” Helping to build muscle, aid in digestion, and help protect against illness, these chlorophyll-rich superfoods include Chlorella, Spirulina, Blue-Green Algae, Barley Grass, Wheat Grass, and green leafy vegetables such as Spinach, Kale, and Parsley. This special group of superfoods helps create more oxygen in the blood, leading to healthier cells.

Sprouts such as mung bean, alfalfa, radish, or onion provide a good source of protein and Vitamin C. Sprouts also have a high enzyme content, making them easier to digest than the bean from whence they came, and as we age our bodies produce fewer enzymes which make superfoods like sprouts all the more essential.

sprouts

There are beneficial seaweed superfoods such as Nori and Kelp and even superfoods that come from bees such as Propolis, Bee Pollen, and Royal Jelly. Some superfoods such as these can be found at supplement/vitamin retailers, rather than the neighborhood grocery store. In addition to those already mentioned, Dr. Perricone lists several more vital superfoods that should be added to any diet including Hot Peppers, Nuts (Raw and Unsalted)and Probiotics (yogurt or supplements).

With so many healthy options out there that can improve your mood and help fight off disease, the power is really in our hands. We simply must seek out these superfoods, incorporate them into our daily diet, and reap the nutritional benefits. One needs only to keep away from fast food and processed foods that are high in sodium, high-fructose corn syrup, and trans-fats, aka nutritional kryptonite.

Whole Foods: What are They and Why Should We Eat Them?

whole foods

There has been some confusion about what constitutes a whole food. Some think of a food store chain, others of organic foods, and others just think “healthy.” Few dispute that whole food are good for you, but it is important to know what exactly they are, as not to be misled by marketing or labeling.

First, let’s consider what a whole food is not. A whole food is not necessarily organic, and organic foods are not necessarily whole foods. USDA Certified Organic foods have met tight regulations, including that they may not be grown using pesticides, artificial fertilizers, or sewer sludge. These are good, but you can have an organic potato chip, but a potato chip is not always a whole food.

A whole food is also not necessarily a “health food,” though they are healthy. They may include faddish things like alfalfa sprouts, but other “health foods” like tofu, acai berry tea, or hummus aren’t necessarily considered whole foods either.

A whole food, very simply, is a food that is as close as possible to its original state. An apple is a whole food. A peanut is a whole food. Whole foods are those that are not processed, have no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, and have had no nutrients added or deliberately taken away. Processed foods, then, are the exact opposite of whole foods.

It is important to note that there is some disagreement as to what can be called a whole food. Some people would say that only raw fruits, seeds, nuts, and vegetables that haven’t been cut up or had anything done to them should count as whole foods. Others would go as far as to say that if you bake an apple pie, the apples would still be considered whole foods (as long as you started with raw apples).  I tend to fall somewhere in the middle, because there are certain foods that just can’t be eaten by human beings without at least peeling them, such as avocados and bananas, and others that must be cooked to be safe or edible, such as squash.

Others, such as apples, don’t need to be peeled, but we don’t eat the whole fruit because we throw away the core. As humans, we do not always get the full benefit of the nutrients in many foods without cooking them, because the cellulose in many vegetables prevents our digestive system from effectively absorbing the vitamins and minerals in such foods.

What almost everyone agrees on is no matter where you fall on your definition of whole foods, these unprocessed, unpreserved, unrefined foods are much better for you than boxed, processed foods. Foods have their greatest compliment of nutrients when they are on the plant or, in the case of meat, on the animal. As soon as a food is harvested, nutrients are lost. The longer foods sit around, the more nutrients they lose.

They lose them faster when they are cut up or cooked. However, processing of foods tends to strip even more nutrients out of foods than does a simple steaming or baking. In the case of refined grains, they are stripped of their fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and end up with the nutritional value of sugar. They are so denuded that, by law, the manufacturers are required to add some nutrients back in (labeled “enriching”) when they use these grains to make cereals and breads.

The problem with all this processing and the advantage of whole foods are that the closer a food is to its original source, the more it contains all the nutrients we need to live healthy diets. Which nutrients in plants do we need? There is a huge list, but the fact is that even if we were to list them all out, we would likely be missing some chemical or compound that we need to be optimally healthy. This is because we simply don’t know or understand all the nutrients we need to survive. Many plants contain nearly all of these essential nutrients, with the possible exception of the B-complex vitamins.

 

processed foods

some processed foods you’d want to avoid

Processed foods do not, and can not because science doesn’t know how to make the perfect processed food. It has been shown that people who eat primarily processed foods are not as healthy as those who eat primarily whole foods. Higher overall cholesterol is one consequence. Processed foods do not typically contain adequate fiber, vitamins, minerals, while they contain too much fat, sugar, and salt. They depend on these, as well as artificial flavors and colors, to be palatable.

It is important to remember that whole foods are not exotic, rare, or necessarily expensive. There is no need to go to health food stores or special organic markets. For the most part, to buy whole foods simply means to shop the edges of your supermarket. Start with the produce section, then move on to the meats, the unprocessed cheeses (cheese isn’t technically a whole food, but buying cheddar, mozzarella, and other block cheese is better) and then on to other dairy products. If possible, avoid the cereal aisle, snack aisle, and if you buy grain products, remember to get whole grains instead of those made with refined flour.

It is exciting to start trying whole foods. You may discover flavors you never knew existed, try new recipes, and in the process, you’ll be improving your health and well-being.