Powerful Foods for Optimal Health
The term “Superfoods” refers to a category of mostly plant-based foods that are known for their health-enhancing and disease preventing properties.
Author – Dr. Michelle Kmiec
And though there is no scientific definition of “superfood” — though there should be — it is generally accepted that these power foods contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals and other health enhancing components such as:
- Antioxidants: natural substances that prevent or delay cell damage that can lead to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Phytochemicals: naturally occurring chemical compounds that give plants their vibrant colors and distinctive aromas, and that possess health enhancing and disease preventing properties.
- Fiber: necessary for a healthy digestion system allowing for maximum absorption of life-giving nutrients.
- Healthy Fats: needed for heart and cardiovascular health, optimal brain function, and energy.
Here are eight of the more popular superfoods that should be on your grocery list!
Avocados are often referred to as “alligator pears” due to their shape and green choppy rind that resembles the texture of alligator skin.
A recent study concluded that “avocado consumption is associated with improved overall diet quality, nutrient intake and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.”
Did you know that per serving, avocados contain a higher amount of potassium than bananas? A 100-gram serving of bananas contains 358 mg. of potassium, whereas a 100-gram serving of avocado contains 485 mg. of potassium. Potassium reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension and studies show that it may also lower the risk of stroke by 24%.
Avocados also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to reduce inflammation and possibly reduce the risk of many cancers as the phytochemicals in avocados have been found to inhibit the growth of precancerous cells.
Did you also know that eating avocados helps your body to absorb the nutrients in other plant foods, specifically fat-soluble nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, E, K, lycopene, and lutein? Yep, it is true!
A study published in The International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 2013 found that blueberries have the highest antioxidant level with wild blueberries ranking the highest!
They have been shown to boost brain health and protect against Alzheimer’s Disease. (J Agric Food Chem. 2011)
“These preliminary memory findings are encouraging and suggest that consistent supplementation with blueberries may offer an approach to forestall or mitigate neurodegeneration.”
On balance, this initial study establishes a basis for further human research of blueberry supplementation as a preventive intervention with respect to cognitive aging.”
Blueberries also help protect against age-related macular degeneration, and contain the same compound found in cranberries that promotes urinary tract health.
And speaking of cranberries…
Cranberries have a high concentration of anthocyanidins, antioxidants that have been shown to inhibit the development of atherosclerosis, cancer and other degenerative diseases.
The deeper the color of the cranberry, the higher the concentration of the anthocyanidin pigments. Most of the phytonutrients are contained in the skins of the cranberries. Antioxidant levels decrease when cranberries are juiced, processed or dried — cranberry juices with added sugars and artificial sweeteners have the lowest level of antioxidants.
Cranberries are well known for their ability to treat and prevent urinary tract infections. They are loaded with phytonutrients, including proanthocyanidins, which have been shown to prevent certain bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder and urinary tract. It has been reported that the use of cranberries is most effective in treating women with recurrent urinary tract infections. Read more HERE.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that the proanthocyanidins that may prevent urinary tract infections may also be beneficial in treating gum disease by preventing bacteria from binding to teeth. The anti-inflammatory properties of cranberries can also reduce inflammation around the gums thus lowering the risk of periodontal disease.
Cranberries also contain the antioxidant quercetin which adds to the beneficial effect of cranberries on cardiovascular health.
Low in carbohydrates with a high nutrient content makes it a very sought after vegetable in Asian cuisine. The Daikon Radish is a white winter radish grown mainly in Southeast and East Asia. It can be found in Asian markets and some mainstream grocery stores.
It is considered a cruciferous vegetable and thus its leaves have the same benefits as the other more common vegetables in the cruciferous family. In Asia, the root is pickled and the vegetable is used in salads, soups, curries, rice dishes and more.
Daikon has been found to be a natural expectorant and promotes respiratory health. It possesses similar enzymes to those found in the digestive tract and supports proper digestion, reduces constipation and helps nutrient uptake efficiency in the intestines. It also aids kidney function as it is a natural diuretic.
The high concentration of Vitamin C in its leaves enhances the immune system. It is also a rich source of Calcium which contributes to bone health and is known to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Interested in reading more about the health benefits of Daikon including its anti-cancer properties, immune system enhancer, and digestion aid? Then you’ll want to read 5 BIG Reasons to Include Daikon in Your Diet!
Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are bright orange-red in color and come from a shrub native to China. They can be eaten fresh, cooked or dried.
Goji berries are extraordinarily rich in antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and lessen your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) contained in goji berries is important for glucose (sugar) metabolism, and the health of eye tissue, skin tissue and the mucous membranes of the respiratory system.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is believed that goji berries strengthen the kidneys, balance the body and possess anti-aging properties. TCM practitioners find that they are beneficial for those with diabetes, liver disorders and high cholesterol.
Now all of that is pretty awesome on its own, but did you know that there just might be a link between eating Goji berries and longevity? Find out more HERE!
Kale is considered a “superfood” because it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there.
There has been some concern triggered by those who claim that Kale can cause hypothyroidism. However, research does not support this claim as a blanket statement. It is true that Kale contains goitrogens, which compete with iodine for receptor uptake within the thyroid. So technically, a diet high in Kale and too low in iodine could cause a problem with the thyroid. That being said, if you enjoy Kale, simply make sure that you also eat foods high in iodine to maintain balance.
Foods high in iodine include kelp, shrimp, cranberries, eggs, and potatoes.
It is not surprising that spinach is among the vegetables considered a superfood. Historically it was known as a food with the ability to restore energy, increase strength and stamina, and improve the quality of the blood.
Spinach is loaded with a variety of flavonoid andcarotenoid compounds that have been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is also one of the most alkaline-producing foods and a healthy pH is a necessity for a healthy immune system. If the body is in a highly acidic state, its ability to absorb nutrients and repair damaged cells will diminish, allowing bacteria, viruses, parasites and yeasts to flourish. When the body is in a more alkaline state it is better able to heal itself.
Multiple studies have shown spinach to be effective in combating many cancers, including breast, ovarian, and prostate. The anti-cancer properties of spinach have been dramatic enough to prompt researchers to create specialized spinach extracts to be used in clinical studies, and the National Institute of Environmental Health found that spinach extracts administered both orally and topically had the ability to reduce skin cancer.
Spinach contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which have been shown to promote healthy vision and prevent macular degeneration.
Eating raw or lightly cooked spinach provides the most nutritional benefit.
There is much research showing that sweet potatoes possess anti-inflammatory and other disease preventing properties.
A study published in Functional Foods in Health and Disease 2012 set out to find just how effective the anti-ulcer activity in sweet potatoes actually was against peptic ulcers. The results showed the following:
“The results of the present study showed that TE possessed gastro-protective activity as evidenced by its significant inhibition of mean ulcer score and ulcer index and a marked increase in GSH, SOD, CAT, GPx, and GR levels and reduction in lipid peroxidation in a dose dependent manner.”
(This means that the sweet potato was very effective!)
To find out more about Sweet Potatoes, including whether they are safe for diabetics, the article Sweet Potatoes are More Than Just an Ordinary Spud is something you should read.
So, are any of the foods listed here a part of your regular diet?
If so, which ones and why did you initially incorporate them into your diet? How have you benefited from them? Have you created any inspiring recipes using these Superfoods?
Also, this article only lists a few of the many Superfoods that can significantly boost your overall health – can you name a few more?
I would love to hear from you so please share your comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook!
Dr. Michelle Kmiec is a chiropractic physician who also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology, and a minor in Medical Research. She is a life-long athlete who after curing herself 100% naturally from MS and anxiety, became an avid nutrition health researcher and promoter. She has been featured in many health magazines, and has been a guest on radio talk shows in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. She is also the author of “Health Freedom Revolution: Exposing the Lies, Deceit and Greed of the Medical Profession” and founder of www.OnlineHolisticHealth.com.