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Superfoods 2007-03-03

Posted by clype in Health, List.
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Although their benefits can be overstated — a large dollop of retailer marketing goes towards promoting them — ‘Superfoods’ are a worthwhile addition to any diet.

There can be no definitive list, as there are regular additions. However, here’s a list of well established ‘Superfoods’.

Watercress

A study by The University of Ulster published in ‘The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition‘ in 2007-02 shows watercress to be the latest ‘Superfood’.

Tobacco users stand to gain most from watercress — which was known as “poor man’s bread” back in the 19th century. Its main benefit is the powerful reduction of toxins. It also boosts levels of lutein, which combats eye disease, and beta-carotene. The cells of those who eat a lot of watercress are better at fighting the damaging effects of particles called free radicals.

Yoghurt

Containing beneficial bacteria that fight bad bacteria in your gut, yoghurt also aids digestion by maximising the amount of nutrients you can absorb into your body. It is also used, when made with live cultures as opposed to heat-treated ones, to attack yeast infections in women. In addition to this, yoghurt is both a good source of calcium and protein.

Turkey

The leanest source of meat protein, turkey breast also supplies vitamin-B12 (cobalamin/ cyanocobalamin) which is vital in maintaining healthy nerve and blood cells and bolstering the immune system.

The meat is also a good source of vitamin-B3 (nicotinic acid /niacin/ vitamin-P / vitamin-PP), and vitamin-B2 (riboflavin / E101) and other nutrients that are key to supporting the metabolism and the creation of energy in the body.

Tomatoes

With its ubiquitous presence in the British diet, the tomato deserves its place among the ‘Superfoods’; it contains plenty of vitamin-C (L-ascorbic acid) and, even more importantly, lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant that lowers the risk for prostate, breast, bladder, lung and other cancers while enhancing eye and skin health. Low-sodium tomato juice reduces the risk of blood clots.

Spinach

Served raw or freshly cooked, spinach helps prevent eye ailments such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. It also fights cancer and heart disease. Spinach’s legendary powers as featured in the cartoon Popeye are well founded: it packs an incredibly high level of nutrients per calorie, including vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.

Soya

Soyabeans (soybeans) are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and fibre. Soya has isoflavones that promote healthy hearts, ward off osteoporosis and control sugar and cholesterol.

The low incidence of breast and colon cancer in China and Japan has been partially attributed to the high consumption of soya products.

Pumpkin

Full of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene that convert to vitamin-A (retinol), which is essential to bone growth, pumpkins are said to help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis. The vegetable is also high in fibre, vitamin-C, and potassium. It is said to help prevent hardening of the arteries, while the seeds are a source of zinc and unsaturated fatty acids that combat prostate ailments.

Porridge

High in soluble fibre, low in fat, oats, and especially oat bran help keep cholesterol low and regulate blood sugar.

Research has shown that avenanthramides, anti-oxidant compounds unique to oats, help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. It has also been linked with lowering the risk of childhood asthma.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are rich in anti-oxidants. Scientists have shown that drinking a daily glass of the fruit’s juice can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by slowing the absorption of cholesterol. It contains the highest anti-oxidant capacity compared with other juices, red wine and green tea, protecting the body from damaging free radicals.

Oranges

A key source of vitamin-C, which fights colds as well as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, macular degeneration and birth defects. They contain fibre and a variety of phytonutrient compounds, which promote healing in the body. Citrus fruits also give you vitamin-B9 (folic acid / folate) believed to reduce the likelihood of spina bifida developing in unborn children.

Olive Oil

Long a staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, olive oil is looking even better now that scientists have shown that the extra-virgin variety has anti-inflammatory properties. Low-grade inflammation has been implicated in everything from heart disease and colon cancer to ‘Alzheimer’s disease’.

Experts say the greener the oil, the better it is for you.

Kiwi Fruit

Containing twice as much vitamin-C as oranges, kiwi fruit also has more potassium than bananas and are rich in fibre, magnesium, vitamin-B9 and vitamin-E (tocopherol).  Kiwi fruit (Chinese Gooseberry) has also been found to fight heart disease.

Research has shown that eating a kiwi fruit daily can cut levels of the dangerous fat that can block arteries and reduce the risk of blood clots.

Honey

High in minerals such as potassium, calcium and sodium and B complex vitamins, honey is also full health-protecting anti-oxidants and is known to lower cholesterol levels. Studies have supported the long-held belief that honey can be used as a valuable healing agent. In tests, it has been used successfully as an antiseptic therapeutic agent to treat ulcers, burns and wounds.

Fish

Fish such as salmon, herring, kippers and mackerel provide ample amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, the polyunsaturated oils that promote blood flow — and greatly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.

There is also evidence suggesting that if women eat oily fish when pregnant and when breastfeeding, this helps their baby’s development.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon may significantly help people with type II diabetes improve their ability to respond to insulin, thus normalising their blood sugar levels. The oil is known to help prevent the formation of blood clots and is a powerful anti-microbial. It is a very good source of the trace mineral manganese and of dietary fibre, iron and calcium.

Chocolate

Dark (not milk) chocolate is now a ‘Superfood’. It is high in anti-oxidants and contains substances similar to the heart-healthy compounds in green tea. Many brands are also high in flavanols, which boost the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow. But any benefits will be outweighed by excessive intake of sugar if you eat too much.

Broccoli

Similar to pumpkin in that is loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin-C and vitamin-K as well as being high in fibre, broccoli is also rich in anti-oxidants that boost the immune system against disease.

Scientists have been working on a genetically-modified “super-broccoli” to increase its levels of sulforaphane, one of the most powerful cancer-killing chemicals.

Broad Beans

All varieties of beans are known to be good for you, being high in low-fat protein, B vitamins, iron, folic acid, potassium and magnesium. They also have as much cholesterol-lowering fibre as oats. But scientists have said the high levels of lectin found in broad beans may help fight against bowel cancer, by inhibiting cell multiplication in the developing tumours.

Blueberry

Packed full of disease-fighting anti-oxidants that can help protect brain cells, blueberries are also rich in vitamin-C and vitamin-E, fibre, iron, riboflavin and niacin, the last two keys to maintaining a healthy metabolism. Research has suggested that the fruit can help lower cholesterol, fight cancer and ‘Alzheimer’s disease’, and prevent urinary-tract infections.

Apples

The adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may underplay the benefits. Some components in apples, notably fibre and phytonutrients, have been found to lower blood cholesterol and improve bowel function. They may also be associated with a reduced risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke, prostate cancer, type II diabetes and asthma.

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