To many of us, any kind of food is super. If we can satisfy our cravings and get full until the next time our stomach rumbles, we don’t care too much about the consequences of what we’re eating. If we happen to be eating a diet that’s rich in fast food grease and processed red meat, well so what? The ads say its good stuff and it’s quick and cheap, they must be right!
Duh. What could be quicker and cheaper than eating a banana for example or tastier than a low fat blueberry or chocolate shake? Aw common, you’re kidding right?
Take the Food Test
Which common American favorite food contains a meat product that is “mechanically separated” i.e. smashed up whole, including bones and skin and forced through a sieve to make a paste?
If you get the answer right you can reward yourself with one of the same, providing yourself (in just a few easy mouthfuls) with 180 calories,
and a quarter of your suggested daily amount of fat i.e. 15 grams of total fat, five grams of which are yummy saturated fat.
Have two if you’re feeling suicidal.
This favorite includes: corn syrup, 20% of your daily allowance of salt, potassium lactate, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, (the side effects of which can be dizziness, kidney stones, headaches and gastrointestinal problems) a smattering of maltodextrin, plus beef stock made from all those leftover cow bits. The sodium nitrate is the best ingredient so we left it until last. It’s also used in the production of fertilizer and fireworks!
The answer is (white processed bread roll please) – the hot dog!
Not looking so hot now are they?
So now are you interested in finding out which foods are the best for your body?
The ones that can ward off chronic disease, keep you mentally alert, fit AND keep your figure lean and trim?
Okay here goes. (oh and by the way, most of them taste much better than a hot dog) All of the foods listed below are superior sources of protein, are low in calories and full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
– Beans –
Yep, beans means farts, but by eating the right beans you’ll have a healthy heart and they’ll be good healthy farts. These legumes are all virtually fat-free and provide essential daily doses of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber to keep your plumbing healthy.
If you want to lower your grocery bills, blood sugar levels and your bad cholesterol, beans will give you much more bang for your buck than any meat of any kind. Many nutrition experts call them the “perfect food.”
Let’s look at some of the different kinds of these “musical fruits”:
1. Black Beans
Black beans are great for your digestive tract, especially the colon. Without getting into the technicalities, they produce an acid that assists the colon in producing essential bacteria that keep it functioning properly, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Black beans contain vitamins K, A and C, potassium, folate, iron, magnesium, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin. They are also a rich source of dietary fiber which plays an important role in preventing cholesterol from becoming oxidized with the subsequent risk of heart disease.
The characteristic black skin of the bean also contains 8 different flavinoids. They are packed full of protein and one cup contains 15 grams of protein and fiber.
Black beans and rice is probably the most valuable dish the Cubans, Mexicans, Brazilians and Caribbean people have given us. That’s why their music makes you want to dance – it’s the beans! (ok, bad bean joke…sorry)
2. White Beans/Navy Beans
White beans are another great source of cheap, virtually fat-free nutritious protein and are high in fiber. The US Navy dished up tons of them during the beginning of the twentieth century to sailors – hence the name.
One cup of white beans will provide the following to a daily diet: folate, tryprophan (an essential amino acid), manganese, Vitamin B, phosphorous, magnesium and iron while providing 254 calories and over three-quarters of daily fiber intake, thereby helping to reduce cholesterol and lowering blood sugar levels. High spikes in blood sugar levels after eating are typical for most diabetics. Consuming legumes such as white beans can reduce those spikes.
One cup of cooked white beans will help the body flush out cholesterol. This soluble fiber becomes a gelatinous substance once it reaches the digestive tract. Cholesterol is carried by bile, produced by the liver and this fibrous gel helps to eliminate cholesterol from the body. They can also relieve digestive disorders such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and constipation.
The significant amounts of folate and magnesium also help reduce cardiovascular disease. If everyone ate just one cup of cooked white beans a day, heart attacks would be reduced by 10%!
White beans are a much better source of iron than red meat too because they are low in calories and nearly fat-free. Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells. One cup of navy beans will provide nearly one quarter of iron intake and 29% of your thiamin intake. Thiamin is essential for brain cell and cognitive function.
So eat your navy beans and…you’ll be able to remember to eat your navy beans.
3. Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
Garbanzo beans are definitely one of my most favorite legumes. I love hommus, humus, hummus or however you want to spell it, and the main ingredient in it is (you guessed it) garbanzo beans. My favorite version includes mashed garbanzo beans, olive oil (another super food), and tahini (made from sesame seeds) and I spread this thickly on whole wheat pita bread made by a Lebanese friend who owns a bakery. Food heaven with some salad and a portion of pickled pepperonici peppers.
The Greeks and Turks love garbanzo beans and the Romans ate buckets of them regularly. The only problem is they may cause an allergic reaction in some folks, possibly because of the large amount of molybdenum they contain. Perhaps that’s why the Greeks and Romans quit trying to conquer everything.
Garbanzos are packed full of nutrients, vitamins, dietary fiber and minerals. One cup of cooked chick peas without salt contains 27.42 grams of carbohydrates, 7.6 grams of dietary fiber 2.59 grams of fat and 8.86 grams of protein. They contain vitamins A, E and K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, folate and vitamin C. They also contain calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.
They’re my kind of chicks. (rim-shot peas…I mean please)
The dietary fiber assists in lowering blood cholesterol levels and can reduce blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (bad cholesterol) levels which can lead to stroke and heart attack, and ease inflammation.
The fiber helps put bulk in your stool to make it easier to pass and will help you to shrink those nasty hemorrhoids.
Red lentils are another versatile legume. They make great meaty-tasting meals and soups. They are used extensively in Indian cuisine and with the addition of just a few herbs and spices are a meal fit for a vegetarian king.
They help lower cholesterol, like all the other legumes mentioned above and can help manage blood-sugar disorders such as hypoglycemia and diabetes and provide vitamins, minerals and protein, with scarcely any fat and few calories.
One cup of lentils contains 28 grams of daily dietary fiber that will help with hemorrhoids, constipation, IBS and diverticulosis, along with the advantages of reducing cholesterol levels.
Red lentils are rich in folate, a B-vitamin that helps produce and maintain new cells, and are vitally important for pregnant women and infants. It can also prevent anemia by helping to create normal red blood cells.
They contain magnesium which is vital for healthy muscle, nerve and heart function. They help build and maintain bone strength, regulate blood sugar levels and maintain normal blood pressure. Just don’t throw in a pound of salt when you’re cooking any legumes…this can detract from the overall health of the meal and depending on what you are making, you may not need to add any salt at all.
The lowly lentil may look like not much but they’re also full of iron and molybdenum, the latter works in conjunction with a number of enzymes important in carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur metabolism within the body.
– Grains –
Whole grains are another essential part of a healthy diet. They are low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates and contain essential minerals and vitamins.
Any grain that has been refined has lost most of its nutritional benefit, germ and bran during the process. You’ve swapped longer shelf life for lower nutrition. (Scratching head and looking puzzled). Why would you do this and lose all that natural fiber, folic acid and iron? Like most breakfast cereals, these poor over-processed grains suffer terribly. Some cereal products have all their nutrients sprayed onto them plus a few more for good measure. That big long list on the side of the box was sprayed on with a garden hose. Forget it.
I’ll just take the oatmeal please, with a touch of demerara sugar or honey.
Nobody eats barley much these days, you sometimes find it at the bottom of a soup can. It clumps together, cowering, wondering why the heck a human is staring at it.
My grandmother’s generation on the other hand knew what to do with these friendly little grains and she could knock out a hearty soup with a cup of pearl barley, a carrot and an onion that would keep me climbing trees for the next 24 hours.
When prepared correctly it has a nutty flavor, and chewy, satisfying al dente consistency. No wonder barley beer tastes so darned good!
One cup of barley in a hearty soup will give you 54% of your dietary fiber and about the same of selenium, a trace element which helps the thyroid gland to function properly. Barley also contains copper, manganese, phosphorus, tryptophan and will provide your body with 270 calories.
The benefits of eating barley for regularity and cholesterol control are much the same as those in legumes. It keeps beneficial bacteria within the body happy. For postmenopausal women, 6 servings of whole grain weekly, including barley will also help slow the progression of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries). Barley contains, like oats, both soluble and insoluble fiber.
A bowl of oatmeal really will keep you going all morning, whereas a bowl of sogflakes plus two tablespoons of refined white sugar will soon find you slagging by around 10am.
Secretariat ate three bucketsful before winning the Triple Crown, so don’t tell me this stuff isn’t good.
If you find oatmeal boring add some of your favorite fruit to it…dried cranberries, apricots or nuts. It’s the breakfast of champions. So much so, Quaker is changing its signature, rather chubby guy, to someone just a little younger and leaner!
So what’s so darned good about oats? It’s one of two grains that contain insoluble and soluble fiber. Barley’s the other.
Soluble fiber retains water in your body so you feel fuller longer. Meaning you don’t eat so much, maybe even skip that third morning bag o’ chips. Insoluble fiber helps you poop better and more regularly. That’s why Scotsmen wear kilts – it’s the porridge. (Can we say poop in Google-land? I’ll have to check).
Anyway, what you’ve heard from your mom and the oatmeal ads is true. It’s full of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Don’t buy those awful instant ones though please. You can make a big old pot of oats and eat them all week, or put some steel oats on low in a crock pot before you go to bed. Add some low fat milk and honey or muscovado sugar and you’ll be good to go to work…and the bathroom.
Oats help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and because you feel fuller longer they are a great aid to losing weight.
You can choose any kind of oats. Groats contain the whole kernel and will definitely clear you out fast. Steel cut oats are the same but chopped up finely. Oat groats have been steamed so they’re a bit mushier, after being sliced and rolled. Oat bran is just the outer layer of the oat.
Instant oats – well read the packet. Yes they’re convenient, they don’t taste nearly so good and have added sugar, salt and artificial flavorings which you don’t want.
You can make oatmeal cookies, muffins, breads and cakes with oats. Roll fresh trout, mackerel or chicken in them before cooking.
For a more nutritious breakfast cook them in low fat milk. It’s time everyone got their oats on!
Although quinoa isn’t a grain (it’s a seed) but it fits in well under the category of legumes and grains. It is unique and has the same cholesterol-lowering qualities that grains and legumes have. It’s also full of fiber. It has a crunchy, nutty flavor and is related to spinach of all things.
So what’s so special about quinoa? It contains nine essential amino acids and is one of the most complete kinds of protein you can possibly eat. Quinoa contains more amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrients than most grains. The most important amino acid contained in quinoa is lysine which is essential for healthy tissue growth as well as repair. The perfect super food for body builders and athletes!
Just a quarter of a cup of quinoa contains 160 calories, 6 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat (20 calories from fat and with zero saturated fat), 5 mg of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and zero sugar.
It is calcium-rich and contains iron, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and riboflavin. If you’re trying to reduce your carb intake, quinoa can be substituted for rice. It releases energy very slowly and retains water – helping you to feel “full” longer.
8. Brown Rice
There used to be a disease called beriberi that was prevalent among poor people in Asian countries and the Japanese Navy at the end of the 1800s. Those people were eating a diet of polished rice. That is, rice that has been milled, having the husk, bran and germ removed, leaving little nutritional value and removing essential thiamine.
The result was a lot of unhappy Asians who suffered from extreme weight loss, weakness and pain and often resulted in death.
Although with our Western diets we are never likely to become a victim of beriberi, this example shows what happens when we screw with food that should be eaten in its natural or near natural state.
Brown rice, a whole grain food, is far better for the body than any kind of processed rice. One cup of white rice and one cup of brown rice do come out to approx 200 calories each, so what’s the deal?
Brown rice contains more fiber, selenium and magnesium and, if you’re trying to lose weight, it keeps you feeling fuller longer.
Brown rice isn’t high on the list of super foods but it should be part of a balanced diet.
9. Dark Chocolate
If heaven is made of dark chocolate, I promise I’ll be good! Research is coming up with even more reasons to eat this delicious stuff. Fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate sounds sinful but it definitely isn’t (provided you don’t eat several pounds at a time that is!)
Chocolate is full of antioxidants that protect your body and promote good health. Dark chocolate has more antioxidants ounce for ounce than do blueberries or even green tea.
Ongoing studies suggest that the antioxidants reduce the risk of a number of illnesses including heart disease and some types of cancer. These antioxidants promote healthy blood flow, healthy cholesterol levels and can reduce blood pressure.
30 minutes after eating one 40 gram serving of dark chocolate the two main antioxidants in chocolate, epicatechin and catechin, become elevated. They peak two hours after consumption and are cleared from the body after about six hours.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which can damage cells. Mom told you to eat your veggies, do we have to tell our kids to go eat some dark chocolate? Sounds crazy, but small amounts will actually do them good!
Eggs are great. They’re easy to cook and you can include them in hundreds of different recipes, including dark chocolate cake! Hit me, I must be dreaming!
Eggs have had their ups and downs over the years but they are still a great source of protein. They contain loads of different vitamins, potassium, and B vitamins such as folic acid much needed for the healthy growth of human eggs.
Yolk or white? Truth is, most of these nutrients are found in the yolk, and the question of cholesterol in eggs has left most of us confused. Not all cholesterol is bad. The body has to have a balance and diabetics appear to be the ones who should avoid eating more than one egg a day. This is obvious when you consider eggs in waffles, eggs in pancakes and eggs combined with anything else such as flour. It’s not really the egg that is, per se, to blame.
Now, before continuing, an egg that is plucked fresh from a healthy, drug-free, born to run chicken is going to a darned site better than anything that comes out of a stressed-out, boxed-up drug-laden bird. Free range organic eggs cost about $1 a dozen more than battery eggs – one measly buck will bring you much more nutritious eggs and some very happy chickens. Problem is if everyone ate free-range eggs a chicken farm the size of Texas would be needed. If your local authority allows you to raise your own poultry, you should try it.
The best way to eat eggs is unscrambled, when the yolk is broken and exposed to high heat most of the nutrition is lost. Poached or soft boiled eggs are the best.
There aren’t too many living creatures that come under the heading of super foods, but oily fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon are all great sources of nutrition and protein. We all know about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. This is good stuff and benefits the entire body, including the brain, eyes and heart muscle and can lower blood pressure.
Salmon also contains vitamins A, B and D as well as calcium, iron, phosphorus and selenium. The protein in salmon, unlike protein in red meat, is easy to absorb and contains no carcinogens (unlike growth-hormone-treated beef and pigs).
In conjunction with vitamins A and D, amino acids and selenium omega-3 fatty acids acids protect your nervous system from the effects of aging. The regular consumption of salmon can actually lower the risk of developing Parkinson and Alzheimer’s diseases. This makes salmon work as a natural anti depressant. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases are two of the biggest fears facing you as you age. The consumption of salmon has been shown to lower your risk of developing those diseases. Omega-3 acids also help prevent blood clots which can lessen your chances of having strokes.
One four-ounce serving of salmon will give you almost thirty grams of protein – nearly half of what your body needs. *Look for wild salmon as opposed to farm raised to maximize omega 3 content.
I wonder what chocolate covered salmon tastes like? Hmmm…ok, maybe not.
12. Cottage Cheese
You either love it or hate it but cottage cheese comes high on the list of super foods. If you’re an athlete or body builder you know that one cup of fat-free cottage cheese provides 160 calories and 32 grams of essential protein.
What is cottage cheese anyway? It’s what Miss Muffet was eating when the spider came along – curds and whey. The curd is casein and the whey (the runny stuff) is whey, both vital proteins for building muscle. (most of the protein powder sold at the health food store is whey…it is assimilated by the body quickly, whereas casein is absorbed more slowly, which is why some nutritionists recommend whey just after a workout and casein before you go to sleep at night.)
Casein supplies amino acids that help build and repair muscle carbohydrates as fuel plus calcium and phosphorous.
Whey contains lactose, a number of vitamins, minerals and protein with a very low amount of fat. Whey appears to stimulate insulin release, in type 2 diabetics and can help regulate and reduce spikes in blood sugar levels.
Are avocados a super food? They can be for babies and toddlers certainly and for those who are underweight such as the elderly and invalids. They’re nutritious and tasty and can be used in a number of different ways. They are nutrient dense when compared to the number of calories they contain.
There is no need to avoid them if you are trying to lose weight. It’s been shown that eating nutrient dense foods such as avocados actually makes you eat less!
Avocados contain vitamins C, E, B6 and K, potassium, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, lutein and fiber.
They also contain monounsaturated fats which can help to lower blood cholesterol. Lutein is said to lower the risk of macular degeneration and eye diseases associated with aging. It also helps maintain healthy skin.
If you’ve given up trying to grow the pits, you can dry them for a few days, pulverize them and use them as part of a homemade facial scrub. *Great alternative to mayo on a sandwich or dressing on a salad.
Next time you need a snack, try some almonds. They’re tasty, natural and crunchy and they’ll fill you up. They are one of the most nutritious nuts you can get.
Almonds are low in saturated fat and high in calcium, zinc, folic acid, magnesium and Vitamin E and also things called phytochemicals that protect the heart from disease and possibly certain cancers. One study showed that eating nuts 5 times a week could reduce the risk of heart attack by 50%! Nuts also contain an anti-inflammatory agent that’s also found in red wine.
One ounce of almonds will give you 12% of your total daily required proteins. For post-menopausal women they’re also a great snack for preventing osteoporosis – they contain a good amount of calcium.
Munch your way through just 3 or 4 ounces of almonds and your body will have consumed more than its RDA of Vitamin E which helps keep skin looking healthy and can fight cancer.
When you think about it, almonds, when planted, produce beautiful enormous trees that can live for centuries. They have to be packed with good things.
So do you really want that 8-ounce bag of orange chemical-doodles, dude? No?
Make that one big can of almonds please…
Bananas have been described as the perfect food. Plantains are their cousins but are starchy, and lower in sugar because of their moisture content. Plantains are (usually) fried or baked before being eaten. They both fall under the heading of super foods.
One average banana contains 100 calories and zero cholesterol. They also contain 10% of daily potassium and approx 16% of dietary fiber so they’re good for the heart. It will also have a high vitamin C and Vitamin B6 content.
Potassium is good for the nervous system and plays a major role in keeping your muscles contracting and expanding when they should., that’s why it’s so important for keeping your heart going boom-ba-boom in the right order.
Low potassium levels have been linked with high blood pressure which brings an increased risk of stroke.
Take one banana a day and call me next week. Dip it in dark melted chocolate and call me in five minutes if you have any left over…
There aren’t many body parts that the banana isn’t good for. In keeping bones healthy, the high level of potassium in a banana helps keep calcium in your bones and not cascading down the crapper. Next time you see an old lady, give her a banana, her bones will thank you. By keeping calcium inside your bones, it isn’t forming painful little bricks in your kidneys either, commonly known as kidney stones or that #%&*ing excruciating pain in my side. Men take heed – you get kidney stones more than women.
Bananas also contain a weird substance called tryptophan which helps the body to manufacture serotonin which acts like a very mild sedative. Try eating a banana with a low fat dark chocolate shake and you’ll sleep like a baby dreaming of chocolate factories and Oompa Loompas.
When it comes to blood, that tryptophan helps in the manufacturing of healthy hemoglobin, helps convert carbs to glucose and helps to maintain a good immune system.
Phew what else? Well plenty actually and at around 70 cents a pound they are probably the best snack food you can get. They are not fattening unless you eat a whole bunch of bananas daily. A banana contains only a little more sugar than an apple and the American Diabetes Association agrees that one a day is just fine.
Live a little. Have a banana.
Cook ‘em like potatoes and the banana’s cousin will provide you with about 220 calories for one serving. If you’re on a low carb diet, they’re probably best eaten only as a treat once a week. They are a good source of fiber and contain no fat or sodium.
Plantains also contain vitamins C, B1, B3, B6, B12, K, and folate along with beta-carotene, vitamin A which is good for maintaining healthy vision. Minerals include iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iodine, phosphorus, chloride and selenium. They also contain probiotics which promote kidney and colon health and, like bananas because they contain a high level of potassium are good for lowering blood pressure and can help prevent atherosclerosis.
Because they have high sugar content, it’s best to treat them with caution. If you’re healthy, then just don’t be tempted to cook them with loads of sugar and butter. You might as well have a slice of ice cream cake instead. Half a plantain contains 13grams of sugar and 29 grams of carbohydrates.
This crunchy cruciferous vegetable is increasing in popularity all the time because it truly is a super food. If you can eat it raw that’s great, if you can’t stand the smell or taste of it then you’re just going to have to find ways of including it your diet. Whatever you do with it broccoli is full of highly beneficial minerals and vitamins such as Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Pantothenic acid and vitamins C and A. In fact, it contains more vitamin C than most citrus fruit! Add calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc in the mineral department and you’re looking at a jolly green giant of nutrition. Oh and a couple of ounces of broccoli has more calcium than a glass of milk – without the fat…perfect for intolerant lactosians.
Broccoli also contains substances that trigger the body into producing enzymes that fight cancer very effectively. It is also regarded as a low glycemic food meaning it can normalize blood sugar levels.
There are many studies being conducted today on the benefits of eating broccoli, and amazing things are being found. If you can eat it raw you will reap better rewards from our green friend than if you must cook it but either way, be generous with the portions and you’ll live a longer and healthier life.
Yeah, green is good.
18. Green Tea
One good reason why the Chinese and others who traditionally drink green tea have lesser incidences of cancer is because of the amazing properties of the camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf. It has been used to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it can eliminate certain infections, and can kill oral bacteria that cause dental plaque and halitosis (stinky breath). For four thousand years, no matter what was wrong with you a good old pot of green tea was certain to help.
Today we are only scratching the surface of reasons why green tea is so beneficial, especially in the area of weight loss. Americans need to lose weight and drinking just three cups of green tea can help. Not special gourmet whizz-bang $10 a bag green tea just plain old $3 a box green tea. It’s all the same stuff and it’s all good.
Green tea’s secret lies in the catchetin polyphenols it contains; one in particular is a powerful antioxidant that helps to fight cancer by inhibiting cellular growth and then killing cancer cells without damaging any surrounding tissue. Japanese men are some of the heaviest smokers in the world but incidences of heart disease and lung cancer are disproportionately lower in men who consume green tea regularly.
As a word of caution green tea should never be made with boiling water, allow the water to cool before pouring it on the tea, otherwise many of its beneficial ingredients will be destroyed. It is great iced with slices of orange or lemon and can be used as the basis for fruit punch.
Green tea is made from the same leaves as black tea and oolongs. It is steamed instead of fermented which means it retains that vital catchetin polyphenol EGCG so treat it with the respect it has deserved for over 4000 years. Drink it in moderation, especially towards bedtime as it does contain caffeine if you’re sensitive. Caffeine-free green teas are also readily available though.
Here’s another name with sinensis on the end, which simply means made in China. Along with camellia sinensis the citrus sinensis or orange, is another food that the body loves. Some varieties of orange are called satsumas in Japan, and small, sweet easily-peeled oranges are known as mandarins in Europe. Their cultivation has spread across the world.
Oranges are low in calories and contain no fat but they are rich in dietary fiber. They also contain pectin which stops the mucus membrane in the colon from prolonged exposure to toxic materials (AND it can help curb hunger!). They are packed with vitamin C which in itself is a powerful antioxidant. Phytochemicals in citrus fruits also help to keep the immune system healthy and can help build resistance against harmful free radicals in blood cells.
They also contain high amounts of vitamin A, essential for healthy skin and maintaining good vision. B-complex vitamins and the potassium they contain act in the body as discussed in the section on bananas.
Like certain legumes, oranges contain both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which help with colon health and certain chronic diseases such as arthritis and coronary heart disease.
What’s even better is they taste good!
Years ago I had a rather porky friend who went on what was at the time, a rather bizarre diet. The grapefruit diet actually dates back to 1930. I watched her change from overweight to slim in just a matter of a few months, all by eating half a grapefruit before every meal.
The grapefruit is a curious citrus fruit that contains simple carbohydrates and lots of fiber. One grapefruit contains approx 97 calories, a scant amount of protein plus lots of calcium, phosphorus, potassium and bags of Vitamin C.
They also contain fat-burning enzymes and by eating just half a grapefruit before each meal it is possible to safely and very easily lose one pound in weight every day.
One warning with grapefruit though, if you’re taking any kind of medication check with your doctor before eating grapefruit. They can seriously mess with medications by blocking their absorption into the body. Don’t eat grapefruit or consume the juice if you are taking statins for high cholesterol, or certain medications for insomnia or psychological conditions.
To date scientists are still not quite sure what it is in grapefruit that does this, so this delicious fruit holds some strange secrets of its own. It is also the secret to easy weight loss!
Yummy blueberries are also on our list of super foods because inside those tiny berries is a whole shopping list of vitamins and nutrients minerals and some fiber.
They are native to North America and long before the Mayflower arrived Native Americans attributed these juicy berries with long life and good health.
One cup of fresh blueberries yields about 60 calories. The main reason they’re on our list is because of their amazing anti-oxidant value found in poly-phenolic anthocyanidin (try saying that with a mouthful of blueberries), carotene-B, lutien and zeaxanthin. These compounds help the body to get rid of harmful oxygen-derived free radicals. This protects the body against cancers, the signs of aging and infections. They also contain vitamins C, A and E plus some B-complex vitamins: niacin, pyridoxine, folates and pantothenic acid which help the body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
How does all this good stuff fit in such a tiny berry? It makes nanotechnology look lame!
Turn your teeth and tongue blue and scare your kids. Knock up a batch of oatmeal and fresh blueberry muffins for their breakfasts, made with free range eggs and whole wheat flour.
Dem Indians wasn’t so dumb after all.
More little tiny miracle workers – the cranberry is another amazing fruit. If you have a urinary tract infection somebody has probably already recommended you drink cranberry juice. Cranberries just don’t like the harmful bacteria that can cause stomach cancer, bladder infections, tooth decay or ulcers. They leave the good bacteria alone to do their jobs.
They act as anti-oxidants and boot out the harmful free radicals. Drinking cranberry juice (the real stuff, not the watered-down cocktail stuff) can keep your heart healthy and prevent or slow down degenerative diseases associated with old age.
There’s dozens of ways to use them in cooking and salads and a few vodkas and cranberry juice will leave you very healthy and happy!
23. Red Wine
The French and Italians have always liked to get their wine on. From childhood many European families serve children a glass of wine with a meal, topped up with mostly water I might add.
The French especially are known for their wonderful cooking, especially sauces containing pounds of butter, heavy cream and other heart-busting ingredients. Italians wouldn’t think twice about eating pasta three times a day, there are about 600 different shapes and sizes so they don’t get bored easily!
How do they do it? The French should be the fattest people on the planet – but they’re not. They should be dropping like flies with heart attacks more than anyone else. But they’re not.
The secret is in the wine.
One or two glasses a day (moderation in all things please) will raise your good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) and thin your blood. This is thought to be one of the primary cardiovascular benefits from wine, red or white
Flavanoids and resveratrol found in wine act as antioxidants and stop nasty free radicals from causing cellular damage within the body. Resveratrol has also been shown to prevent blood clotting and plaque formation within arteries by altering lipid profiles (breaking down all that cream and butter) and plasma viscosity (thinning the blood).
Enough with the techno-babble – wine improves cardiovascular health and lowers the risk for coronary heart disease.
There is more of this marvelous resveratrol in red wine than in white. It’s simply because of the color of the grape’s skin, that’s where the majority of the resveratrol is and there’s more in red grapes’ skins. Skins are removed from white wine before fermentation but not red. Buy a red wine grown in cooler climates and you’ll hit the mother lode of resveratrol.
As a warning even an occasional glass of wine is NOT good for some people (poor things). For migraine sufferers one glass of wine can result in a massive head-exploding attack. For folks with breast cancer wine is a definite no-no. High triglycerides? Put the bottle down, sorry.
Otherwise for the rest of us normal folks, we can enjoy a nice glass of wine with our lunch and dinner – and enjoy the health benefits.
A votre santé!
24. Sweet Potatoes
Have you ever eaten fried sweet potatoes? If you cook them in extra virgin olive oil then they are a healthy treat. Sticking to a diet can be a pain and the occasional portion of fried sweet potatoes should cheer you up. For diabetics they are a great alternative to baked potatoes which have a very high starch content, it’s even been suggested that sweet potatoes can actually lower blood sugar.
Orange veggies mean beta-carotene – Vitamin A – and a one-cup serving of baked sweet potato can provide approximately 35% of the body’s requirement. To get this beta-carotene working efficiently in your body you need to add just a little fat, preferably extra virgin olive oil.
Sweet potatoes have ant-oxidant properties and plenty of fiber that will keep your heart healthy and can promote healing. They contain vitamin C, B3, B5 and B6, tryptophan, manganese, potassium and copper, with only around 100 calories. No fat, no cholesterol.
You can steam, fry, bake, boil or puree them and put them in a pie. Another excellent super food with amazing health benefits, we haven’t even touched on all the amazing things contained in this root vegetable.
Volumes have been written about the health benefits of sweet potatoes. Some people live well and prosper on sweet potatoes in Africa and little else, which has to tell us something. They can probably see in the dark.
25. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If you’re going to switch from lard to a healthy way to cook food and dress salads, you should start with the best. People have been using olive oil and not just for cooking for many thousands of years and we’re now told that first press extra virgin olive oil is definitely the best.
It protects the heart – even one teaspoon a day is beneficial. One of the polyphenols contained in olive oil (and there are many) protects blood vessels from damage by free radicals and keeps them strong.
In studies it has also been shown that by replacing butter and other oils in cooking and food preparation with olive oil, the risks of cancer decrease.
The polyphenol content of olive oil is also off the charts. Eighteen different simple and complex phenols have been identified, all will tongue-twisting names but with very tasty benefits.
Those who consume olive oil regularly also have far fewer incidences of digestive tract cancers and ulcers. Like cranberries, olive oil prevents bad bacteria from attacking the lining of the stomach and digestive tract. Two of the polyphenols have also been identified as possibly helping to prevent bone loss, especially important to post menopausal women. More studies are on-going.
It is also being studied in France and its use may possibly be shown to improve the cognitive functions of older people. Volumes are being written about the benefits of olive oil and only good things are coming out of the many ongoing studies from around the world.
Externally olive oil has many uses too. It can be used on the skin and hair and it has been shown to help alleviate acne.
Chuck out the lard and the cheap cooking oil and do yourself a favor. Stop using that bottled salad dressing and start using a simple dressing of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, your body and your waistline will thank you.
Following on from Olive we have to mention Popeye’s favorite – spinach! Eat enough of this leafy green vegetable raw or cooked and you may be on your way to super strength too! (super HEALTH for certain)
One cup of spinach contains nearly 20% of recommended dietary fiber. It helps you digest other foods, and it’s great roughage which helps you poop and prevents constipation, lowers blood sugar and fills you up.
It contains our friends the flavinoids which help to fight cancer. Popeye will probably never get prostate cancer!
It contains anti-oxidants, and anti-inflammatory chemicals which can lower blood pressure (except when Pluto’s around) and even protects the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.
Spinach also contains a large amount of Vitamin K (10 times the RDA in a one cup serving) which guards against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Just forget the hot bacon dressing, it’s kind of counter-productive. All that Vitamin K also helps to keep the nervous system in peak condition and the brain functioning normally.
The high amount of Vitamin A (over 3 times the RDA in just one cup) will fight against wrinkles and acne.
Hate the taste of spinach? You’re missing out on a real super food my friend. Try working some leaves in to a salad and you won’t even notice. It tastes better raw than cooked, but creamed spinach is a great dish you can make with lots of cholesterol-free parmesan cheese, some olive oil and low fat sour cream. Yum.
There are probably dozens of other wonderful foods that we have overlooked here but the last thing we have to mention is water.
No living thing can exist on our green planet without water. An adult human body is roughly 60% water. Many ailments can be avoided by drinking just drinking 64 fluid ounces of water a day – more if you work in a hot dry climate or you’re playing sports.
Too little water can cause kidney stones and constipation. Severe lack of water can cause dehydration which is not pleasant.
If you want to stay fit and healthy drink plenty of water, but please stop wasting money on plastic bottles of water – look at the label – many of it is simply filtered tap water! Seriously. There’s a whole island out in the Pacific made from plastic water bottles, bags and other garbage. There another one in the Sargasso Sea that’s getting bigger every day.
Take care of your body and our planet too so we, and our children can all live long and healthy tomorrows!