What makes them “super?”
Ask five nutritionists to rate the 13 most powerful foods and most likely you will end up with five different lists, but many of the selections overlap. Why? Because every food provides something different: Some are a rich source of protein or fiber, but lacking in vitamins and minerals, while others contain disease-fighting phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, but lack protein. The trick, experts say, is to get a variety of the very best foods. Agreat starting point is these 13 super foods.
Sure, they’re high in fat, but avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which has been linked with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. “Avocados aid in blood and tissue regeneration, stabilize blood sugar, and are excellent for heart disorders,” says Ed Bauman, Ph.D., director of Bauman College. They are loaded with fiber (11 to 17 grams per fruit) and are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant linked to eye health and skin.
“An apple a day really does keep the doctor away,” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, author of “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”. Apples are loaded with quercetin and catechin, powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage – which means a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially if you eat the fruit’s skin. Research shows that apple peel contains five times more polyphenols than the flesh. Apples and their skins pack a lot of fiber too (almost double that of other common fruits such as peaches, grapes and grapefruit), which can help fight the battle of the bulge.
Anti-aging superstars, blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve vision and brain function. Studies show that eating blueberries reduce deficiencies in motor coordination and memory that accompany aging. These little berries also reduce inflammation, which is inextricably linked with virtually all chronic diseases Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and heart. Other studies show that blueberries have much greater power against cancer than other fruits.
In the plant world, Queen brassicas, and cabbage is the most impressive of all. Brassica vegetables (like broccoli, bok choy) contain compounds called indoles, which have been shown to reduce cancer risk dramatically. Cabbage also stimulates the immune system, kills bacteria and viruses, and is a good blood purifier.” If you go for the red variety, you also get a healthy dose of anthocyanins (the pigment molecules are the same as blueberries), another potent antioxidant in the fight against cancer.
Fish and fish oil
Eating fish helps reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, diabetes and arthritis. The varieties of fat can also help relieve depression. The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat at least two fish meals per week, especially salmon, herring and sardines, because those varieties provide the most omega-3 heart healthy. Avoid varieties that contain mercury such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and albacore tuna, says Roberta Anding, MS, RD, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. (Chunks of light tuna is okay.)
Research shows that garlic lowers cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat), helping prevent clogged arteries. “Two to three cloves a day cut the odds of subsequent heart attacks in half for heart disease patients,” says Bauman. Garlic also leads the National Cancer Institute of possible cancer-preventive food. Whole cooked garlic helps to detoxify the body of heavy metals like mercury (in fish) and cadmium. Garlic also acts as an antibacterial and antiviral, increasing resistance to stress-induced colds and infections. Cannot stand garlic breath? Chewing a sprig of parsley or a coffee bean to reduce the odor and taste.
Used for centuries in Eastern medicine, mushrooms have powerful effects on the immune system – especially the shiitake maitake, reishi and varieties. “Mushrooms such as maitake help prevent and treat cancer, viral diseases, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure,” says Bauman. In fact, mushrooms are used as adjuvant treatment of cancer throughout Asia for its ability to counteract the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy while reducing tumors. Moreover, Japanese researchers have found that regularly eating shiitake mushrooms lowers levels of blood cholesterol by up to 45 percent.
Almonds are loaded with fiber and monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol. According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, including almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. And even though almonds are relatively high in fat and calories, studies show that eating almonds can actually help you lose weight (the protein, fiber and monounsaturated fat to satiety, preventing overeating).
The best source of protein on the planet, the egg always outranks milk, meat, whey and soy protein in the quality they provide. Besides containing all nine essential amino acids, eggs are loaded with nutrients. Eat the yolks too. People avoid the yolks because they fear the cholesterol, but egg yolks contain choline, which helps protect the heart and brain function and prevents cholesterol and fat accumulation in the liver.
Loaded with alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation, flaxseed has been used for centuries for medicinal and health reasons. Gandhi himself proclaimed, “Wherever flaxseed becomes a regular food item among the people, there will be better health.” Bauman adds, “The seed itself has terrific nutritional value, very usable protein, tremendous fatty acids, and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and zinc.” They are a great source of fiber as well.
Pomegranates have up to three times the antioxidants of red wine and green tea – and the juice has been shown to reduce plaque that clogs arteries, which in turn prevents heart disease and stroke. Research shows that long-term consumption of pomegranate juice may help slow aging and protect against cancer.
A small amount of any type of alcohol each day has a good heart to increase HDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of blood clots. “Red wine also contains powerful antioxidants, resveratrol and saponins, which may provide additional cardiovascular benefits,” says Anding. Resist an additional dose, however: More than one drink per day has been linked to high blood pressure.
When it comes to chocolate, bitter is better – at least in terms of health. The benefits of chocolate flavonoids and antioxidants from (the same chemicals that fight the disease are found in blueberries, apples, strawberries and red wine). Warning: Only real cocoa contains flavonoids, so look for chocolate that has a high percentage of cocoa (60 percent or more.) The dark chocolate also has less calories than other varieties, and when eaten in moderation, reduce unhealthy LDL cholesterol and prevents the formation of plaque in the arteries.