December 6, 2010

Top Superfoods (Part 1)

Superfoods are foods with high phytonutrient content and are beneficial to our health and well-being. Such foods that contain significant amounts of antioxidants, anthocyanins, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and dietary fiber. Superfoods can lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, and put you in a good mood.1 Part 2 will probably be posted in January 2011.

Also see vegan nutrition.

Top Superfoods

See recipes for the Superfoods here.

Blueberries & Cranberries - helps your muscles and nerves function properly and lower your risk of high blood pressure. Blueberries & cranberries have antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, and are high in potassium and vitamin C. Blueberries can lowers your risk of heart disease and cancer, and are also anti-inflammatory.2 3 4 Cranberries have vitamin C and fiber, and are 45 calories per cup. As well cranberries have disease-fighting antioxidants. One cup of whole cranberries has 8,983 total antioxidant capacity, only blueberries can top that (of the berries with 13,427 TAC).5 6 Add blueberries and cranberries to your oatmeal, cereal, toast, pancakes, tea, juice, muffins, smoothie, etc.

Omega 3-Rich Flaxseed & Hempseed - reduces inflammation throughout your body and helps prevent cancer cell growth. Helps your heart, joints, and memory. Omega-3 fatty acid rich foods can reduce inflammation, lower the amount of lipids; and help with depression, fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's, and more. Flax seeds contain more omega-3 fatty acid than fish.7 Flaxseed & hempseed sources can also be oil, and hemp milk. Flaxseed works best when ground and not heated. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acid are walnuts, black raspberry, soybeans, spirulina, and chia. Flaxseed & hempseed are also packed with other nutrients.8 9 Add flax and hemp to your oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, muffins, smoothie, granola bar, etc.

Soybean - keeps your immune system functioning properly and your bones strong and healthy. Consuming 25 grams of soy daily may reduce your risk of osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms, Alzheimer's, certain cancers and kidney disease.10 A study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that a diet of soy fiber, protein from oats and barley, almonds, and margarine from plant sterols lowered cholesterol as much as Statins (the most widely prescribed cholesterol medicine). "Look for tofu, soy milk, or edamame -- not soy powder," says Somer. In other words, soy sauce won't do the trick. Soy yogurt, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein, are also good. If you have a family history of breast cancer it is not recommended that you eat a lot soy.11 Soybeans benefits are related to their excellent protein content, their high levels of essential fatty acids, numerous vitamins and minerals, their isoflavones, and their fiber.12 Use soy milk, tempeh, TVP, tofu, soy yogurt, and edamame in recipes.

Fiber-Rich Foods - aids in weight loss and maintaining normal blood sugar levels. A diet high in fiber will help you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Because fiber helps you feel full longer, it is great in weight management. Whole grains, beans/lentils, nuts, ground flax seeds, phylum, sesame seeds, bran, quinoa, chickpeas, high fiber cereals, oatmeal, rye, chia, barley, popcorn, vegetable gums, fruit, and vegetables are all good sources.13

Tea - lowers cholesterol and restrains cancer. The overall antioxidant power of black tea and green tea is the same. But, green tea does have ECGC, a powerful antioxidant. A recent Japanese study on green tea found that men who drank green tea regularly had lower cholesterol than those who didn't. Researchers in Spain and the United Kingdom have also shown that ECGC can hinder the growth of cancer cells.14

Calcium-Rich Foods - helps build strong bones, prevents osteoporosis and helps with weight loss. Tofu, green leafy vegetables, plant milk, dried fruit, seeds and nuts, black molasses, parsley, oats, almond butter, tempeh, broccoli, beans, kale, TVP, mustard greens, soy yogurt, tahini, okra, bok choy, fennel, hummus.15 16 Plant-based sources of calcium are generally more absorbable than animal sources because we can digest the plant-based foods easier and break them down and utilize the nutrients better.17 Non-human animal milk is very harmful to humans.18

Dark Chocolate - lowers blood pressure. Research has shown that dark chocolate is packed with flavonol antioxidants derived from the ground and fermented cocoa seeds of Theobroma cacao and can lower blood pressure. Dark Chocolate has 60% or higher cocoa content, the darker the better. In addition, the darker it is, the lower the fat and sugar content.19 It also protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.20

Probiotic Foods - alleviates of chronic intestinal inflammatory diseases. Probiotic foods promotes optimal health. Fermented foods and cultured products are instrumental to the survival of our species. Fermented and cultured foods may well represent our first experience with what researchers now call functional foods, foods that actively promote optimal health.21 22 Sources are vegan yogurt, miso, yeasts, bacilli, doenjang, tempeh, sauerkraut, pickled vegetable, soy sauce, vegan kefir (a good one is So Delicious Coconut Milk Kefir), kimchee, and Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar.23 24 Improves immune function and preventing infections, lowers blood pressure, and helps with Irritable bowel syndrome and colitis.25

Açaí - lowers your cancer risk. Açaí is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world! Açaí (ah-sigh-ee) is the high-energy berry of a special Amazon palm tree. Açaí is packed full of antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Açaí may not be available in your local supermarket, you can find it in several health food and gourmet stores (often in juice form). Açaí helps combat premature aging, the fatty acid content in açaí resembles that of olive oil, and is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid.26

Allium Foods - fights tumors and infections. Onions, garlic, chives, leeks, shallots and scallions, contain flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione (the tripeptide that is the liver's most potent antioxidant. Glutathione enhances elimination of toxins and carcinogens, putting the allium family of vegetables at the top of the list for foods that can help prevent cancer. Allium foods lowers total cholesterol but, raises HDL (good cholesterol); lessens the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of blood clots, destroys infection-causing viruses and bacteria. It also helps fight against neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and enhances detoxification by reducing toxins. Garlic works better raw, cooking can destroy some of the allicin compound, which is the active constituent.27 Add to soup, mashed potatoes, stews. chili, etc.

Barley, Beans, Lentils, & Buckwheat - keeps your immune system functioning properly. Barley, beans and lentils are low-glycemic grains, high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps the body metabolize fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates, and lowers blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber promotes a healthy digestive tract and reduces the risk of cancers affecting it (i.e. colon cancer). The fiber found in barley provides food for the beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. This is important as the good bacteria can crowd out the disease-causing bacteria in the intestinal tract, resulting in greater health and disease resistance. They are also high in protein, low in fat (except for soybeans), calories and sodium but high in complex carbohydrates. They contain essential fatty acids, mostly omega-6s (only soybeans have significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids). Beans are extremely beneficial in an anti-diabetes diet because they rank low on the glycemic scale, which means that they do not cause the inflammatory, hunger-inducing spikes in blood sugar levels. Buckwheat is high in protein and in the essential amino acids lysine and arginine. It's unique amino acid profile gives buckwheat the power to boost the protein value of beans and cereal grains eaten the same day. Buckwheat also contains no gluten, the source of protein in true grains, and is therefore safe for people with gluten allergy or celiac disease. Like the widely prescribed ACE hypertension drugs, buckwheat proteins reduce the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), thereby reducing hypertension.28 29 30

Barley Grass, Wheatgrass & Other Green Foods - has great levels of nutrient density. Green foods have marked beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, immune response and cancer prevention. These effects are attributed in part to their high concentrations of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll, the phytochemical that gives leaves, plants and algae their green hues, is the plant equivalent of the oxygen-carrying red pigment hemoglobin in red blood cells. Dietary chlorophyll inhibits disease bacteria and exerts therapeutic effects on bad breath and internal odors.31

Hot Peppers - treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders, including pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy. All peppers contain compounds called capsaicinoids, which derive anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-cancer. The most common form is capsaicin. In addition to capsaicin, chilies are high in antioxidant carotenes and flavonoids, and contain about twice the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits.32 33 Almost any dish, from soups, stews and chili to stir-fries, salads and salsas can benefit from small amounts of hot peppers.

Nuts & Seeds - decreases your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Controls your weight with no hunger pangs and reduce the visible signs of aging like wrinkles and sagging skin.34 Add some nuts to any meal, a tablespoon of chopped or crushed on oatmeal, salad, smoothie, muffins, etc. Nuts are so versatile they can take the place of flour and breadcrumbs with a lot more flavor and health benefits. Just remember to eat nuts in moderation due to high-fat content.

Avocados - helps regulate blood pressure, provides protection against liver and prostate cancer, and protects eyes from developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Avocados are high in lutein, vitamin K, and potassium. Avocados are not only contain the best kind of fat (monounsaturated oleic acid) but also help your body block the absorption of bad fats (cholesterol). Lutein aids eyesight, potassium and folate may reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. And they're low in pesticides.35 36 Mash avocados and make guacamole or mayo, slice and add to sandwiches or eat fresh.

Beets - support red blood cell production and help prevent anemia and helps prevent dementias including Alzheimer's disease. Beets are a good source of folate, manganese, and potassium. The pigment betacyanin, which gives beets their distinctive color, is just one of several disease-fighting phytonutrients found in this root vegetable. Beets are also a good source of folate, which guards against birth defects, colon cancer, and osteoporosis, and are high in fiber and beta-carotene.37 Beets are a source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-researched betalains from beets; both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.38 Slice beets and add to sandwiches, burgers, salad, potatoes, or soup.

Sprouts - lowers your cancer risk and helps protect cells from free radical damage. They are a good source of protein and vitamin C. Sprouts can grow from the seeds of vegetables, grains, legumes, buckwheat and beans. Sprouts are a concentrated source of the living enzymes and life force that is lost when foods are cooked or not picked fresh from your own garden. Due to their high enzyme content, sprouts are also easier to digest than the seed or bean from which they came. All nutrients necessary for life are contained in seeds; a food category that includes grain kernels, beans, legumes and nuts.39 Sprouts vary in texture and taste. Some are spicy (radish and onion sprouts), some are hard and often used in Asian cuisines (mung bean), while others are more delicate (alfalfa) and add texture and moistness to salads and sandwiches.
Ways to use sprouts:

  • Add to tossed salads

  • Use in coleslaw (cabbage, clover, radish)

  • Add to wraps and roll-ups (alfalfa, sunflower, radish)

  • Stir-fry with other vegetables (alfalfa, clover, radish, mung bean, lentil)

  • Blend with vegetable juices (cabbage, mung bean, lentil)

  • Mix with soft vegan cheeses, tofu, vegan yogurt, dips (mung bean, radish)

  • Stir into soups or stews when serving (mung bean, lentil)

  • Eat them fresh and uncooked in a sprout salad
  • Top omelet or scrambled tofu (alfalfa, clover, radish)

  • Combine in oat, barley or buckwheat dishes (fenugreek, lentil, mung bean)

  • Add to sushi (radish, sunflower)

  • Sauté with onions (mung bean, clover, radish)

  • Puree with dried peas or beans (mung bean, lentil)

  • Add to beans (lentil)

More Superfoods:
The Top 10 Antioxidant Foods
Foods High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants and Your Immune System: Super Foods for Optimal Health
Hemp Seed: The Most Nutritionally Complete Food Source In The World
Soy: The Superfood
10 Reasons to Choose Hemp
Total Antioxidant Capacity of Foods (TAC)
10 Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon Health Benefits
ANDI Scale - Aggregate Nutrient Density Index

Remember to check back here often for new post, I try to update at least once a month. Look at my past blog posts for vegan information, resources, and links. E-mail me me if you have any suggestions for new posts, questions on this blog or veganism or questions regarding this post or know any more sites relating to this post.

1 comment:

Bry Greene said...

Good list of superfoods :) I do have a question on probiotics though. I'm currently taking probiotics supplements and I'm curious how the natural probiotic foods compare with it. I've also heard that not all yogurt (especially the ones in stores) aren't as good as the other probiotic foods because of how they were processed.