Every month it seems there is a new “it” food. The media flaunts it as the next best thing, the one that will prevent cancer or fix every health problem we have ever feared. The next thing you know this “magic food” has been incorporated into every dessert, alcoholic beverage, and lip balm. That’s what America does. Nothing in moderation, and everything to the extreme.
What I like about this though, is that it gets people thinking, researching, and ultimately choosing health. Choosing the pomegranate martini may not provide the nutritional punch we are looking for, although it can provide a different kind of punch ;). What it does do though is it gets you thinking about the pomegranate, and then the next time you are in the grocery store you are more likely to try one out. But which foods should we be including when every week it seems there is another one that takes the spotlight. I have compiled a list of MY top choices. This list is not conclusive; in fact many people will argue that there are better choices. But here’s my reasoning: Until about 4 or 5 years ago I hated vegetables, hated them. My parents would probably say that growing up I was a picky eater. Therefore you can imagine my thoughts on many of these “superfoods”…blah! So this list is one that even I, the former vegetable hating- chicken finger eating girl, can include into her diet. These are foods that provide a huge nutritional punch, taste pretty good, and are easy to find in your local grocery store. Ones that even those on a college budget can afford. Since this list can be kind of long today we will tackle the fruits and veggies, and next time some of the other goodies.
Broccoli– These little trees are a vegetable powerhouse. First, they contain anticancer compounds called isothiocyanates (say what!) These are chemical compounds found in broccoli that help to neutralize carcinogens, remove them from the body, and inhibit tumor growth. Research has proven broccoli’s defense against lung, esophageal, and breast cancers. Broccoli is also loaded with vitamins and minerals, and even contains Lutein and zeaxanthin which are components that can prevent macular degeneration and blindness.
Asparagus– Asparagus is jam packed with folate (an important B vitamin that prevents neural tube defects) and vitamin K (essential for strong bones and proper blood clotting). It also contains a compound called rutin which helps protect your blood vessels. Asparagus also contains one of the body’s most important antioxidants, glutathione. Your gut will thank you too, because asparagus is full of inulin which is a fiber that feeds the good bacteria! And if you have ever eaten asparagus, you may have noticed it makes your pee a little stanky. You can thank that to the amino acid asparagines, which is completely safe.
Brussel sprouts– OK, ok these may be hard to learn to like, but if I can do it anyone can do it. The trick is roasting them in the oven with a little, salt, pepper, garlic, and coconut oil. If you can learn to like them, they will provide you with a huge nutritional punch to your diet. They have been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer substantially! Like broccoli, they also contain isothiocyanates, further providing cancer protection.
Pumpkin– Lucky for all of you latte lovers, pumpkin is a veggie 😉 Pumpkin provides a huge punch of potassium which helps to maintain the body’s water balance (think lower blood pressure!). Studies have also shown that potassium significantly decrease the risk of stroke, and improves bone mineral density (goodbye osteoporosis). Pumpkin is also high in beta-carotene and beta- cryptoxanthin which can reduce the risk of lung cancer and rheumatoid arthritis! Plus, like broccoli it’s full of lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for your eyes.
Spinach– Without doubt spinach is loaded with vitamins. Spinach is full of Vitamin K which helps build strong bones and pulls calcium into the bones where it belongs. Spinach is also full of calcium, Vitamin A, C, magnesium and iron – all of which improve blood pressure. There are 13 different compounds in spinach that serve as antioxidants and anticancer agents. Spinach also contains carotenoid, which causes prostate cancer cells to destruct themselves, and prevents their replication.
Some other top choices: Kale, Artichoke, and Sweet Potatoes
Apples– Again, let’s talk about cancer. Quercetin and other components in apples have been researched and proven to help prevent prostate, lung, and colon among other cancers. Along with the anti-cancer properties, apples also contain a host of antioxidants that help prevent against cardiovascular a disease. Apples also contain pectin, which is a soluble fiber that can lower the bad cholesterol (LDL). Additionally, apples contain Boron which is super important for your bone health and may help fight off osteoporosis. Make sure you eat the peel though, that’s where most of this goodness is stored. Now you know why they say “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away!”
Blueberries– If you’re smart you eat blueberries, if you want to be smart you will start eating blueberries! Anthrocyanin is an antioxidant in blueberries (among several others) that help reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and even help the neurons in your brain to communicate better. This means better memory and brain functioning for you. Among brain food, these antioxidants are gold when it comes to fighting cardiovascular disease and cancer. Blueberries have been shown to contain one of the highest antioxidant power levels you can find!
Goji berries– These little “berries” may be one of the few fruits that contain all of the essential amino acids, making them an acceptable source of protein. They are also full of vitamin A, C, carotenoids, and fiber. A serving of goji berries has 15 times more iron than spinach! Goji berries are also full of antioxidants, providing similar benefits to the foods we have already discussed. Lastly, they are a good source of melatonin, which helps improve sleep, controls weight gain, and reduces bad cholesterol levels.
Pomegranate– The pomegranate took the country by storm a few years back and for good reason. Punicalagin is found in pomegranate and it helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Other antioxidants found in pomegranates also help reduce platelet aggregation, further reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart attack or stroke. Pomegranates can also be added to the list of foods with a number of compounds that can help reduce the risk of several cancers.
Strawberries-Another berry, and like Blueberries, strawberries are packed with similar components that fight cancer. Also, like blueberries, strawberries help to improve memory. Another benefit to strawberries? It has a compound, anthocyanin, which inhibits enzymes utilized by the body for signaling pain and inflammation!
Some other top choices: Raspberries, Bananas, and Kiwi
So there you have it, my list of some of the HEALTHIEST fruits and vegetables that you should try to include in your diet. Sure there are hundreds more, but I think these are some of the most nutritionally dense that are easy to come by every day. Try including some of these into your daily diet, and your body will thank you years down the road. Check my next post for some grains, oils, and seeds that you should include too!
Readers: How many of these do you regularly eat? Do you have any favorite ways to use these foods?