10 Best 'Superfoods'

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 1:25pm

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

Are you looking for some terrific foods to help you improve your diet? Well, look no further. We’ve come up with 10 nutrition powerhouses that are sure to help you in your quest to become healthier, prevent disease, and to look and feel better. Keep in mind, however, that when it comes to fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, there are no losers. All plant foods are packed with nutrients called "phytochemicals" that help the body stay healthy and prevent disease. Tomatoes alone have over 10,000 phytochemicals that work to protect your body from cancer and other ailments. Remember, it’s impossible to get all these compounds in a pill or a supplement. There simply is no substitute when it comes to eating healthy, nutrition packed foods. So, remember to include plenty of the following foods whenever you can!

The top 10 list of "superfoods"

1.   Broccoli provides a host of great nutrients

This is a cruciferous vegetable loaded with indoles, isothiocyanates, flavonoids and monoterpenes-all phytochemicals with strong cancer fighting properties. To top it off, broccoli is also loaded with great nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium and fiber. In order to retain all the nutrient value in broccoli, cook it as little as possible.

2.   Sweet potatoes prevent disease

Deep red and orange vegetables are loaded with nutrition, and sweet potatoes are no exception. These dietary superstars are loaded with cancer fighting carotenoids. (Keep in mind that beta carotene is only one of 600 carotenoids that work together to prevent disease. A beta-carotene supplement is no substitute for good food.) Sweet potatoes are also rich in fiber; B-vitamins; vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E; and copper.

3.   Buckwheat lowers cholesterol and blood pressure

Low-carb dieters beware! This grain-like product loaded with nutrients and (not at all unhealthy) carbs is a particularly good choice for the body. Buckwheat is loaded with a phytochemical called rutin, which has been proven to help lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce high blood pressure. Buckwheat is also rich in protein, fiber, B-vitamins, copper, magnesium and phosphorus. Here is one case where you actually get more nutrients by purchasing light buckwheat flour rather than the dark. Use buckwheat flour to make pancakes or add a little in place of white flour to your other baking recipes.

4.   Organic skim milk is good for you

Devoid of growth hormones and other questionable chemicals, organic skim milk is a wonderful way to protect your bones from osteoporosis daily. You simply can’t find a food with higher calcium content than milk. A high calcium intake from foods is also linked to reduction in high blood pressure. Recent studies also show that people with a high intake of dairy products weigh less and have reduced body fat than those who don’t. Rich in calcium protein, vitamin D, and riboflavin-milk, it does a body good.

5.   Peeled apples provide great health benefits

Surprised to see apples on our list of the top 10? That’s probably because most people realize it’s not a vitamin-packed fruit, nor is it brightly colored (which is always a good giveaway to high nutrition content). However, apples are loaded with phytochemicals like quercetin, which may help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Apples are also high in flavonoids-antioxidants which may help prevent prostate and breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. The caveat: You must eat the peel to derive the benefits.

6.   Nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease

Even the FDA has recognized the disease fighting properties of nuts by allowing the following statement on most nut packages: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease." Loaded with protein, "good" monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, phytochemicals, calcium and magnesium, nuts are a nutrition superstar.

7.   Flaxseed fights cancer

This grain-like food is a bigger powerhouse of phytochemicals called lignans than any other plant foods. Lignans are strong cancer fighters, particularly for breast cancer. Flaxseed is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease. Buy flax seeds (not the oil) to get more lignans. To integrate them into your diet, shake some onto your salads and you’re your baking recipes.

8.   Tea has many health benefits

When it comes to tea, there is no poor choice. Black, green or white-each type of tea has its own antioxidant benefits. Green and white teas have large amounts of a substance called ECGC, which has strong anti-inflammatory properties and may even help inhibit cancer growth. Black tea is also good for you, rich in antioxidants shown to help delay cancer cell growth and improve cholesterol levels. One study has even shown that black tea can cut heart attack risk by 44 percent. So, pick whichever type you will drink the most. You can’t go wrong.

9.   Beans fight disease

Whether they’re pinto, kidney, black, great northern, garbanzo or soy, beans are loaded with nutrition and protective benefits. They’re rich in protein, fiber, B-vitamins and several minerals. Because they contain so many disease-fighting phytochemicals, research has shown that beans may help protect against heart disease, cancer, infections and osteoporosis.

10.   Blueberries protect against heart disease, cancer and eye diseases

Blueberries are rich in powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins (which are responsible for the blue color). Anthocyanins help to protect against heart disease, cancer, cataracts and glaucoma. Blueberries are also rich in other protective antioxidants as well as vitamin C, manganese and fiber.

For more information on 'Superfoods' see the following article from TheDietChannel: "Superfoods" or Nutritional Kryptonite?