You don’t have to seek out the latest in trendy foods that claim health benefits. Here are nine common foods that provide the same benefits.
It’s important to find a good, plain yogurt that has a high Probiotic value. The reason Greek yogurt has become popular is because of this feature. Probiotics help to improve the immune system, reduce cholesterol levels, treat intestinal disorders, protect against allergens, prevent some cancers, and lower blood pressure. Most supermarket yogurts don’t have significant live & active Probiotic cultures to make them anything other than an ice cream alternative. Greek yogurts are now widely available and contain up to six Probiotic strains. They are also thicker and creamier that American yogurts – it can also be used as an alternative to sour cream. Buy plain varieties & add your own honey.
Yes, you’ve heard a lot of hype about the benefits of pricey acai and goji berries, but good old blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries have high levels of antioxidants which protect against free radical damage. Berries are a powerful anti-aging food and have been shown to help maintain short-term memory.
High fiber, high protein, good fats & you don’t need a lot to feel full. When you get the munchies, keep a small portion-sized bag of almonds or cashews close by. And don’t underestimate the power of peanut butter. Unless you have an allergy, a couple tablespoons of natural PB can fill you up and keep you going a long time. Beware commercial versions that have a lot of other ingredients. The only thing on the label should be peanuts & if you like it, salt.
In addition to containing large amounts of protein, amino acids, vitamins & minerals, the choline in eggs stimulates brain development & function; the selenium may help prevent blood clots that can lead to heart attack or stroke; the Vitamin D strengthens bones and improves immune function. Yes, eggs contain saturated fats, which our bodies need, so we need to pull away from demonizing eggs as bad cholesterol. The scientific evidence just doesn’t support this. Besides, eggs can be relatively inexpensive and very filling. Go for organic or at least cage-free varieties, and definitely ones that clearly say they contain no antibiotics or hormones.
A favorite leafy green and easy to find, but if you’re also a fan of kale, collards and Swiss chard, go for it. Dark leafy greens are the food most missing from our modern diets. They strengthen the circulatory and respiratory systems & are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, potassium, zinc & vitamins A, C, E and K. Greens also stimulate production of serotonin, your “feel-good” hormone which can mitigate food cravings. One caveat: spinach and Swiss chard contain oxcalic acid which can leach calcium from the body if not paired with a high quality protein when eaten.
Beans are high in fiber (missing in most American diets), high in protein and good carbohydrates, & most contain no fat. Soybeans (edamame) are an exception here because they do which actually makes them something of a perfect food with all three vital macronutrients (proteins – carbs – fats) your body needs.
Now commonly available in large chain markets, quinoa is one of those perfect, easy to cook, versatile foods. It’s in the whole grain family – a food group we need to be eating more of – but its particular claim to fame is its high protein value. This is great for vegans and vegetarians who need a quality protein source. Quinoa can be used in pilafs, salads or just as a side dish.
Chocolate – or cacao – like berries, contains powerful antioxidants, but you need to choose your indulgence wisely. Studies have shown that milk may interfere with the absorption of those antioxidants and could therefore negate any health benefit. The darker the better. Good organic chocolate with at least 70% cacao is the best bet as is eating it in moderation.
Water seems simple yet, it’s a super food. Our bodies are 75% water. Most of us are under-hydrated – all the time. Our bodies don’t signal that we’re thirsty until we’re dehydrated (a flaw in our otherwise effective homeostasis). Every cell in our body has water inside it & is surrounded by it. Every tissue and organ, nerve, blood, circulatory, digestive, movement and elimination function requires water to work. Plain water is your best first option, but non-caffeinated teas, broths & high-water content fruits and vegetables are another way to effectively hydrate.
One thing to remember with many of the trendy super foods on the market – like acai, goji, chia seeds and pomegranate, is that they may be packaged within a food that has no health benefits at all – foods that contain high amounts of sugar, fat and salt. Read labels carefully. Or, just stick to the simple stuff and reap the benefits!
30 August 2011