10 Healing Foods
Ever wonder which foods are the best for you and which ones ward off disease? Are there really super foods that can help you stay well? Yes, and most of the healthiest fruits and vegetables, for example, are the richest in color. Powerful disease-fighting antioxidants are packed into the pigments in produce, so the more color, the higher the antioxidants and the greater the disease-fighting ability.
1. Avocados: They might be high in fat, but it’s the good fat – monounsaturated fat – like that found in olives and that lowers heart disease risk. Avocados also are high in fiber, potassium, beta carotene, vitamin E, and more. Calories are high here, so don’t go overboard.
2 & 3. Blueberries and Prunes (alias, dried plums): These colorful fruits provide more of the powerful phytochemical anthocyanin, a compound that gives fruits its color, than any other fruit. Anthocyanins play a key role in fighting heart disease and cancer and in boosting memory.
4. Beans and Soy: Whether it’s garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black beans, soy, or others, legumes are the richest source of fiber in the diet. They fill you up without adding too many calories to the diet, so are a great alternative to meat. They contain saponins that lower heart disease risk, soy contains phytoestrogens that lower breast cancer risk, and phytosterols that also lower cancer risk. They’re a great source of protein, B vitamins, and trace minerals, too.
5. Salmon: This is the best source of a type of fat called the omega-3 fats. We’ve known for years that these fats lower heart disease risk, but recent studies show that omega-3s also reduce the risk for age-related memory loss, osteoporosis, depression, macular degeneration, and possibly arthritis.
6. Dark Green Leafies: Spinach, kale, chard, romaine lettuce. The richer in color, the higher the antioxidants. Skip the iceberg lettuce and make your salads with spinach. They are packed with cancer-fighting beta carotene, vitamin C, and 1,000s of phytochemicals, such as lutein that reduces the risk for macular degeneration. They also contain bone-building calcium and magnesium and indoles that lower cancer risk.
7. Oats: The fiber in oats, called soluble fiber, helps lower heart disease risk and normalize blood sugar, thus aiding in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Cook your oatmeal in nonfat milk and sprinkle with toasted wheat germ to give it an extra calcium and nutrient boost.
8. Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain a compound called lycopene that lowers prostate cancer risk in men, and macular degeneration in everyone. A study from Harvard found that men who eat at least 10 servings of tomato products a week, such as pizza, pasta sauces, and tomato juice, reduced their risk for prostate cancer by 45 percent. One medium tomato has as much fiber as a slice of whole wheat bread and only 35 calories.
9. Yogurt: Not only is yogurt a great source of calcium that helps build bones and prevent osteoporosis and possibly colon cancer, but recent studies found that people who consume ample amounts of yogurt maintain a healthy gut and possibly lower heart disease risk, too.
10. Watermelon: Even richer in lycopene than tomatoes, watermelon helps lower the risk for cancer and heart disease. It’s rich in vitamins A and C, minerals such as potassium, and phytonutrients like citrulline that help improve blood flow. It is 92% water, so is a great way to stay hydrated, too.
Photo credit: Paul Saad via Compfight
Do One of These Diet Do’s Today
1. Use avocado slices instead of mayonnaise in sandwiches, wraps, and burritos.
2. Add blueberries and dried plums to muffins, salads, coffee cake, sprinkle on top of cereal, or freeze blueberries and pop them in your mouth as a healthful alternative to ice cream.
3. Include beans in soups, stews, salads, and dips.
4. Have an omega-3-rich fish for dinner, such as salmon, mackerel, or herring.
5. Make sure you get at least one serving of a dark green leafy vegetable in the day’s menu, such as a spinach salad or sauteed greens for dinner.
6. Have old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast.
7. Add slices of tomatoes to sandwiches, pizza, or as a side dish.
8. Choose plain, nonfat yogurt varieties that contain at least 5 different strains of bacteria. Then, sweeten with fresh fruit or jam. (Commercial fruited yogurts have up to 9 teaspoons of sugar!)
9. Add a slice of watermelon to sandwiches instead of mayonnaise, toss a slice or two into smoothies, puree and freeze in ice cube trays for a cold and sweet treat, or just eat off the rind.
Photo credit: tomatoes and friends via Compfight
The Latest Must-Read Nutrition News
1. Pay Attention with Folate: Children born to mothers who supplemented with a special form of folic acid show improved ability to pay attention later in life, according to a study from the University of Granada in Spain. The 136 children of mothers who received fish oils and/or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) during pregnancy were tested for attention span at age 8.5-years-old. Results showed that children born to mothers supplemented with 5-MTHF alone solved response conflict challenges more quickly than did the placebo group or the fish oil and 5-MTHF group. The researchers conclude that, “…folate supplementation during pregnancy…. improves children’s ability to solve response conflicts..indicating that early nutrition influences the functionality of specific brain areas involved in executive functions.”
Catena A, Munoz-Machicao J, Torres-Expinola F, et al: Folate and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy has long-term effects on attention system of 8.5-y-old offspring. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016;103:115-117.
2. The Super Junk Food Diet: The American diet is even worse than we thought. According to researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, more than half of the average American diet is composed of ultra-processed foods. These foods make up 90% of the excess added sugar calories. The researchers reviewed data from more than 9,000 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-2009-2010). Results showed that added sugar makes up one in every five calories in the average American diet. The recommended added sugar intake is 10% of calories, but Americans consuming these highly-processed foods exceeded this limit 80% of the time. The researchers warn that the health dangers go even farther than the excessive amounts of sugar in these foods. “Ultra-processed foods are chemically designed by the food companies to induce cravings for those foods, and sugar, fat and sodium are a big part of those formulas,” says the researchers.
Steele E, Baraldi L, Louzada M, et al: Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the U.S. diet. British Medical Journal Open 2016; March 9th.
3. The Diet Link to Lung Cancer: You don’t need to smoke to develop lung cancer. According to a study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, eating a refined carbohydrate-rich diet increases lung cancer risk in non-smokers. The diet and health histories of more than 1,900 people with lung cancer were compared to about 2,400 people without the disease. Results showed that people in the top for consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrate-rich foods, such as refined grains and potatoes, had a 49% greater risk of developing lung cancer compared to those people who consumed the least amount of high glycemic carbohydrates. While the mechanism is poorly understood, the researchers speculate that high glycemic diets are linked to diabetes risk, which encourages the activity of certain cellular “growth factor” chemicals that are known to play a role in cancer.
Melkonian S, Daniel C, Ye Y, e al: Glycemic index, glycemic load, and lung cancer risk in non-Hispanic whites. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2016; March 4th.
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Food & Mood Tip –
The Case for Supplementation
In all fairness to those struggling to eat well, even the balanced diet might not be all that it’s cracked up to be. When dietitians with 4-year degrees in nutrition designed 43 menus based on the Dietary Guidelines, most of those diets were low in a whole slew of nutrients, from zinc and iron to B vitamins. Every one of those nutrients is critical to your mood, energy level, and ability to think straight. If trained nutrition professionals can’t design perfect diets, it’s not realistic to expect the rest of us to do much better! Even if you ate perfectly, no diet can realistically provide optimal amounts of certain nutrients. For example:
Vitamin E. You need at least 100IU of this vitamin daily to cut the risk for memory loss and possibly Alzheimer’s. Are you willing to eat 8 cups of almonds, 3/4 cup safflower oil, or 62 cups of fresh spinach every day to meet this need?
Calcium. This mineral might help soothe the grumps in women seized with PMS. In fact, as calcium intake goes up so does mood for these women. The latest calcium recommendation to curb that bad mood is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams daily, which is easy enough if you drink four glasses of milk or soymilk daily. For those people who shun milk, meeting this quota means consuming six ounces of tofu, a can of salmon with the bones, and two cups of black bean soup every day. Who eats that?!
Folic acid. This B vitamin is critical to mood and memory, but even though white flour and all the junk food made from it are now fortified with folic acid, intakes still fall short for a huge section of the population. You need at least two servings every day of foods rich in folate, like greens. But, when researchers at University of California, Berkeley investigated women’s intake of dark green leafies, they found that almost nine our of every 10 women failed to include even one serving of dark greens on any one of four days!
Vitamin D. Frankly, I don’t know where anyone gets enough of this vitamin, since even drinking 4 glasses of fortified milk or soymilk daily won’t meet current needs for most people, and the amount of time you must spend in direct, overhead sun without sunscreen is totally unrealistic, especially in the winter. Yet, not getting enough of this vitamin is a big mistake if you battle mood, memory, or possibly even weight issues.
So, even if you think you eat pretty well, consider taking a moderate-dose, broad-range multi to fill in any gaps.
Photo credit: Dr. Chino via Compfight
Mood-Boosting Recipe of the month –
Plum Nuts Oatmeal (from Eat Your Way to Happiness by Elizabeth Somer)
1 2/3 cups 1% low-fat milk w/ DHA
1/3 cup pitted dried plums, chopped
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Splenda
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk w/ DHA
1 Tablespoon sliced almonds
1) In a medium saucepan, bring milk, plums, brown sugar, and Splenda to a gentle boil. Add oats and extract. Stir to coat. Return to simmer, lower heat, and cook uncovered for 7 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
2) Portion into two bowls, pour half & half over top, and sprinkle with almonds. (Makes 2 servings.)
Nutrition Analysis per serving: 365 Calories, 16 % fat (6.5 g, 2 g saturated), 67 % carbs (61 g), 17 % protein (15.5 g), 6 g fiber, 332 mg calcium, 27 mcg folate, 2.6 mg iron, 124 mg sodium.
Your Nutrition Questions Answered
1. Are there certain foods you should eat every day?
Yes and no. It is difficult to meet all your nutritional needs without eating dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collards, chard, or beet greens, every day. However, a mix of real foods throughout the week is the best way to guarantee you get optimal amounts of not just the vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but also the almost one million phytonutrients. For example, have blueberries on Monday, raspberries on Tuesday, strawberries on Wednesday and so forth. Then mix and match a variety of other colorful fruits and vegetables, 100% whole grains such as oats and quinoa, nuts and seeds, and other unprocessed fare throughout the week and from day to day.
2. To cut calories, should I switch to fat-free salad dressing?
Salad dressing is the number one source of fat in women’s diets, attesting to how we can easily turn a perfectly good meal into a calorie disaster. On the other hand, you need a little fat to boost absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins in those greens, such as vitamin A and E, and the wealth of phytonutrients. For example, you absorb 10 times more lycopene if there is a little fat added to the salad or salsa. Just don’t take this as a license to binge. Put the dressing on the side. Lightly touch the fork into the dressing with every bite with the goal of finishing the salad, while leaving much of the dressing still in the side dish.
See Next Month for Answers to These Questions…
- I know there are about 40+ nutrients that I need to get from my diet. Do my needs increase as I age?
- How much water should a healthy person drink every day?
Food Finds/Food Fails:
1. Black beans: A half cup serving supplies 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, and hardly any sodium (unless they are canned, so rinse before eating). You get 6 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein. Besides, black beans are yummy in wraps, soups, stews, dips, and more. Use legumes, such as black beans, in place of meat four times a week and you help lower your risk for heart disease by up to 20%.
2. Fall River Wild Rice: A half cup of this “rice” makes 1 1 /2 cups cooked for 320 calories, hardly any fat or sodium, yet 6 grams of fiber and 10% of your day’s need for iron. The claim that it is 100% Natural is true, too!! A great addition to chicken dishes.
1. Bertoli Alfredo Sauce: While most pasta sauces recommend a half cup serving, this sauce is restricted to 1/4 cup, or the equivalent of 4 tablespoons and the amount that could possibly cover four fork twirls of pasta. More likely you’d serve yourself a half cup or more. That quarter cup packs only 110 calories, with 90% of them coming from fat. You get more than a teaspoon of saturated fat and 410 milligrams of sodium, too. Double all of that if you use closer to a half cup serving. It’s only claim to fame on the front label is that it is “made with fresh cream.” However, how fresh is something that has been heated, processed, and bottled to last on the shelf for months? Your waistline, your brain and your heart scream to put this bottle of grease back on the shelf!
2. Campbells’ Chunky Creamy Chicken Dumplings: Any food with “creamy” in the title is a red flag you will be downing more junk than food. A tiny one-cup serving supplies more than 2 teaspoons of fat and 880 milligrams of sodium. Eat the whole container and you have exceeded the total day’s recommended intake for sodium in one little bowl.
This Month’s Menu Ideas:
Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.
1 serving of Plum Nuts Oatmeal
1 banana, sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon
6 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice
Pita Sandwich made with 1 whole wheat pita bread, 1 ounce jalapeno Jack cheese, 1 medium diced tomato, 1 /2 cup drained kidney beans, and 3 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
1 medium orange, peeled and sectioned
Iced herb tea
2/3 cup berry sorbet topped with 1 cup raspberries.
4 ounces grilled salmon, seasoned with lemon juice and fresh dill
15 asparagus spears, lightly steamed and sprinkled with red pepper flakes
1 cup yellow squash rounds, lightly steamed
1/2 cup whole grain couscous, prepared according to package
After Dinner Snack:
1 cup steamed low-fat milk w/ DHA flavored with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.
1 cup grapes
Nutritional Information with snack: 1,796 Calories, 19% fat (38 g fat, 15 g saturated), 20% protein (90 g), 61% carbs (274 g), 41 g fiber, 1,352 mg calcium, 765 mcg folate, 804 mg sodium.