10 of our Top 25 Super Foods!

We love super foods! Super foods are far more than just vitamin and mineral supplements–their whole is much greater than the sum of their parts. They are foods that provide health benefits far beyond their recognized nutritional value.  Super foods are foods with high concentrations of phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Since super foods are nutritious whole foods, they help us to embrace our health, instead of thinking along the lines of nutrient splitting, or fighting disease. Implementing these super foods into your diet will allow you to reap all of the benefits these yummy foods and herbs have to offer.

In this list we talk about 10 of  our 25 super foods.  Since the list is so comprehensive with valuable information, we decided to create 2 blogs to showcase the best foods we have discovered on our journey towards healthy eating and living!!!  We will post the other 15 next week.

Top 10 of our 25 Super Foods

1. Broccoli
A cruciferous veggie, broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense foods known, and at a very low caloric cost.  Not only is broccoli an amazing cancer-fighter, it also boosts the immune system, lowers the incidence of cataracts, supports cardiovascular health, builds bones and fights birth defects.  It’s high in polyphenols, which have antioxidant characteristics, and is in the top ten most commonly eaten veggies in the U.S.
Common Question: What’s that horrible smell that is sometimes there when opening packaged broccoli, or cooking it? The not-so-appealing smell is from sulfur compounds being released from the broccoli. These sulfur compounds are protective to the plant and to us as consumers, and are a big reason that broccoli has such cancer-fighting and preventing properties. The smell becomes stronger when broccoli is packaged/contained for more than a couple days. The best way to minimize the smell is to purchase super fresh broccoli, perhaps from a farmer’s market instead of the grocery store, and to consume it sooner than later.
Other cruciferous veggies: kale, cabbage, Chinese broccoli,  Brussels sprout, cauliflower, bok choy, turnip root and greens, mustard seeds and greens, radish, horseradish, watercress.

2. Spinach
Spinach is a mild-tasting green that boasts amazing nutritional content. It’s a great source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. It’s especially famous for its iron and calcium, although there’s controversy as to how well these valuable nutrients are absorbed by the body. The iron found in spinach can be more easily absorbed by the body when eaten with vitamin C and calcium. And while spinach is also a good source of calcium, the body also needs vitamin D and magnesium to properly absorb the calcium. But don’t get overwhelmed or confused trying to figure out which nutrients need the help of which other nutrients! Instead remember that the properties of these foods all work together, and shouldn’t be isolated in one form or another. Remember the big picture of eating a variety of whole foods, and you will easily consume all the necessary nutrients to make all the others workable and absorbable.

3. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great example of a sweet health food that is low in sodium and high in dietary fiber, vitamin B6, A, C, potassium and manganese. Some varieties look, cook and taste like white potatoes, while others are more orange in color, and their flesh is moister and sweeter than white potatoes. All varieties of sweet potatoes have significantly more nutritional value than white potatoes. The more orange the flesh of the sweet potato, the higher the content of beta-carotene, termed a provitamin because it can be converted to active vitamin A.  Vitamin A is important in several biological functions, and deficiency of it can lead to abnormal bone development and disorders of the reproductive system and of the eyes.
Common Question: What’s the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? While the names are often used interchangeably, sweet potatoes and yams are very different vegetables. Sweet potatoes are more common in the U.S. than yams, and the sweeter, orange-flesh varieties are what often get mistaken for yams. Generally U.S. sweet potatoes are moist and sweet. Yams, on the other hand, are popular in Latin America and Caribbean, and are more dry and starchy than sweet potatoes.

4. Walnuts
These heart-healthy nuts are great sources of copper and manganese, and most importantly, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an Omega-3 fatty acid. A handful of these tasty nuts can provide 2.5 grams of ALA, which has been shown to provide many health benefits, including but not limited to cardiovascular protection, improved cognitive function, and anti-inflammatory properties. Every vegetarian should integrate walnuts into their daily food routines, as they are an amazing plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids. (Many other sources of Omega-3’s are not vegetarian.)

5. Oranges
Delicious and nutritious, oranges are a good source of thiamin, folate and potassium, and a very good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. The vitamin C helps with maintenance and protection of healthy bones. Their beta-carotene protects cells from damage, their magnesium helps keeps blood pressure in check, their folic acid helps with proper brain development, their potassium helps maintain electrolyte balance, as well as a healthy cardiovascular system. Eating oranges has been shown to help reduce mucus, maintain dental health and balance LDL-HDL ratios.

6. Berries
In general, berries are potent antioxidants and are especially protective against esophageal and colon cancers. They tend to be high in vitamin C, and can also contribute calcium, magnesium, folate and potassium. Not only do they taste great, but the pretty colors of berries also contribute to their Super Food status. Berries contain phytochemicals and flavonoids that have been shown to be protective against some forms of cancer. Cranberries and blueberries in particular are helpful in preventing bladder infections. Blueberries and raspberries also contain lutein, which is important for healthy vision.
Common varieties: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, and red and purple grapes.

7. Oats
Oatmeal and oat bran are chock full of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, and provide countless health benefits. Oats have a positive impact on lowering bad cholesterol, balancing blood sugar by avoiding glucose spikes, reducing risk of breast cancer, lowering blood pressure, regulating bowel function, and improving athletic performance and overall health and longevity. It is the unique balance of soluble and insoluble fiber found in oats, along with a balance of carbohydrates and proteins, vitamins and minerals, that make oats a near-perfect food.
Healthful Hint: Combine your super foods! A hearty breakfast of oatmeal topped with cinnamon, walnuts and berries is a sure fire way to boost your antioxidants and start your day with amazing energy and nutritional support.

8. Tomatoes
Tomatoes are an amazing source of antioxidants, and boast a vital cancer-fighting phytonutrient called lycopene. It’s lycopene that gives tomatoes their red color, and it is this phytonutrient that has contributed to tomatoes’ amazing anti-carcinogen properties. Research indicates that the evidence for benefit is strongest for prostate, lung and stomach cancers. Cooking tomatoes breaks down cell walls, releasing and concentrating the lycopene. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins E and B6, thiamin, niacin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, K, potassium and manganese.
Healthful Hint: Eating tomatoes with a small amount of fat enables lycopene to be better absorbed by the body. Try pairing tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese and drizzling with balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper and sea salt. Delicious and nutritious!

9. Green Tea
While not technically a food, green tea still makes the Top 25 because of its amazing antioxidant and overall health-promoting capacity! The properties within green tea stop cancerous cells in every stage of development, and protect DNA by speeding carcinogen removing, making it a brutal cancer-fighter. It also promotes proper liver function and detoxification, lowers cholesterol, burns fat, prevents diabetes and stroke, and staves off dementia. The unique antioxidants in green tea, called catechins, are so concentrated because of green tea’s minimal processing, and attack dreaded free radicals.
Healthful Hint: Avoid drinking decaf green tea or adding milk to it—it’s best and most effective in its original form!

Fun Fact: The Japanese culture consumes a ton of green tea—10 cups a day, on average!

10. Turmeric
This amazing Indian spice’s original use as a dye got trumped when people realized what healing capacities it held. It has been documented as preventing and/or stopping the growth or spread of many different types of cancer, including prostate cancer, metastatic carcinoma, melanoma, leukemia, pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma. It is a natural anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, liver detoxifier and painkiller. It may decrease the progression of Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis, may aid in fat metabolism and weigh management, and is used in Chinese medicine to help with depression. It’s a wonder spice!

Healthful Hint: Not sure how to use turmeric in cooking? Aside from being a key component in Indian dishes, you can easily spice up your egg salad or steamed cauliflower with turmeric. See our recipe guide for more ideas!

Dangers of the hCG Diet!!!

Last Sunday I was sitting at a restaurant, having brunch, with one of best friends when I look over to see a young woman reading a nutrition book.  I ended up sparking a conversation since I love talking about nutrition.  As we continued to talk I noticed that she was shaking a bit, but didn’t pay much mind, until she told me she was on the hCG diet.  I quickly realized that the young woman was shaking due to the fact that she has only consumed 500 calories per day for the last three weeks.  I was blown away, and very sad for her, however; she was as happy as anyone could be since she had already lost 20 lbs.  I briefly told her about the dangers of eating so few calories and pointed out her shaking.   I also tried to  recommend whole food nutrition and my book, hoping it would help her in the long run.

Over the last month, or so I have been hearing about this new diet everywhere I go.  Thousands of people are latching onto the hCG diet craze that promises rapid weight loss—up to 30 pounds a month—and, judging by its recent surge in popularity, it must be delivering. But the so-called hCG diet is either a weight-loss miracle or a dangerous fraud, depending on who’s talking. The plan combines drops or injections of hCG, a pregnancy hormone, with only 500 calories a day. While some uneducated believers are  convinced of its power they’ll willingly stick themselves with a syringe, the government and mainstream medical community say it’s a scam that carries too many health risks and doesn’t lead to long-term weight loss.

Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School says “It’s reckless, irresponsible, and completely irrational.” Can you lose weight on this diet? Of course, but that’s mainly because you’re only consuming 500 calories a day. And any benefit from the diet is not going to last. The only lasting effects from this diet will be health issues and malnutrition.

HCG is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat infertility in both men and women. But its weight-loss roots trace back to the 1950s, when British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons realized that giving obese patients small, regular doses of the hormone helped them lose stubborn clumps of fat. It only worked, however, when coupled with a near-starvation diet. Simeons began touting hCG as a potent appetite suppressant that would make anything more than 500 daily calories unbearable. And he claimed the hormone could blast fat in key trouble spots like the upper arms, stomach, thighs, and buttocks, while preserving muscle. Today, Simeons’s diet is much the same; dieters supplement an extremely low-calorie meal plan with daily injections prescribed off-label by medical professionals, or take diluted, homeopathic hCG— typically in drop form—sold online, in drugstores, and at nutritional supplement stores.

Exactly why the hCG diet is experiencing a revival now is unclear, but the hype has sparked a response from the FDA. In January 2011, the agency warned that homeopathic hCG is fraudulent and illegal when sold for weight-loss purposes. Though the FDA said such products aren’t necessarily dangerous, their sale is deceptive, since there’s no good evidence they’re effective for weight loss. Currently, all hCG products, including injections prescribed by a doctor, must carry a warning stating there’s no proof they accelerate weight loss, redistribute fat, or numb the hunger and discomfort typical of a low-calorie diet.

Detractors say the hormone isn’t some miracle ingredient to weight loss—the restrictive diet is. “If you don’t eat, you lose weight,” Cohen says. “If hCG truly diminished hunger, it would be a wonderful drug. But if that were the case, why couldn’t you just modestly reduce your intake while using it? Why would you have to simultaneously starve yourself?” But believers insist that, thanks to hCG, they can stick to a low-calorie diet without hunger pangs, while losing unwanted fat. They’re adamant that hCG is essential to the diet’s success. “People are strongly convinced that this hormone will keep them on a 500-calorie diet. And the power of suggestion can be a very strong force,” says Cohen.

Of course, taking hCG at any dose isn’t without risks. The hormone is known to cause headaches, blood clots, leg cramps, temporary hair thinning, constipation, and breast tenderness amongst other side affects including metabolic dysfunction and slow cognitive brain function. The FDA has received at least one recent report of an HCG dieter developing a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal blood clot in the lung, says agency spokesperson Shelly Burgess. Yet, the hormone’s full risk profile is still unknown. “HCG was studied briefly [for weight loss] and found to be ineffective, so we have no idea what its potential risks are,” Cohen says. “Do I have data that it causes heart attacks, stroke, or cancer? No, I don’t, because we just don’t know at this point.”

There’s no question that 500 calories a day is tantamount to malnutrition—dieters should never dip below 1,200 calories due to body’s caloric necessity, especially the brain.  Moreover, extremely low-calorie diets can cause severe bone and muscle loss, electrolyte imbalances, gallstones, and even death. “I’ve heard a lot of people say the side effects of this diet are overwhelming,” says registered dietitian Keri Gans, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “And they could start as soon as one day in—you’ll start feeling irritated and tired.”

Everyone should be warned that the hCG diet regimen is nothing more than a crash diet—and an expensive one at that.  In the end there is no magic bullet to solving weight loss.  Unfortunately for this diet, the side effects can be devastating.  The body can’t function on 500 calories, no matter what hormones you pump into it.  I hope that this article sheds some light to the women out there who are looking for a quick fix.  Please don’t buy into to this harmful, weight loss scam.

I always recommend a healthy “eating” diet of at least 1,500 calories per/day depending the person’s lifestyle and health goals.  Healthy eating should consists of fresh, whole foods; fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.  I also recommend living an active lifestyle, to maintain a healthy weight.  These are simple things we should be doing every day to live a vital and healthy life.