Superfood Series: Part 6

 

Blueberries can thank their high flavonoid/anthocyanin content which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects for helping them earn their superfood status.  Blueberries are also low in calories and high in nutrients and water content which make them a good snack choice. Here are 7 more reasons to love blueberries.     

*RDA= Recommended Daily Allowance

1 serving blueberries= 1 cup fresh blueberries

Digestion and Weight LossFiber aids in digestion and one serving of blueberries has 4g of fiber. That’s 14% of the DRA for fiber.  Fiber is not fully digested by the body, so it cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through.  Fiber also helps increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied), which can aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance plans.

Lower Blood Pressure.  Blueberries contain anthocyanins and flavonoids which may contribute to the prevention of high blood pressure.  Anthocyanins have a beneficial effect on blood flow and blood vessels.  One study found that compared to those who did not eat blueberries, those eating at least one serving per week reduced their risk of high blood pressure by 10%.

Metabolism Efficiency.  Back to the anthocyanins.  Some research studies have shown they can prevent growth of fat cells while at the same time, encouraging the release of a hormone that helps reduce inflammation and blood sugar, which can help reverse insulin resistance.  Fresh or frozen blueberries will provide you with the highest amount of anthocyanins per serving.

Lower LDL cholesterol.  Blueberries can help reduce the buildup of LDL (low-density, “bad”) cholesterol which consequently reduces risk for heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis.  Normally, dietary cholesterol is reabsorbed by the body as it is digested.  Blueberries impact the digestive process by reducing reabsorption of cholesterol into the body, therefore, aiding in removal of cholesterol via the digestive tract.

Reduced Breast Cancer.  The anthocyanins in blueberries have been shown to prevent or stop cancerous cell growth. The results of one study indicated that mice which were fed blueberry extract had tumors that were 70% smaller and less likely to migrate to other areas of the body than mice that were not given the extract.

Graceful Aging. Due to their flavonoid production, blueberries appear to reduce rates of cognitive decline in older adults.  One study found that participants who drank wild blueberry juice daily for 12 weeks experienced such benefits as improved learning, memory recall, reduced depressive symptoms, and lower glucose levels. This preliminary research supports the idea that blueberries can improve memory in older adults.

Versatility.  Blueberries are eaten fresh or frozen. Raw or baked into your favorite dessert. The frozen ones are great raw or thrown into a smoothie.  They can easily be kept at room temp, which makes them a great option for an on the go snack. Bonus: they are naturally very sweet, so they are a great healthier snack for people trying to reduce their sugar intake (in moderation, of course).

Sources:

http://reedir.arsnet.usda.gov/codesearchwebapp/(2m31cz45hr1lqdv2vl0xv055)/measures.aspx?id=63203010

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/93/2/338.long

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981005074625.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862148/?tool=pubmed

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20047325/  

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535616

Superfood Series: Part 5

6 Reason why Walnuts are Superfood All-stars:

  1.  Heart Health.  Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which help fight inflammation and preserve endothelial cell function that is associated with heart disease.  These heart healthy fats have a unique chemical structure that aides in unclogging arteries the same way drain cleaner unclogs your kitchen sink pipes.  Walnuts also contain a unique combination of fiber and unsaturated fats which can also help lower cholesterol (and reduce insulin resistance which often leads to diabetes). 
  2. Weight controlResearch indicates that diets containing walnuts are more supportive of weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.  Even though walnuts are relatively high in fat and calories for size, when eaten in moderation they can help suppress appetite in between meals and provide high amounts of satiety (the feeling of being satisfied or full).  This is because walnuts have a good amount of protein and fiber (1-.25 cup serving contains 5g protein and 3 g fiber), both of which contribute to the feeling of fullness.  There are many ways to include walnuts into your diet.  Try eating a handful or throw them into your cereal, oatmeal, or salad. 
  3. Brain Health.  Back to the Omega -3s, there is a link between Omega-3 consumption and the ability to fight depression and cognitive degeneration.  Research shows that people who ate walnuts as part of a Mediterranean style diet were associated with better memory and brain function.  A review of the literature postulates that antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline. 
  4. Slows Cancer Tumor Growth.  Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients found in walnuts are arguably the two most important factors that can have an effect on the development of cancer.  Antioxidants help prevent cancer by repairing damaged cells.  Research has revealed that walnuts have the ability to help prevent, fight, and slow growth of certain cancerous tumors (i.e. prostate, gastrointestinal, and breast cancer). 
  5. Sleep.  Walnuts have the ability to raise melatonin levels by a whopping three times.  Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain.  It plays a role in sleep regulation by controlling the sleep wake cycle, helping you to feel sleepy at night.  Bonus?  Melatonin in walnuts is in bio-available form, which means it is easier to absorb than other supplemental sources of melatonin. 
  6. Metabolism booster.  Thecombination of protein and essential fatty acids found in walnuts can help boost metabolism.Walnuts also contain16% of the daily recommend amount of magnesium-which is needed for protein synthesis.  Magnesium functions as an electrolyte, which means that it is used to communicate between nerves and muscles. When muscles have adequate magnesium, they are able to function properly and continue to support a healthy metabolism. To sum it up, walnuts can help your body to function and continue to grow stronger and build muscle as you exercise.

*For full health benefits, make sure to eat the raw version of walnuts and stay away from anything that is coated in sugar or salt like candied walnuts.

Sources: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99; http://www.naturalnews.com/040837_walnuts_healthy_nuts_brain_food.html; http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/nuts-and-health-how-walnuts-can-improve-your-memory; http://www.today.com/id/23547010/ns/today-today_health/t/ways-boost-your-metabolism/#.U_SzxMVdW0I; http://news.psu.edu/story/276393/2013/05/08/research/whole-walnuts-and-their-extracted-oil-can-reduce-cardiovascularhttps://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/walnuts-slow-prostate-cancer-growth; http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/9/1757S.full; http://theearthdiet.blogspot.com/2011/05/eating-for-blood-type-o.html  

Superfood Series: Part 4

Chia Seeds:  Small, but Mighty

What’s not to love about chia seeds? They are unprocessed, whole grain, and chock-full of nutrients.  Chia seeds are jam-packed with protein, fiber, and minerals. Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a look at their overall nutritional content. 

 

 

 

Healthy Weight.  Chia seeds are not the magic solution for weight loss that some companies would like you to believe, but their high fiber and protein content make them a viable addition to any healthy weight loss or maintenance plan. Thanks to their high fiber content, chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight.  Their gel like presence in your stomach will help you feel fuller, longer and reduce the chance of over-eating. Additionally, chia seeds contain high quality protein that consists of all 9 essential amino acids (amino acids that cannot be synthesized on their own and must be obtained through food) that will keep hunger at bay and energy levels consistent. 

Healthy Heart.  Chia seeds are a great source of heart healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).  They are a particularly good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. PUFAs can also help reduce bad cholesterol levels which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and possibly type II diabetes. 

Digestion.  Fiber aids in digestion and chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber.  At 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), they are 40% fiber by weight.  Fiber is not fully digested by the body, so it cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through.  Fiber also helps increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied), which can aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance plans. 

Strong bones.  Chia seeds are high in many critical bone nutrients and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These three minerals account for 98% of the body’s mineral content by weight.  Although, deficiencies in phosphorus and magnesium are rare in the typical American diet, calcium deficiency is more common.  As we age, calcium absorption and retention decreases in our bones.  Including chia seeds in your diet may help offset this natural loss in calcium. 

Antioxidants have been shown to help fight off everything from heart disease to cancer.  Some of the most abundant antioxidants in chia seeds (quercetin, kaempferol,  myricetin, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid) are associated with health benefits such as boosted energy, endurance, and fitness of the brain and muscles; protection against chronic disease such as lung cancer, asthma, and type II diabetes;  and inflammation prevention.      

Athletic performance.  Folklore says that Aztecs and Mayans carb-loaded with chia seeds before an athletic event, much in the same way we do with sport drinks before a sporting event. We’re thinking they were on to something.  In one study, researchers compared athletic performance of athletes who drank Gatorade to athletes who drank a mixture of half-Gatorade and half-chia seeds.  The results indicated no difference in performance between the two groups, suggesting that chia seeds may serve as a possible healthy alternative to highly processed, sugar-laden sport drinks. Furthermore, the high calcium and magnesium content in chia seeds makes them a good source of electrolytes which helps prevent hydration and restore electrolyte balance lost during heavy exercise.

Diabetes.  The unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber (10 out of 12 carbohydrates are from fiber) in chia seeds causes a slow and steady rise in blood sugar which is favorable for people with diabetes.  A few clinical studies have demonstrated this favorable effect.  The results of one study indicated that including 37 grams (about 2.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks reduced blood sugar levels.  Hint* Substituting chia seeds for bread crumbs and other high glycemic load foods can be a helpful place to start.    

Versatility.  There are many ways to eat chia seeds. In addition to their long shelf life (thanks to antioxidants), chia seeds are so versatile that you can add them to almost anything.  Eat them alone if you’re in a hurry or add them to water or milk to create a thick, gelatinous pudding.  Other people like to add them to salads, sandwiches, and soups.  Check out these other ideas if you’re curious

Resources: 

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442472548

http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds/

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3643

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518271/

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Minerals-Calcium-Phosphorus-and-Magnesium.aspx

http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/evidence/hrb-20059372

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21183832

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Polyunsaturated-Fats_UCM_301461_Article.jsp

http://www.chialive.com.au/Chia-Antioxidants.html

Superfood Series: Part 3

Spinach and Kale

We couldn’t decide which one to choose because they are both so comparably amazing!  These two are probably two of the biggest super food all-stars in the whole series!

Nutritionally, they are both rock stars.  Taste wise, they differ greatly.  Kale has a more distinctive taste that some people find bitter. The texture is also thicker and tougher than spinach. The denser texture is perfect for baking kale chips or making salads ahead of time. Kale salad won’t get soggy like most other greens when you add dressing. 

With a more subtle taste and a softer crunch, spinach is often the choice for fresh salads, steaming, and dressing sandwiches.  Spinach is a tried and true health food that has stood the test of time.  Kale is newer to the scene, but we think it’s here to stay.  Now, on to the facts.  

*RDA= Recommended Daily Allowance

  1. Vitamin A.  Both kale and spinach are a great source of this fat soluble vitamin (98.3 % RDA kale; 105% RDA spinach) which plays a role in the anti-inflammatory process.  One form, beta-carotene, functions as an antioxidant which helps protect cells from the damaging and sometimes cancer causing free radicals. Vitamin A also plays a crucial role in eye health, particularly the ability to see in low light. 
  2. Happy Brain.  We need vitamin C (71% RDA kale; 24% RDA spinach) to convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, the neurotransmitter that is related to depression.  Out of balance serotonin levels can affect mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior.
  3. Bone Strength. Vitamin K (1,180% RDA kale; 987% RDA spinach) plays a vital role in bone health.  The body uses vitamin K to regulate calcium.  Therefore, low levels of vitamin K have been linked to low levels of calcium in bones.  This condition can lead to osteoporosis and/or a buildup of calcium in the arteries, which can lead to coronary heart disease. 
  4. Digestion.  One serving of spinach or kale provides 1 gram and 3 grams of fiber, respectively. When you take into the consideration the caloric content of these superfoods (23 kcal and 49 kcal, respectively), that’s a lot of fiber for a few calories.  Insoluble fiber found in both spinach and kale aids in digestion because it is not fully digested by the body.  As it passes through the digestive tract it acts as a sort of scrub brush of the intestines, helping to push food through the system on its way out and therefore aiding with regular bowel movements.
  5. Weight Loss. Spinach and kale are both low in calories which can be helpful for those trying to lose weight.  One serving of spinach has only 23 calories, but 3 grams of protein.  One cup of kale has only 49 calories but 4 grams of protein. Their high fiber content will leave you feeling fuller, longer.  Don’t forget they are chock full of many other vitamins and minerals.  Whether in a salad or steamed, fresh or frozen, these two salad greens are a great component of any weight loss or maintenance plan.
  6. Diabetes. Kale and spinach both contain an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes. Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown decreases in peripheral neuropathy and/or autonomic neuropathy in people with diabetes. Not to mention their high fiber and protein content per serving means they cause a slow and steady rise in blood sugar which is ideal for people with diabetes.  
  7. Prenatal and Pregnancy.  Folate (49% RDA spinach; 24% RDA kale) helps prevent neural tube deficiencies such as incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord.  Their high vitamin A content also supports healthy embryonic growth such as development of the heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, and bones, and the circulatory, respiratory, and central nervous systems.  Vitamin A is particularly essential for women who are about to give birth, because it helps with postpartum tissue repair.
  8. Heart Disease.  Both kale and spinach contain omega-3 fatty acids which can help fight heart disease and chronic illness.  They are both also a moderate source of potassium which has been shown to help prevent heart disease and reduce blood pressure, especially as part of a diet rich in calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein.  One cup provides around 15% of the RDA for potassium for both kale and spinach; and as we’ve already learned, on a calorie-by-calorie basis, both kale and spinach are also a good source of fiber and protein. 

Sources:

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=106

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=63

http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/nutrition/vitamin-a/overview.html

http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/serotonin

http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/mar2008_Protecting-Bone-And-Arterial-Health-With-Vitamin-K2_01.htm

http://www.babycenter.com/0_vitamin-a-in-your-pregnancy-diet_675.bc

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270435.php

 

Superfood Series: Part 2


7 Reasons why non-fat Greek Yogurt is a superfood all-star: 

  1. Weight Control.  Non-fat Greek yogurt is a power house for lean protein.  One serving (1 cup) of plain non-fat Greek yogurt has 130 calories, 0g fat, 6g sugar (naturally occurring in all dairy), and a whopping 22g of protein. Nutritionally speaking, that is half the sugar and 2x the protein found in plain nonfat regular yogurt, which will help you feel fuller, longer. This is the Holy Grail for those who are looking for healthy snacks while on the path to weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. 
  2. Diabetes.  There are so many foods and snacks that are not ideal for those with insulin resistance or diabetes. Greek yogurt is certainly not one of them.  Greek yogurt is absorbed slowly into the blood stream, which allows for a slow and steady release of energy.  Greek yogurt undergoes a straining process which removes the liquid whey.  Subsequently, half of the sugar is also removed, but the protein remains intact.  It’s because of this process that Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt.   
  3. Digestion.  Greek yogurt is a great source of probiotics.  What’s so great about probiotics?  They are tiny little microorganisms that help improve digestion and protect your gut from harmful bacteria.  Research has shown that probiotics can help treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, and other gastrointestinal disorders.  They can also help promote regular bowel movements.
  4. Blood Pressure.  In one of the largest studies of its kind, research by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) indicated that foods rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and protein (i.e. Greek Yogurt) can help reduce elevated blood pressure.  Bonus:  Greek yogurt has about half the amount of sodium of regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is a clear choice for those with high blood pressure. 
  5. Lactose Intolerant.  Contrary to popular belief, it not only acceptable, but health experts recommend that people with mild lactose intolerance include small amounts of dairy in their diet. The key is to choose dairy with low amounts of lactose.  Cue the Greek yogurt.  Part of the straining process that transforms regular yogurt into Greek yogurt subsequently removes about 95% of the lactose.  This is why lactose intolerant people can often digest Greek yogurt comfortably. 
  6. Athletes. The same high protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium content that contributes to Greek yogurt’s ability to lower blood pressure, also makes it a great choice for athletes.  All the protein and electrolytes present in Greek yogurt can help athletes replenish stores that may have been lost during intense exercise. Not to mention the calcium in Greek yogurt helps keep bones strong and less prone to injury.
  7. Versatility.  One of the best things about Greek yogurt is that in addition to being eaten alone, it can be substituted for just about anything!  It can be blended in with smoothies or mixed with fruit and frozen to make a healthier ice cream.  Greek yogurt doesn’t curdle at a high temperature so it can also be used in place of sour cream, mayo, vegetable oil and cream cheese in dessert recipes and casseroles. 

Please note*When we say Greek yogurt we are referring to the plain, non-fat variety.