Five Top ‘Super’ Foods
A vegetable rich diet can help protect us from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and even slow the aging process.
It is hard to pick the Top 5 super veggies because there are so many good vegetables.
Vegetables benefit all of our body’s cells and tissues by infusing them with highly bioavailable nutrients that work synergistically for good health. Some of those nutrients even help us adapt to stress, such as the B vitamins and folate, omega-3 fats, magnesium, potassium, and glutathione.
A recent study found that people who consume 7 or more portions of vegetables and fruit per day have a 42% lower risk of dying from all causes, compared to those who eat less than 1 portion, and vegetables have the greatest impact, hence, Super food.
Not all vegetables are nutritionally equal. So, bear in mind that consuming a variety of different raw fruits and vegetables is 1 of the best ways to maximize these super food’s nutritional benefit.
The sweet but acidic flavor of a tomato picked fresh from the garden makes for a super treat. But in addition to their vibrancy and flavor, tomatoes, especially organic tomatoes are packed with nutrition, including a variety of phytochemicals that boast a long list of health benefits.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C, as well as vitamins A, E, and the B vitamins, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. Some lesser-known phytonutrients in tomatoes include:
Flavonols: rutin, kaempferol, and quercetin
Flavonones: naringenin and chalconaringenin
Hydroxycinnamic acids: caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and coumaric acid
Glycosides: esculeoside A
Fatty acid derivatives: 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid
Tomatoes are also a particularly concentrated source of lycopene — a carotenoid antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and watermelon a pink or red color.
Lycopene’s antioxidant activity has long been suggested to be more powerful than other carotenoids such as beta-carotene, and research suggests it may significantly lower your risk for stroke and cancer.
It’s estimated that 85% of dietary lycopene in North Americans comes from tomato products such as tomato juice or tomato paste. In addition to lowering the risk for stroke, lycopene from tomatoes has also been deemed helpful in treating prostate cancer.
Fresh and raw is best.
Avocados are nutritional jewels rich sources of monounsaturated fat that the body can easily burn for energy. Because they are so rich in healthy fats, avocados help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods.
They also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folic acid.
A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a whole fresh avocado with either an orange-colored tomato sauce or raw carrots significantly enhanced your body’s absorption of the carotenoids and conversion of them into an active form of vitamin A.
The greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids is in the dark green flesh of the avocado, closest to the peel, so you’re best off peeling your avocado with your hands, like a banana.
Avocados have the following additional health benefits:
Reducing excess cholesterol
Combating cancer cells
Protecting your liver
Helping with weight management
Note: According to a recent study, if overweight, eating just 1/2 of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate and dampen excessive snacking, that is super on its own.
I eat one a day.
Berries contain concentrated amounts of the disease-fighting phytochemicals found to boost out immunity, prevent cancer, protect your heart, and prevent seasonal allergies. Berries are lower in sugar than many fruits, so they are less likely to destabilize your insulin levels.
Women who eat more than 3 servings of blueberries and strawberries per week have been found to enjoy a 32% lower risk of heart attack, due to the fruits’ high anthocyanin content. How is that for super?
Blueberries have several known health benefits.
They exert positive effects upon your lipid profile, reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes. And because of their bountiful antioxidants, blueberries are one of the best fruits to protect you from premature aging. Blueberries have also been shown to alleviate inflammatory intestinal conditions, such as ulcerative colitis.
2 recent studies reveal even more about how berries can protect us against illness, 1 study published in the June 2014 issue of Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy identified a compound in black raspberries that suppresses the growth of tumor cells. Another recent study found that strawberries contain a compound called fisetin that may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.
In spite of their mild favor and high water content at 95%, cucumbers contain a number of necessary vitamins and minerals, as well as exerting anti-inflammatory properties.
Chukes are rich in vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), fisetin, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, manganese, silica, and fiber, and can help the body eliminate toxins. Recent studies show that cucumbers also contain powerful lignans that bind with estrogen-related bacteria in the digestive tract to potentially reduce your risk of several cancers, including breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate.
Other phytonutrients in cucumbers called cucurbitacins, part of a larger group known as triterpenes strongly inhibit cancer cell development. Cucumbers’ anti-inflammatory properties make them useful when applied topically for skin irritations and puffiness, for conditions such as sunburn and puffy eyes. Traditionally, cucumbers have been used to treat headaches and water retention.
5. Greens, Greens, and More Greens
Consuming a variety of fresh organic greens is one of the absolute best things we can do for our bodies. Topping the list in terms of nutrient density are watercress, chard, beet greens, and spinach, but adding other leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, collards, dandelion leaves, mustard greens, and escarole will just add to overall nutrient infusion.
Greens like spinach and kale are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants including beta-carotene, vitamin C, and sulforaphane. Spinach provides folate, which research shows can dramatically improve your short-term memory.
Eating folate rich foods may also lower your risk for heart disease and cancer by slowing down wear and tear on your DNA.
Some leafy greens, including collards and spinach, contain vitamin K1, which is good for our veins and arteries. Beet greens are even more nutritious than beet roots, which should be eaten in moderation due to their high natural sugar content. Beet greens are even higher in iron than spinach and strengthen your immune system by stimulating your body’s production of antibodies and white blood cells, while protecting your brain and bones.
The cornacopia of harvest provides the opportunity for us to get more fresh fruits and vegetables into our diet, and perhaps try a few not tried before and fid out how supper they are. The more variety, especially local and seasonal the higher their nutritional quality will be and the more benefit.
So,the Top 5 vegetable super foods are tomatoes, avocados, berries, cucumbers, and leafy greens. Keep in mind that the goal is to consume the widest possible variety of fresh, organic vegetables and fruits to ensure the broadest complement of phytonutrients, which is the ultimate way to feed your body and take control of your health.
And, do not forget all of these super foods can be grown in your own organic home garden.