Eat. More. Berries!

Out of all the possible types of food, berries are probably one of the healthiest and most widespread on planet earth.  If I had to choose only three varieties of foods to eat, berries would be one of them.  They are loaded with powerful phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and great TASTE!  Various varieties of berries can be found on almost every continent, from pole to pole, and they grow well without any tending; I think they are one of God’s greatest food gifts to us.  While fresh berries can be expensive, frozen berries are almost just as nutritious and more versatile.  Also, since berries grow wild in most places, they are one of the few foods that can still be gathered for free if you’re willing to invest a little bit of labor (also a great opportunity to get outdoors for fresh air and sunshine).  Read below for some of the nutrients found in berries and their amazing benefits:

Flavonols:  Flavonols are a class of flavanoids, which are pigments that help plants perform secondary functions like filtering UV rays, attracting pollinators, and protecting against diseases.  A few of the most plentiful flavonols in berries are kaempferol, quercetin and myricetin.  In humans, these flavonols have been found to have significant health benefits. Quercetin and kaempherol may help reduce the severity of mild allergies, improve cadiovascular health, have anti-inflammatory effects, and improve athletic endurance.  Myricetin has shown the potential to increase fertility, improve cholesterol ratios, and act as an anti-carcinogen.  

Ellagic Acid: Ellagic Acid is an organic compound and an anti-oxidant.  Preliminary studies have found that ellagic acid (found in high concentrations in the seeds of blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) has potential antiproliferative effects and cardiovascular benefits.
 
Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins are the red, blue, and purple pigments found in high concentrations in blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries, and acai berries.  Anthocyanins in berries may be particular effective against mouth, throat, and colon cancer.  There’s reason to believed that they might also help prevent Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases.
 
Vitamins and minerals: In addition to the numerous phytochemicals berries contain, they can also be a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, potassium, and manganese (they also contain small amounts of almost every other vitamin and mineral).

It’s important to remember that the organic compounds listed above aren’t always effective when isolated as supplements.  Whole foods, like berries, contain hundreds of nutrients that work synergistically to improve absorption and utilization of these important compounds.  

With all these health benefits in such a tasty, low calorie, high-fiber food, what are you waiting for?  Berries are delicious in cereal, in smoothies, in baked goods, and as a simple snack.  Look for them fresh, frozen, and freeze dried. 

Eat. More. Berries!

References:
Ellagic Acid’s Antiproliferative Effects
Quercetin and Allergies
Black Raspberries and Cancer

Originally posted 2013-01-07 21:38:00.

Is juicing healthy?

juicing-benefits

Until recently, fresh fruit or vegetable juice has had an untarnished reputation. After all, what could be unhealthy about drinking down all the nutrients contained in the healthiest foods known to man? But that’s just it, when we drink juice, we aren’t really getting all the nutrients those fruits and vegetables have to offer. And that’s where the opponents of juicing come in — juicing skeptics claim that since we’re missing a few of the nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables, juicing isn’t a healthy option. So what’s the verdict? Should we completely give up fresh juice just because it doesn’t contain all the components contained in whole fruits and vegetables? Here’s how we weigh in:

Some juices aren’t as healthy as others: Opponents of juicing makes some good points, fruit and vegetables juices are missing a lot of fiber, and they can also be high in sugary calories. Fiber is a crucial part of the diet — it provides roughage to ensure proper digestion and stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria. The fiber contained in fruits and vegetables also acts as an anecdote to the high amount of sugar found in many fruits. Fiber actually prevents the absorption of fructose, while effectively carrying it out of the digestive tract. 

But here’s the thing, not all juices contain a ton of sugar, and just because you’re not getting all the fiber doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting a ton of other important nutrients.  It is, however, probably a good idea to avoid juicing fruits that are high in fructose, like oranges and apples. While these juices can still provide some wonderful nutrients, they supply a high amount of fructose. Too much fructose in one serving can cause fructose malabsorption and the growth of harmful bacteria. If you’re watching your body fat, fruit juices can also pack a significant amount of sugary, fat-depositing calories. 

Fruit and vegetable juices demonstrate a number of researched health benefits: The research backing up the health benefits provided by fruit and vegetable juices (especially vegetables juices) is impressive. Juicing provides a convenient way to consume an immense amount of vitamin, minerals, and phytonutrients. These nutrients are responsible for giving beet juice its cardiovascular, endurance, and anti-cancer benefits, carrot juice its anti-colon cancer and eye-health promoting properties, and leafy green juices their ability to improve sugar metabolism.  

We prefer to view vegetable and fruit juice as a supplement to a healthy diet: Since vegetable and fruits juices provide so many amazing nutrients and health benefits, it makes sense to include them in your diet. Imagine if you ate a healthy whole food diet, with plenty of fiber, plus you supplemented your daily diet with a glass of freshly juiced greens and carrot juice. You’d be giving your body a great big hug, providing it with the nutrients that can actually help optimize your DNA! Most of us are short on some vitamin and minerals — juicing is an easy way to boost nutrient and anti-oxidant intake with the complex forms found in nature.

Make juices healthier by using them with healthy fats or in smoothies: Some of the most important vitamins vegetables contain are various forms of fat-soluble carotenoids. Since juice doesn’t have any fat in it, your body won’t be able to absorb the fat soluble vitamins very well unless you eat a little fat at the same time. When you juice vegetables, be sure to drink the juice with a meal or eat a little healthy fat, like a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil or a few capsules of fish oil, at the same time. Also, since you’re missing out on most of the fiber, try adding your vegetable juice to a smoothie that contains a cup or two of whole fruits and vegetables like frozen berries, whole spinach, or romaine lettuce.  

A few other considerations when juicing: Some of the best fruits and vegetables for juicing also tend to be the ones that contain the highest amounts of pesticides. Be sure to only use leafy greens that are certified organic, and wash all root vegetables or fruits that have edible skins thoroughly before juicing. Finally, in order to prevent fructose malabsorption, limit the amount of fruits you juice, and try to emphasize leafy greens and other vegetables.

References: “Effects of carrot and tomato juice consumption on colon carcinogenesis in humans,” Journal of Nutrition; “Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults,” Journal of Nutrition; “The effect of lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods v. supplements on macular pigment levels,” Journal of Nutrition; “Mitigation of starch and glucose-induced postprandial glycemic excursion in rats by antioxidant-rich green-leafy vegetables’ juice,” Pharmacognosy Magazine.

Originally posted 2013-10-28 15:14:40.

Dark Chocolate, the Decadent Treat that can Make You Smarter

dark-chocolate-smarter-brain

If you’re like me, the mere mention of dark chocolate is enough to make your mouth water. With a sweet, smooth flavor that pairs well with virtually any desert dish, chocolate may just rein supreme in the world of treats. Milk chocolate certainly has its merit, but its purity (and positive health impact!) is greatly diluted by the sugar, cream and milk solids commonly added to the chocolate to give it a milder, sweeter flavor. If you want to partake of a purer cocoa with a serious kick of good health and smarts, along with some extra decadence, opt for the richer choice of dark chocolate. You’ve likely heard that dark chocolate is good for your heart. What you may not know is that this delicious treat is also good for your brain.

Dark chocolate’s health benefits comes mostly from its main ingredient: the cocoa bean. This amazing bean is packed with antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can harm cells and have a serious negative impact on your health. Cocoa beans are rich in a particular type of antioxidant known as flavonoids. Flavonoids help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and have been linked to greater vascular health and less overall risk of cardiovascular disease. So flavonoids positively impact your heart health. A recent study suggests that flavonoids also have a positive impact on your brain.            

The study on dark chocolate was conducted by the University of Nottingham. Patients consumed a chocolate drink containing the same flavanols found in dark chocolate.  The results? Patients experienced increased blood flow to certain areas of the brain for up to three hours. More blood to the brain means more oxygen to the brain, which heightens cognitive ability.  The study also went on to suggest that these dark chocolate flavanols may improve cognitive function in those with sleep deprivation and fatigue, and they flavanols may enhance brain function in adults over 50 as well.

Dark chocolate has earned its place among the ranks of superfoods for its myriad of health benefits. Indulge in about an ounce daily for a boost of good health and a sweet, satisfying treat. Bear in mind that the higher the cocoa content in your chocolate, the darker the chocolate, and the more flavonoids you can benefit from. Check the ingredients on your dark chocolate product for a high cacao content (at least 60%) with no unneeded-and unhealthy-fillers like hydrogenated oils, to ensure you are getting the most health benefit. The satisfaction of treating yourself to dark chocolate has never been sweeter, for your taste buds, your heart health and your brain power.

References: http://www.medsci.org/press/cocoa.htmlhttp://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.htm

Originally posted 2013-10-28 13:02:38.

Eat These Vegetables As Soon As Possible

greens 03Real, living food is perishable.  We’ve learned to sacrifice nutrition for convenience, but this has been a major mistake for our health.  

All vegetables should be consumed as soon as possible, as they all start to lose their nutrients and antioxidants as soon as they’re harvested, but some vegetables are more perishable than others.  The most sensitive vegetables also happen to be among the world’s healthiest vegetables. The reason for the nutrient loss is that harvested plants use their stored nutrients to fight off starvation and oxidation. Unfortunately, the nutrients they use to survive are the same nutrients that provide incredible health benefits for humans.  With this in mind, consider posting the list below on your fridge as a reminder to eat up your recent purchases.

Vegetables to Eat Right Away:

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage (when cut)
  • Mushrooms: Crimini, shitake, white button, etc.
  • Leafy greens: spinach, lettuce, arugula, chard, beet tops
  • Herbs: parsley, basil, cilantro
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Green beans

Additional Tips to Maximize Your Vegetables’ Nutritional Value:

  • Many store-bought vegetables have already been cut off from their life-source for 2-4 days before being purchased (due to transportation and sitting on the shelf). Purchase fresher vegetables by shopping at a locals farmers market, growing your own vegetables, or asking your grocer what vegetables came in on the most recent shipment.
  • Most vegetables loose their nutrients when cooked.  Eat your vegetables as raw as possible or lightly steamed.  Microwaving is OK as long as you don’t overcook them and use a microwaving steaming method.  
  • If you’ve chopped your vegetables up, be sure to store them in a airtight container and consume as quickly as possible. Exposing cut vegetables to air for prolonged periods increased their oxidation. 
  • Chopping leafy greens immediately before consuming, however, does make more nutrients available for absorption.  Cut your lettuce, cabbage, or dark greens into small strips 10 minutes before eating to maximize nutrient release.

References: Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables, Eating on the Wild Side NPR Interview

Originally posted 2013-08-19 09:00:46.