Tag Archive: antioxidants
What is a superfood?
Though there is no legal or medical definition, superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Eating them may reduce the risk of chronic disease, and prolong life, and people who eat more of them are healthier and thinner than those who don’t.
Eat By Color
By Melissa Roberts
Eat bright colored foods
If you’re looking for an easy way to optimize your diet, go for color. Fruits and veggies of all shades contain phytonutrients—plant compounds that work together to protect your health.
“These phytonutrients include antioxidants like carotenoids and anthocyanins that give produce its color and may play a role in preventing age-related diseases like cancer and heart disease,” explains Elizabeth J. Johnson, PhD, associate professor at Tufts University.
Do your best to discover what eating more green, orange, and red can do for you, and recipes that make the most of these brilliant bites.
The Truth About the Health Benefits of Tea
Does it really fight cancer?
The way scientific studies and health gurus alike have touted the perks of tea over the past few years, you’d think the stuff was some kind of all-powerful magical elixir. Improving heart health, reducing cancer risk, warding off dementia and diabetes—there’s barely a health benefit that hasn’t been credited to tea. It’s true that the brew has disease-fighting antioxidants, and, as far as anyone can tell, should be great for us. “The science is certainly promising,” says David L. Katz, MD, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “But the hype goes beyond it and tends to make promises which the science can’t yet deliver.” (No, tea probably will not cure depression, eliminate allergies, or boost your fertility!) We talked to the experts and weighed the studies to separate the truth from the hype.
Why tea is so hot
First, a definition: When scientists talk about tea, they mean black, green, white, or oolong teas—all of which are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal brews, like chamomile and peppermint, are not technically considered tea; they’re infusions of other plants with different nutritional characteristics. If you’re not sure what kind you’re drinking, check the ingredients for the word “tea.”
What makes the four tea types different from each other is the way the leaves are prepared and how mature they are, which affects both flavor and nutritional content. Black tea is made from leaves that have been wilted (dried out) and then fully oxidized (meaning that chemicals in the leaves are modified through exposure to air). Green tea’s leaves are wilted but not oxidized. Oolong tea is wilted and then only partially oxidized, and white tea is not wilted or oxidized at all.
All four types are high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that seems to protect cells from the DNA damage that can cause cancer and other diseases. It’s the polyphenols that have made tea the star of so many studies, as researchers try to figure out whether all that chemical potential translates into real disease-fighting punch. Most research has focused on black tea, which is what about 75% of the world drinks, and green tea, the most commonly consumed variety in China and Japan. Green tea contains an especially high amount of antioxidants—in particular, a type of polyphenol called a catechin, the most active and abundant of which is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). That’s why there are five times more studies on green than black tea each year—and likely why you’re always hearing about the power of the green stuff, says Diane L. McKay, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Boiling down the hype
The most promising claims about tea drinking include these perks:
• Cancer prevention:
A 2009 review of 51 green tea studies found that sipping three to five cups a day may lower the risks of ovarian, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers, but not breast or other cancers, says lead author Katja Boehm, research fellow at the Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany. As for black tea, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) deems it “possibly effective” for reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, and “possibly ineffective” for lowering the risk of stomach and colorectal cancers.
• Brain benefits:
Downing from one to four cups of black or green tea a day has been linked with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to the NIH.
• Heart help:
“Drinking tea may be helpful in preventing or delaying certain risk factors of cardiovascular disease, and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides,” says McKay. One Japanese study found that adults who drank five or more cups of green tea per day had a 26% reduction in death from heart attack or stroke compared with those who had one cup or less; the effect was greater in women than in men.
More research needs to be done on other potential benefits. One small study suggested that the catechins and caffeine in green tea may give dieters a small metabolic boost that could amount to burning a few dozen extra calories per day. There’s also a slim file on how drinking tea may help ward off osteoporosis and reduce the incidence of cavities, due to the fluoride it contains. And EGCG, that green-tea antioxidant, has been found to increase the number of important immune-boosting cells (called regulatory T-cells)—but only in one animal study.
All this sounds pretty compelling. So why aren’t major health organizations advising us to drink tea like crazy? It’s a matter of needing more hard-core evidence. “There are pearls of real promise here, but they have yet to be strung,” Dr. Katz says. “We don’t have clinical trials in human patients showing that adding tea to one’s routine changes health outcomes for the better.” The vast majority of the research conducted has been observational, meaning scientists can’t know if the medical boosts seen in tea drinkers are definitely a result of that habit, or some other factor that makes these people healthier. And many of the studies that have looked at specific compounds in tea have been conducted in labs or on animals, not on people. “These chemicals act as antioxidants in a test tube, but they may not do the same in your body,” explains Emily Ho, PhD, associate professor in the department of nutrition and exercise science at the School of Biological and Population Health Sciences at Oregon State University. “You have to take the claims with a grain of salt.”
That said, experts agree that a daily cuppa, or five, won’t hurt you, and may well help fight disease. (If you’re trying to limit your caffeine intake, go for decaf—it has antioxidants too, though fewer than the caffeinated kind.) “Tea is probably better than a lot of other beverages,” says Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at UT South-western Medical Center and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Just make sure you’ve got other healthy lifestyle habits—you can’t count on tea alone to prevent cancer.”
Credit: Getty Images
Why it’s super:
Not only does flaxseed lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack, but it is also a rich source of lignan, a powerful antioxidant that may be a powerful ally against disease and certain cancers, especially breast cancer. Just 2 tablespoons of ground seeds (which are digested more efficiently than whole seeds) contain about 20% of the recommended daily fiber* intake and more than 100% of the recommended intake for inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids.
How to enjoy it:
Add ground flaxseed to baked goods for a nutty flavor or sprinkle it on top of your favorite cereal. It’s also delicious when blended with yogurt and fresh fruit for a tasty smoothie.
|Credit: Getty Images|
Why they’re super:
Beets are loaded with antioxidants and have been found to protect against cancer, heart disease, and inflammation. Naturally sweet and full of fiber and vitamin C, beets make a delicious and nutrient-packed addition to any meal.
How to enjoy them:
Try finely grated raw beets in your salads or roast them along with sweet potatoes and parsnips for a colorful and flavorful side-dish—just keep in mind that certain cooking methods (like boiling) may decrease their nutritional value. And don’t forget about the leafy green tops, which are rich in iron and folate, and can be prepared much like their cousins, Swiss chard and spinach.
The beneficial properties of this medicinal plant go more than skin deep
If you’ve ever squeezed the gel from an aloe vera leaf onto a burn, you’ve experienced the topical benefits of this common plant. Aloe’s healing properties extend to internal ailments as well. Aloe juice, derived from the fleshy pulp inside aloe vera leaves, may aid people with digestive disorders and type 2 diabetes, and may help boost the immune system. Aloe contains small amounts of digestive enzymes, such as amylase and lipase; antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, catalase, and superoxide dismutase; B vitamins; chromium; magnesium; and all eight essential amino acids. One other thing to know: aloe seems to increase the absorption of what you consume with it, whether nutrients or medications.
Choose It & Use It
If you are put off by the sour, slightly unripe flavor of aloe juice, add a splash of fruit juice, and stir in a squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of agave or honey the way they do in China.
2013 New Food Resolutions
Top nutrition experts offer a healthy resolution a day to keep the doctor (and unwanted pounds) away
This new year, how would you like to inspire someone—maybe a friend, a family member, or even a stranger—to eat more healthfully? You have the power to do just that, and it can start with the next bite you take. “Everything you put in your mouth matters,” says Joel Fuhrman, MD, a board-certified family physician and host of his own health show on PBS. “It matters for your health today, tomorrow, and 10 years from now, and it matters for the health of people around you.”
That sounds like an awesome opportunity, but where should you start? “Lean into change,” says Kathy Freston, New York Times bestselling author of The Lean. “You don’t have to be drastic or strict or give up all of your favorite things. Just take steps away from the choices that make you feel heavy and sluggish and move toward the choices that make you feel better.” Freston’s approach means “crowding out” the not-so-healthful fare with all of the good-for-you foods you choose instead.
Read on to get 10 cutting-edge food resolutions from Fuhrman, Freston, and other top nutrition experts across the country.
1. BE A QUALITARIAN
“The best change you can make in the New Year is to become a qualitarian,” says Ashley Koff, RD, founder of the ashleykoffapproved.com (AKA) Stamp of Quality Nutrition. “That means making the better-quality choice—note, I never say best quality—for everything you put in your body.” Aspiring to eat perfectly all the time isn’t practical, but in most situations there’s a better choice, she says: “For example, if you’re at a convenience store grabbing something on the go, that could mean buying water, unsalted nuts, and a piece of fruit. If the fruit isn’t organic, aim for organic next time.”
2. EAT G-BOMBS
Fuhrman coined the acronym G-BOMBS to help people remember to eat greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds every day. “Each of these foods has fascinating new research documenting its health-promoting effects, including immune system, anticancer, and antiaging benefits,” he says. These foods can also help keep your weight in check. Here’s why: Mushrooms, onions, greens, and berries help block the growth of blood vessels that fuel fat storage. Beans are high in resistant starch, a type of fiber that slows digestion and helps promote blood sugar stability and a sense of fullness. Seeds are rich with hunger-satisfying protein.
3. FLEX YOUR FLAX
“Aim to eat 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds every day, because they’re full of fiber to help fill you up and crowd out hunger,” Freston says. “Plus, these tiny seeds supply B vitamins, omega-3 fats, and are an especially rich source of lignans, a fiber that the good bacteria in your gut turn into powerful cancer-fighting compounds.” Freston likes adding ground flaxseeds to blended protein-packed smoothies, which she makes by combining coconut water, a plant-based protein powder (such as Vega Sport), a frozen banana, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Store ground flaxseeds in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity.
4. BYOB: BUILD YOUR OWN BROTH
Vegetable broth is a great swap for the oil typically used to sauté vegetables. To avoid the sodium and additives of prepackaged broth, Allyson Kramer, author of Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats, advises making your own. “Three keys to good vegetable broth are carrots, celery, and onions,” she says. “Beyond that, add whatever vegetables you have on hand.” To start, fill a large stock pot with the cleaned vegetables and water, leaving about 2 inches at the top. Cook mixture at medium to medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 3 hours, Kramer says. Use cheesecloth to strain out the solids. Cool, and freeze individual portions in ice cube trays.
5. SPICE IT UP!
Include herbs, spices, and alliums at least once each day, advises Gita Patel, MS, RD, author of Blending Science with Spices. “Not only do herbs and spices add flavor and aroma to recipes, but they’re also some of the most potent sources of antioxidants of any food,” Patel says. “Many spices help battle inflammation and regulate blood sugar and blood pressure.” She suggests stirring cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg into breakfast cereal. And add parsley, cilantro, or chives to a salad or sandwich. Garlic and onions, a natural in dinnertime dishes, support the body’s production of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and the body’s master detoxifier, Patel says.
6. COOK UNDER PRESSURE
Make whole-food vegetarian meals in no time flat with a pressure cooker. “Pressure-cooking cooks food in 50–70 percent less time than traditional stove-top cooking,” says Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, a cooking instructor and author of The New Fast Food. She notes that the new “spring valve” pressure cookers sold today are completely safe, and plenty of online videos show how easy they are to use. “The pressure cooker is magical for dried beans,” she says. “If presoaked, you can cook black beans in 6 minutes at pressure, which means 20 minutes or less from start to finish.”
7. FIGHT FAT WITH ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS
“Eating pro-inflammatory foods can cause inflammation that triggers fat storage, including around the belly,” says Brenda Davis, RD, coauthor of several books on vegetarian and vegan eating. “In turn, being overweight or obese triggers inflammation because overfilled fat cells release hormones that promote inflammation, so it’s a vicious cycle.” She lists pro-inflammatory foods to limit, including processed foods, high-sugar foods, dairy products, and any food you’re sensitive to, such as gluten. On the flip side, foods that fight inflammation include whole foods rich in antioxidants, including most vegetables, fruits, and spices such as turmeric, as well as foods that supply omega-3 fats, such as nuts and seeds.
8. KEEP METABOLISM ON TRACK WITH IODINE
“Metabolism depends on many factors, including production of thyroid hormones, which requires getting enough iodine in your diet,” Davis says. In a recent study of vegans and vegetarians in the Boston area, average iodine intakes of vegans (but not vegetarians) fell short. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need the most iodine. Top vegetarian sources of iodine include iodized salt, dairy products, and eggs. Sea vegetables, such as kelp, and liquid iodine drops can help vegetarians and vegans meet their iodine needs, Davis says.
9. BEAT BEAN BOREDOM
“Protein-rich beans make flavorful, satisfying meals when you mix and match them with sauces, vegetables, and/or whole grains,” says Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, author and nutrition adviser for The Vegetarian Resource Group. Quick-and-tasty ideas she recommends: Make a chilled bean salad with black beans, sliced scallions, chopped bell peppers, corn, and a light salad dressing; serve over lettuce, if desired. Or stir some marinara sauce into your favorite beans, and serve over whole-grain pasta. For an Asian twist, mix adzuki beans with a sesame-ginger salad dressing or hoisin sauce, and serve over rice. Barbecue sauce adds a Southern flair when mixed into pinto beans or black-eyed peas.
10. GO FOR FERMENTED FOODS
Yogurt and kefir are common sources of probiotics, which support digestive health and your immune system. But you can find probiotics in fermented foods beyond the dairy case, including in jarred sauerkraut and kimchi, Patel says. Kimchi, which originated in Korea, is typically made of fermented, seasoned cabbage, and has a tangy flavor similar to sauerkraut. Look for vegetarian kimchi in your supermarket’s refrigerated produce section or at Asian grocery stores. “Use kimchi as a condiment on sandwiches, a flavoring for rice, or an easy stir-in with a can of white beans served hot or chilled,” Patel suggests.
Dark Chocolate Affirmed as Brain-Booster
Official French evidence review concludes that dark, antioxidant-rich chocolate or cocoa can protect or improve brain function and mood
by Craig Weatherby
The uncommon “antioxidants”
in raw cocoa and dark chocolate
There’s ample evidence that diets rich in berries or other foods rich in polyphenols help deter the oxidative cell damage and inflammation caused by free radicals.
It’s becoming clear that polyphenols generally do not exert direct antioxidant effects in the body… at least not to a very substantial extent.
Instead, polyphenols appear to reduce oxidation and inflammation via so-called “nutrigenomic” effects on gene switches (e.g. transcription factors) in our cells.
Polyphenols’ nutrigenomic effects tend to moderate inflammation and stimulate the body’s own antioxidant network … which includes enzymes, lipoic acid, CoQ10, melatonin, and vitamins C and E.
In terms of their amounts of polyphenols per ounce, the richest food sources of polyphenols include raw (non-alkalized / non-“Dutched”) cocoa, spices, herbs, berries, plums, prunes, tea, coffee, extra virgin olive oil, onions, beans, and whole grains.
The antioxidants in cocoa are called flavanols … a relatively rare group of polyphenols whose only members are the compounds called catechins and procyanidins.
Catechins only occur abundantly in raw cocoa, dark chocolate, and green or white tea – with much smaller concentrations in other plant foods – while procyanidins abound in berries.
As Dr. Nehlig put it, “… [cocoa] flavonoids preserve cognitive abilities during aging in rats, [and] lower the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and … stroke in humans.” (Nehlig A 2012)