When patients ask me what they should eat, I remind them that there is no single food or food group that works like a magic bullet for health. Rather, eating a wide variety of foods, including ample fruits and vegetables, is the savvy way to practice smart nutrition. That being said, new research shows us that certain foods stand above the rest as sources of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.
Most people are aware of the usual suspects when it comes to making healthy choices. We all know you can’t go wrong with broccoli, spinach and oranges. Yet many of the world’s healthiest foods go overlooked. I have evaluated the latest research to create an updated list of superfoods that should be on your nutritional radar.
1) Cabbage – A Stanford University study showed this low-calorie vegetable helps increase the production of cancer-fighting enzymes in your body thanks to a chemical called sulforaphane. Eat cabbage on sandwiches in place of lettuce for a satisfying crunch or make a tangy coleslaw using cider vinegar and yogurt instead of mayo.
2) Guava – This tropical fruit contains more lycopene, the antioxidant that fights prostate cancer, than either tomatoes or watermelon. It is also loaded with fiber and potassium. The best way to eat guava is fresh—you can even eat the seeds and rind.
3) Beets – Naturally sweet, this often-overlooked vegetable is high in folate and betaine, which reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering homocysteine levels in the blood. You’ll gain the greatest benefit by eating this colorful veggie raw. Just peel the skin and grate into salads, pasta and grain dishes. The leaves are edible too—saute them like spinach.
4) Cinnamon – Long used for savory cooking in Middle Eastern cultures, this spice has been proven to lower blood sugar, triglycerides and bad (LDL) cholesterol. Just a quarter teaspoon each day sprinkled over coffee or cereal is beneficial.
5) Swiss Chard – A Harvard study showed this leafy green protects eye health with abundant levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. These chemicals absorb shortwave light that would otherwise damage the retina. Saute a bunch of the mild leaves with garlic in extra virgin olive oil and serve alongside chicken or fish.
6) Purslane – Common in Chinese, Mexican and Greek cooking, this green boasts more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than any other plant. Plus, it contains high levels of the cancer-fighting antioxidant melatonin. Find the crisp, lemony leaves at farmers’ and ethnic markets and add them to salads.
7) Goji Berries – Used for centuries as a medicinal food in Tibet, these sweet berries have more antioxidant power than most foods on the planet. Studies have shown that they also lower insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes. Eat these tasty berries as is or add them to cereal or yogurt.
8 ) Pomegranate Juice – Loaded with vitamin C, a small glass of this sweet-tart juice each day may decrease your systolic blood pressure by 21 percent over the course of a year. The Pom Wonderful brand uses pure pomegranate juice and contains no added sugar.
9) Pumpkin Seeds – Just one ounce of roasted seeds provide 150 mg of magnesium. Reaching the daily requirement of 420 mg of this vital nutrient has been shown to reduce the risk of death by 40 percent. Eating the whole seeds also provides a healthy dose of fiber.
10) Dried Plums – Also called prunes, this well-known health food fights cancer-causing cell damage with an abundance of the antioxidants, neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. Grab a few of these sweet dried fruits as a snack or gussy them up by stuffing them with goat cheese and serving as an appetizer.
I hope this list of superfoods has reminded you of a few things you haven’t eaten in awhile and revealed new nutrition superstars for you to try. Because no one food can provide all the nutrients you need for optimal health, remember that variety is the key to a disease-fighting diet. Add these new superfoods to your shopping cart, and your body will reap the benefits today and in years to come!
Photo Credit: kongsky