Odds are you know that nutrient-packed blueberries and broccoli are among the most healthful foods available.
But does your daily diet include the widest possible variety of the other nutritional powerhouse foods? Many such “superfoods” are overlooked — even by people who are health-conscious.
Latest development: My new “SuperHealth” pyramid gives you advice on foods that have the greatest nutritional value and how much you should aim to eat each day.
Bonus: In addition to fighting heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic ailments, these foods also help many people overcome the lack of vitality that is so often associated with aging. Superfoods you shouldn’t miss out on…
As a phytonutrient-rich cruciferous vegetable, ever-popular broccoli has been shown to reduce risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer (such as bladder, prostate and ovarian) and cataracts.Don’t overlook: Broccoli sprouts. Developed by scientists at Johns Hopkins University, these three-day-old sprouts are grown from seeds that yield the highest levels of sulforaphane glucosinolate, a natural compound that stimulates enzymes in the body to boost its own antioxidant defenses. Broccoli sprouts contain 20 to 100 times more cancer-fighting substances than mature broccoli, according to research.
Broccoli sprouts, which can be used in salads or as a garnish on sandwiches, look and taste similar to alfalfa sprouts. Broccoli sprouts are available at many supermarkets. Or contact Brocco Sprouts (877-747-1277, www.broccosprouts.com) to find a store near you that sells them. As an alternative, you can buy the seeds and grow your own sprouts at home.
Daily recommendation: In addition to consuming broccoli sprouts, aim to get at least five one-half to one-cup servings of vegetables daily, including cruciferous varieties such as cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Frozen or canned vegetables are fine as long as they do not contain added salt.
Blueberries top most superfood lists — primarily because they are rich in polyphenol antioxidants, substances that reduce inflammation and appear to stop cancer-producing genes from “turning on.”Don’t overlook: Purple grapes. They provide most of the same health benefits as blueberries.
Daily recommendation: In addition to consuming purple grapes (or some type of berry), eat three to five one-half to one-cup servings of fruits daily.
Helpful: If purple grape juice is more convenient, drink two half-cup servings daily with meals. Choose 100% Concord grape juice — it has no added sugar.
WHOLE GRAINS and fiber
When it comes to whole grains, oats are a favorite of many people who are health-savvy.Body weight. A healthy weight helps prevent or control diabetes and reduces blood pressure.
Daily recommendation: As an alternative to traditional whole grains (five to seven servings daily), get 10 g to 20 g of fiber daily. Include two tablespoons of wheat bran or ground flaxseed — use on cold or hot cereals… stir into yogurt… and/or add to casseroles.
Protein (from either animal or vegetable sources) helps us maintain muscle strength and our bodies’ immune and hormone functions.Don’t overlook: Skinless turkey breast. For people who are tired of fish (or never really liked it), skinless turkey breast is a great protein alternative. (Skinless turkey breast typically contains 0.2 g of saturated fat per three-ounce serving.) The minerals selenium and zinc in turkey help fight inflammation, which can lead to cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Smart idea: Use 97% to 99% fat-free ground turkey breast instead of ground beef in burgers. Organic turkey is best — it limits your exposure to antibiotics and growth hormones.
Weekly recommendation: Four servings of fish per week or as much skinless turkey breast as you like. One serving of fish or turkey is about the size of a deck of cards.Don’t overlook: Soy foods. They are a good source of protein and also contain phytochemicals that have a weak estrogenic effect. This effect helps block environmental toxins, such as those found in pesticides and many common household cleaners (such as mold and mildew removers), from attaching to cells where they can cause damage or even cancer.
Important: If you have had breast cancer, consult your doctor before adding soy foods to your diet — some animal research suggests that the foods’ estrogenic effects may stimulate cancer growth in some individuals.
Daily recommendation: One to three half-cup cooked servings of high-protein vegetables. Example: Legumes (such as pinto, kidney or black beans). Your protein intake may include 10 g to 15 g of soy protein daily — for example, one cup of soymilk… or one-half cup of soybeans (edamame).
People who choose whole milk and/or high-fat cheeses as sources of bone-building calcium run the risk of getting too much potentially harmful saturated fat.Don’t overlook: Nonfat organic yogurt. Six ounces of nonfat organic yogurt typically provides about 25% of the Daily Value (DV) of calcium and ample supplies of probiotics — the “friendly” bacteria your gastrointestinal system needs to digest foods properly.
Daily recommendation: At least one six- to eight-ounce serving daily of nonfat organic yogurt… and at least one serving daily of tofu, canned wild salmon (with bones) or dark green, leafy vegetables.
Extra-virgin olive oil is well-known for its healthful fats.Don’t overlook: Soybean oil. It is low in saturated fat and high in healthful polyunsaturated fat.
Daily recommendation: In addition to using one tablespoon of soybean oil (or some other healthful oil such as extra-virgin olive, canola or peanut oil) on most days, consume at least one handful of nuts (walnuts, almonds or pistachios) or seeds (sesame, sunflower or pumpkin) five times a week.
Dark chocolate has become a superfood favorite ever since studies found that its antioxidant flavonoids help reduce blood pressure.Don’t overlook: Buckwheat honey (a type of dark honey). The darker the honey, the more flavonoids it contains. Preliminary research shows that honey may help lower total cholesterol levels.
Daily recommendation: 100 calories daily of a healthful treat, such as dark chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa)… or one to two teaspoons of buckwheat honey daily in such foods as cereal, oatmeal or plain yogurt or in tea.
Also important: Whenever possible, use spices (as much as you like). Among the best choices: Nutmeg (for its anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects)… oregano (for its antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial effects)… and turmeric (for its curcumin, which has been linked to the prevention of heart disease and cancer).