Monday, December 29, 2008
Top 10 Foods You Should Start Eating Now
From: Sarah Karl
#1 Berries. Berries are brimming with nutrients and phytochemicals and have been named a “food that fights cancer” by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). They're also loaded with vitamin C, and fiber -- both substances have been consistently linked to lower cancer risk. But they also contain ellagic acid that laboratory studies have shown may help prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung, esophagus, and breast. And blueberries contain a family of phenolic compounds called anthocyanosides, which seem to be among the most potent antioxidants yet discovered.
#2 Garlic & Onions. Loaded with phytochemicals, onions and garlic are members of the allium family of plants (other members include scallions, leeks, and chives), which produces organosulfur phytochemicals, including allicin and diallyl disulfide (DADS). It’s probably not one component in garlic and onions that holds the wealth of health benefits, either, but a combination of substances. A recent review of garlic research by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City concluded that garlic does indeed have modest lipid-lowering effects when consumed for 6 months. Onions are one of the richest sources of quercetin on the planet. This potent antioxidant is suspected of helping protect against heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
#3 Oats. There’s a lot more to oats, nutritionally speaking, than fiber (4 grams per 1/2-cup). You also get some protein; smart fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat); and a host of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to boot! Oats can block harmful effects of “bad” cholesterol. Oats contribute two important antioxidant phytochemicals to your diet: avenanthramides and phenolic acids. More needs to be known on this but researchers from Tufts University completed a clinical trial using an evenanthramide-rich oat extract and found that the oat phytochemicals worked synergistically with vitamin C to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation. (Oxidized LDL becomes a lot more harmful and more likely to encourage plaguing in the arteries.) In many studies, eating oats have been shown to help reduce blood pressure too.
#4 Tomatoes. Tomatoes first grabbed headlines when researchers discovered that it’s loaded with lycopene (thought to have the highest antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids), which has synergy with vitamin E and other food components. But upon closer inspection, it’s a standout among fruits and vegetables because it actually contains all four major carotenoids (alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene) and all three high-powered antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C), also thought to have synergy together.
#5 Soy. Soybeans are a unique member of the legume family: They contain a large amount of natural plant estrogens (Isoflavones), as well as all the essential amino acids and a number of antioxidant phytochemicals. Genistein, the main isoflavone in soy, has possible antitumor activity, but soy possesses other cancer-fighting components. Researchers suspect that these powerful anticancer components work at different stages of the cancer process. This means there is value in eating your soy in close to whole form so you are sure to get all of the aforementioned components versus just one in a soy supplement.
It’s also probably better to get your soy in food form to fully benefit from the cholesterol-lowering properties of its protein. Processing can also reduce the isoflavone content of some soy protein products by as much as 80%. According to soy expert Mark Messina, PhD, conceivably isoflavones and soy protein work cooperatively to reduce cholesterol. Here’s one more reason to eat your soy in close to whole form: Soy contains “inactive” components along with the “active” ones we’ve just discussed. It’s possible that some of these inactive components are required for the active ones to be useful.
#6 Broccoli. Broccoli is one of those “super” vegetables because it has so many powerful components, each offering wonderful health benefits. But recent research suggests that several of those components are working together too. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that crambene, one of the phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli), is more active when combined with another better-known cruciferous phytochemical, indole-3-carbinol. There’s also evidence that components in broccoli have synergy with components in other plant foods. For example, subjects in lab studies fed a combination of tomatoes and broccoli had markedly less prostate tumor growth, compared with groups who ate either food alone.
#7 Beans. Beans offer an amazing package of nutrients—every piece is important—but the beauty is in the balance. This plant food is uniquely high in protein and bursting with beneficial phytochemicals, many of which have antioxidant power. You get some good-quality carbohydrates that interact with lots of fiber to be digested slowly. Beans have been shown to result in relatively small increases in blood glucose levels following meals in people with and without diabetes.
Beans and soy are two of 11 plant foods that the American Institute for Cancer Research recently named as “foods that fight cancer.” The active ingredients in beans that seem to play a protective role include three phytochemicals (saponins, protease inhibitors, and phytic acid). They are thought to protect cells from the type of genetic damage that can lead to cancer. Beans may also help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease too.
#8 Yogurt. Bet you never thought bacteria would be a good thing! Well, your body actually needs a healthy amount of “good,” or beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. We can promote the activity of these beneficial bacteria by eating probiotic foods. Most major brands of yogurt contain probiotic bacteria. Yogurt with active cultures may help stimulate the immune system, according to several recent research reviews, although more research needs to be done using well-designed human studies. Yogurt with active cultures may prove helpful for certain gastrointestinal conditions, including lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrheal diseases, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and Helicobacter pylori infection.
#9 Apples. Eat an apple a day to help keep breast cancer away? In a recent lab study at Cornell, researchers found that breast tumor incidence was reduced by 17 percent when rats were fed the human equivalent of one apple a day over 24 weeks and 39% when fed the human equivalent of three a day. Actually numerous population studies have linked eating apples with a reduced risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes. And in the laboratory, apples have exhibited very strong antioxidant activity to inhibit cell proliferation (the type of rapid multiplication that occurs in tumors), decrease lipid oxidation (when fats in the body combine with oxygen), and lower cholesterol. Simple phenolics and flavonoids represent the majority of antioxidant activity found in apples, and it’s the phenolics in apple peel specifically that account for the majority of the antioxidant and antiproliferating activity.
#10 Almonds (and other nuts). Nuts in general contain a combination of various cholesterol-lowering plant food components. Here’s the fact that got my attention, though: In virtually all studies that examined the impact of nuts in our diet, nut consumption has been associated with a reduction in coronary heart disease risk. Each nut contains its own unique profile of phytochemicals, types of fatty acids, and types and amounts of fiber. Almonds and most nuts contain large amounts of oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat), which may help raise HDL “good” cholesterol levels and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Plus, almonds contain a vegetable protein that may also lower LDLs.