First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge that I do believe in specifically designed medications that treat health risks and medical conditions. You should absolutely talk to your physician or dietitian regarding which supplements and doses are appropriate for you. But, do your research before you start popping pills. Not all supplements are good for you and in some cases may be doing more harm to your body. Tip, the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, keeps a list of dietary supplements that are under regulatory review or that have been reported to cause adverse effects. If you’re taking a supplement, it’s always good idea to check the FDA website for updates. You should always be aware of what you put into your body.
As I digress… Today, we are inundated with an incredible amount of supplements, drinks and diets. It’s unfortunate that we have forgotten the power of culinary medicine. Trust me, I get it. We live in a world where convenience is to be expected and fast food or processed food has become the standard diet. However, these conveniently packaged foods lack critical nutrients and are loaded with artificial color, additives, flavorings, and chemically-altered fats and sweeteners. And we wonder why we feel like crap! So why do we continue to live with these unwanted health symptoms while ignoring the fact that food is medicine?!
Pay attention, read carefully and get your shit together. Fuel your body the way that our elders did and start living a happier, healthier, more energetic life! While there are too many extraordinary super foods out there, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favs:
Apples are loaded with the powerful antioxidants quercetin and catechin, which protect cells from damage – that means a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially if you eat the skin. Research shows that the apple peel contains five times more polyphenols than the flesh. Apples and their skins pack a lot of fiber too (about twice that of other common fruits, including peaches, grapes, and grapefruit), which may help fight the battle of the bulge.
Avocados, a.k.a. “Alligator Pears”, contain 25 essential nutrients, including vitamin A, B, C, E, & K, folic acid, copper, iron, phosporus, magnesium, and potassium. Avocados also contain fiber, protein, and several beneficial phytochemicals such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein, which may protect against various disease and illness. Some of these health benefits include, lower cholesterol levels, maintains a healthy heart, controls blood pressure, promotes eye health, reduces stroke risk, regulates blood sugar levels, anti-aging, prevents birth defects and more. Personally, my favorite way to eat this creamy goodness – guacamole!
Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, these tiny gems are also high in potassium and vitamin C, making them the top choice of doctors and nutritionists. Not only can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory. Anti-aging superstars, blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve vision and brain function. Studies show that eating blueberries slows impairments in motor coordination and memory that accompany aging. These gorgeous berries also reduce inflammation, which is inextricably linked with virtually every chronic disease from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, to diabetes and heart disease.
Cherries have been recognized for their medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. They certainly are what I’d like to consider a “ninja fruit” and are ranked among the top 20 foods that contain the highest concentration of antioxidants. In fact, just 1 cup of these bad boys has the capacity to carry 4,873 antioxidants! Studies have found they can help treat gout, arthritis, pain relief, hearth health and much more. A recent article revealed that anthocyanins, the compounds that give cherries their brilliant red color, are 10 times stronger than ibuprofen and aspirin.
“Chia” means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. They contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. Chia absorbs up to 12 times its own weight and expands to curb your appetite! Health benefits include: reduces blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, regulating bowel functions, improves heart health, reduces inflammation, controls blood sugar, aids in weight loss, increases energy and more.
Cinnamon has been consumed since 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt, where it was very highly prized. In medieval times doctors used cinnamon to treat conditions such as coughing, arthritis and sore throats. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Cinnamon is used to help treat muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, the common cold, loss of appetite, and erectile disfunction. It may also lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes UK. Although there are four main varieties of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon are the most popular.
Considered one of the most treasured foods of all time, coconut, coconut water, coconut oil, and coconut cream deliver remarkable health benefits. Because of its strong antioxidant properties and health benefits, coconuts can be used to lower cholesterol, improve digestion, stabilize glucose levels, fight infections, regulate hormones, increase thyroid production, aid in weight loss and increase metabolism.
Topping the charts as one of the most powerful “super foods”, cranberries have a rich source of vitamin C and fiber, and are only 45 calories per cup. In the disease-fighting antioxidant department, cranberries outrank nearly every fruit and vegetable–including strawberries, spinach, broccoli, red grapes, apples, raspberries, and cherries. One cup of whole cranberries has 8,983 total antioxidant capacity.
One of the best protein sources on the planet! Eggs consistently outrank milk, beef, whey, and soy in the quality of protein they provide. Eggs contain all 9 essential amino acids and are loaded with nutrients. And people…seriously, EAT THE YOLK! If you’re opting out, you’re missing out on greatness. Choline, found in the yolk, helps protect heart and brain function and prevents cholesterol and fat from accumulating in the liver.
Fiber provides a wide range of health benefits that are crucial to the basic bodily functions. While maintaining the health of the digestive tract, fiber also lowers the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, fiber helps to regulate bowel movements, controls blood sugar levels and lowers cholesterol. At minimum, the recommended amount is 30 grams per day. As a bonus, because fiber helps you feel full longer, it’s a great tool in weight management. Sources of fiber include whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds.
Flaxseed’s health benefits come from the fact that it’s high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phytochemicals called lignans. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids (includes the omega 3s) and 2 grams of dietary fiber and 37 calories. Flaxseed is commonly used to improve digestive health or relieve constipation. Flaxseed may also help lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Garlic produces a chemical called allicin which makes up its unique smell. Garlic has been used to treat conditions that include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis). Additionally, onions, garlic and scallions provide awesome health benefits that help facilitate detoxification, stimulate immune responses and reduce inflammation.
Ginger is commonly used to treat various types of stomach related issues, including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, nausea caused by cancer treatment, nausea and vomiting after surgery, as well as loss of appetite. Other uses include pain relief from arthritis or muscle soreness, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough, and bronchitis. Ginger is also sometimes used for chest pain, low back pain, and stomach pain. Add this wonder spice into tea, green drinks, rice and more.
Almonds, cashews and pistachios contain rich amounts of potassium which is essential to your cells, tissues and muscles. Potassium helps your heart and muscles contract the way they are supposed to. Brazil nuts and almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral that plays a key role in converting sugar into energy. About 50 percent of the magnesium in your body is found in your bones. You need magnesium for proper function of your nerves and muscles and to keep your heartbeat normal and steady. Magnesium also contributes to a healthy immune system and a normal blood pressure.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut contain rich amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which can treat depression, bipolar disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, blood pressure and is good for overall heart health. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function (brain memory and performance), as well as normal growth and development. The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat at least two fish meals per week, especially wild salmon, herring, and sardines, because those varieties provide the most heart-healthy omega 3s. Aside from fish, sources of omega-3 include nuts and leafy, dark green vegetables and ground flax seeds.
Raw pumpkin seeds provide a rich source of fiber that prevents constipation and benefits overall digestive health. These tasty seeds contain iron, a mineral important to red blood cell function, as well as potassium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. Because fiber, protein and minerals are not destroyed by roasting, these nutrients are found in roughly equal amounts in both raw and roasted pumpkin seeds.
Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. All bodily functions depend on water. Some of these functions include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. Fluid loss occurs all day, every day. For example, skin evaporation, breathing, urination, bowel movements, exercise and more. These losses MUST be replaced daily in order for our body to perform optimally. Drink up!