Superfoods cover image

Superfoods – Foods With Benefits

  • What Makes A Food “Super”?
  • Why Are Some Considered Supplements?
  • How Can They Affect Your Health?
  • How Many Are In Your Kitchen?    

Foods With Benefits

In writing the superfoods issue of Nutrition News, I reviewed 18 books and nearly three dozen websites.

Surprisingly, several foods which I have considered superfoods for years, like spirulina, were defined as superfood supplements while ordinary foods which are regulars on the Khalsa grocery list, like broccoli and lentils, are defined as superfoods.

What impressed me about the large number of books and lists of superfoods is that they represent a major educational movement around the importance of eating whole foods.

With obesity overcoming heart disease as the World’s No.1 Health Problem, there are millions of people to educate in this country alone.

Find Out If You Can Improve Your Grocery List. Look Inside….       

Superfoods cover image

TOPIC: SUPERFOODS

In Europe, the word superfood lead to so much misleading hype that the European Union now permits the term only on products that provide credible scientific documentation to back up that claim. In the US, there are currently no legal standards for its use. From Superfood Kitchen by Julie Morris, 2012

Superfoods

Foods With Benefits

• What Makes A Food “Super”?

• Why Are Some Considered Supplements?

• How Can They Affect Your Health?

• How Many Are In Your Kitchen?

Find Out If You Can Improve Your Grocery List. Look Inside….            

Foods With Benefits

In writing the superfoods issue of Nutrition News, I reviewed 18 books and nearly three dozen websites. Surprisingly, several foods which I have considered superfoods for years, like spirulina, were defined as superfood supplements while ordinary foods which are regulars on the Khalsa grocery list, like broccoli and lentils, are defined as superfoods.

What impressed me about the large number of books and lists of superfoods is that they represent a major educational movement around the importance of eating whole foods. With obesity overcoming heart disease as the World’s No.1 Health Problem, there are millions of people to educate in this country alone.

With that in mind, I request that you share this Nutrition News with friends and family. (Call us for more copies if the natural products store doesn’t have extras.) Together, we can help to make a difference. 

Hippocrates had it right around 300 BC when he advised, “Make thy food thy medicine, and thy medicine thy food.” (We’re slow learners as a race, aren’t we?) We discuss 10 superfoods. Traditionally defined, these foods have exceptional properties. A grocery list follows that discussion. It features the foods most frequently rated as “super”.1

Please note that although there is currently an exciting trend toward vegetarian (no flesh foods), vegan (no foods sourced from animals), and raw food diets, we list foods from both dairy and meat categories.

10 Really Super Foods

These ten are the “pick of the litter” when it comes to uniquely nutritious foods. In alphabetical order, they are —

Açaí berries Green Grasses & Algae

Aloe vera Nutritional Yeast

Bee products Soybeans

Dark Chocolate Tea

Eggs Whey Protein

Açaí Berries: In 2012, Nutrition News named açaí berry the Most Super Berry with its antioxidant power (ORAC) of 102,700! Let’s put that in perspective: The next highest fruit is the black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), which has a very high ORAC value of 16,062. (Blueberries’ ORAC is 4669.)

This wonderful reddish purple berry comes from a palm tree native to South America (Euterpe oleracea). It has significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. It also contains fiber and heart-healthy fats. Researchers are just beginning to uncover the potential health benefits of the amazing açaí berry.

A successful pilot study investigated the effects of acai on risk factors for metabolic disorders in overweight adults. The ten participants ate about ½ cup of açaí pulp 2x/d for 30 days. Significant markers included reduced total cholesterol (LDL down; HDL up), lowered blood sugar levels after meals, and reduced fasting glucose and insulin levels. (There were no effects on lowering blood pressure or C-reactive protein, the inflammation marker.) 

Açaí oil is another wonder. Also a powerhouse of antioxidants, it is currently being used in beauty products. It retains its high antioxidant levels even after processing and long-term storage.

Aloe Vera: Known as an external applicant for burns and other skin conditions, taken internally aloe vera can heal the intestines, support cholesterol management, and enhance immunity. Amazingly, only one percent of aloe is substantive. The remainder is water! That solid material contains over 75 different compounds, including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, lignins, salicylic acid, antioxidants, and more. 

Since we can’t cover all of aloe’s benefits here, let’s look at its use as a digestive aid. Studies at the Linus Pauling Institute show that six ounces of aloe juice taken 3x/d increase protein digestion and absorption, decrease bowel putrefaction, and improve intestinal pH. The mucous lining of the gastro-intestinal tract is soothed by aloe, reducing pain and inflammation. Food allergy relief is another benefit of healing the gut lining.

Incidentally, researchers have found that taking vitamins C and E with aloe increases the vitamins’ bioavailability 

by over 200 percent. In addition, vitamin levels remain 

significantly higher over 24 hours. (Read Nutrition News “True Healer – Aloe Vera”.)

Bee Products: When we think of bees, most of us think of honey. There is amazing news about honey. A recent issue of Women’s Health Letter carried the following headline: “The Worse Your Diabetes, The More This Sweetener May Lower Your Blood Sugar”. Editor-author Nan Fuchs, PhD, reports that honey helps lower blood sugar. When 48 people with type 2 diabetes ate small amounts of honey throughout the day for eight weeks, it lowered both their blood sugar and HbA1c.2 Nan referenced several studies as well as The Honey Revolution by Ron Fessenden, MD.

Dr. Fessenden suggests 3-5 T of honey daily, taking two tablespoons in the morning with fruit, yogurt, or cereal. Another couple tablespoons midday and one at night to help you sleep. If you have diabetes, monitor your response carefully. Nan advises that you “replace most sugars in your diet with honey”.

In addition to honey, bees produce four substances that make our lives better: pollen, royal jelly, propolis, and beeswax. Except for beeswax, each of these can be considered a superfood. To learn more about them, watch for Nutrition News, “Health From The Hive”. 

Dark Chocolate: The big news about chocolate hit in 2003 with research published by two prestigious science journals: Nature and JAMA. The article in Nature distinguished that only dark chocolate – not milk or white chocolate – raises antioxidant levels in the body. However, even drinking a glass of milk with the dark chocolate canceled its antioxidant potential. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers reported that dark chocolate had the effect of lowering blood pressure in 13 men and women with mild hypertension. 

In 1996, it was scientists at the University of California at Davis who revealed that chocolate is rich in antioxidants. Called phenolics, these are the same compounds that occur in red wine. Those researchers calculated that a 1.5-ounce bar of dark chocolate contains 205 mg of phenolics, comparable to the 210 mg found in a 5-ounce glass of cabernet. A cup of hot chocolate made from 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder delivers 219 mg. – But make it with nonfat milk. 

Eggs: Eggs are here because they are a perfect protein for humans. In fact, at one time, eggs were the standard for protein foods. Back in the 1980s, fighting cholesterol to lower heart disease risk became a priority. Because eggs contain cholesterol, they were black listed. Now that more is known about the behavior of cholesterol, the sunny egg is back.

A Harvard study with more than 100,000 participants found no significant difference in cardiovascular disease risk between consuming less than one egg per week and consuming one egg per day. In addition, research has shown that eating saturated fat may be more likely to raise cholesterol than eating foods with cholesterol. No surprise, it is lifestyle factors, including poor diet, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity, that continue to contribute to 30 to 40 percent of heart disease risk.

Eggs are nutrient dense. One egg has 6-7 grams of protein, lots of vitamins and minerals, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin – all for 70 calories. The nutrients in eggs can play a role in muscle strength, healthy pregnancy, brain function, eye health, weight management, and more.

Green Grasses & Algae: These food families make it easy to pack green nutrition into your day. They are both available as powders either isolated or in mixes with other nutrient dense foods. There is so much information on these foods that three Nutrition News issues exist to laud their health benefits. 

Algae has been called a perfect food, one that could be used to end world hunger. We are talking about spirulina, chlorella, and Klamath blue-green algae. Research has shown that these foods can increase our energy and stamina, heighten mental clarity, improve our ability to handle stress, enhance immunity, and give us a greater sense of well-being.You can easily make algae a part of your life by taking a teaspoon a day with your regular food (or a like amount, 4 grams, as tablets or capsules). I use Hawaiian spirulina powder in my daily smoothie while Mr. Khalsa prefers a handful of tablets with a glass of water in the midafternoon.

Green grasses are the foundational food for most land-based life. The grasses came to light as human nutrition with the curative work of the late Ann Wigmore who originally expelled wheat grass juice using a second hand meat grinder. In 1980, barley grass came on the market. Its health benefits were discovered by Yoshihide Hagiwara, MD, pharmacist, and researcher. These two grasses have similar nutrients and benefits. However, only wheat grass is readily available as fresh juice. 

Nutritional Yeast: This great old school superfood is enjoying a come back. Nutritional yeast is a protein and vitamin B12 boon for vegetarians and vegans. A complete protein, just one ounce of yeast flakes (about 2T) has only 79 calories but 14 grams of protein! (Compare with two eggs for 140 calories.) Rich in B-complex vitamins, it is one of the few non-animal sources of vitamin B12, essential for red blood cell production and nervous system health. Yeast owes its yellow color to riboflavin, vitamin B2.

Surprisingly, yeast flakes are also high in fiber, containing 7 grams per ounce, a good start toward the 25-30 grams per day recommended by many nutritionists.

Toasted or plain, nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on salads, veggies, and popcorn. It can be added to smoothies, soups, and stews. Its nutty, cheesy flavor makes it a great base for gravy. (Serve it over quinoa, barley, or buckwheat groats.)

Soybeans: Soybeans are so common that we don’t think of them as super. BUT, they are. This versatile bean is a complete protein and as such is the basis for many protein-rich foods. These include soy as beans, roasted soy bean snacks, soy milk, soy protein, tofu, tempeh, and meat analogs (made from texturized soy protein).

Soy is the only food on this list that carries an FDA sanctioned health claim: “Twenty-five grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” One study behind this claim showed that people with very high cholesterol (330) were able to lower their levels by 20 percent in only four weeks, and only “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels were lowered, making high density lipoprotein (HDL) ratios much healthier.

Soy has been the subject of a lot of controversy. If you want to understand more about that, we would be happy to send you Nutrition News, “Two Sides Of Soy”. Just call us.

Tea: What other beverage is so healthy – and inexpensive? Tea, especially green tea, has been highly praised for its health benefits, which are largely due to its high antioxidant content. The following information comes from the Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

Green tea is the best food source of a group of antioxidants called catechins. In test tubes, catechins are more powerful than vitamins C and E in stopping oxidative damage. They also appear to have other disease fighting properties. Studies have found an association between drinking green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers, including skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.

Benefits for lovers of green, black, and oolong teas include a lowered risk for heart disease. These teas help block the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, increase HDL, and improve artery function. In addition, a Chinese study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed a 46-65% reduction in high blood pressure risk compared with non tea drinkers.

The usual amount is three cups per day. Allow green tea to steep for 3-5 minutes to bring out the catechins. Decaffeinated, bottled ready-to-drink, and instant teas have less of these compounds.

Whey Protein: Not just for body builders, whey protein is ranked #1 among protein substances for digestibility. That alone is enough to grant it superfood status. Of course whey protein comes from milk, but did you know that it is produced as a co-product of cheese making? 

There is a lot of hype surrounding the benefits of whey protein. For that reason, we reference the Mayo Clinic (MC) site. This prestigious hospital uses a grading system based on scientific studies to evaluate supplements.3 Here is the criteria for their grading system:

A. Strong scientific evidence for this use.

B. Good scientific evidence for this use.

C. Unclear scientific evidence for this use.

Looking at studies involving 32 health conditions, MC awards two As and four Bs. An A goes to whey protein, with the statement that it is “an excellent source of protein”. The other A goes to hydrolyzed whey protein for its “effectiveness in preventing some allergies”.4

Whey protein is frequently recommended for weight management. MC gives it a B as an appetite suppressant, stating that it has been “found to reduce short term food intake and may aid in reducing appetite.” On this basis, it also earns a B for facilitating weight loss. The third B is for the ability of whey protein to increase muscle mass and muscle strength. And, the last B is accorded for the evidence that whey protein may improve some symptoms of diabetes.

There are 26 more conditions currently under study that are graded “C”. These are ranked “may be useful”. They include acne, bone density, heart disease risk, reducing dental plaque, eczema in infants, exercise (performance and recovery), and high blood pressure. Learn more about the possible healthy effects of whey protein at www.mayoclinic.com/health/whey-protein.

Siri Says: You will notice many common foods on the grocery list below. To learn why they are becoming superfoods read Superfoods, The Healthiest Foods On The Planet by Tonia Reinhard.

Marine Phytoplankton

Marine WHAT?!

Marine phytoplankton means microscopic single-cell plants from the sea. These tiny plants are the food of the world’s largest mammals. They form the foundation of the marine food chain. There are 40,000 different strains, not all of which are suitable for human consumption. Most importantly, they produce as much as 90 percent of the world’s oxygen supply.

The newest superfood on the block, marine phytoplankton hit the ground running with a YouTube video promising every health benefit but Everlasting Life. Although it’s not that good, marine phytoplankton has much to recommend it as a food.

The scientific name of the specific strain being grown for humans is Nannochloropsis gaditana. Nanno marine phytoplankton provides a rare and complete alkaline food with high digestibility that gives the body all the raw materials that it needs to produce healthy new cells and neurochemicals for the body and brain.

These simple plants convert sunlight, water, and minerals into protein and carbohydrates. They also contain a wide range of trace elements, including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and chlorophyll. Because of their simple structure, Nanno phytoplankton is extremely easy for humans to digest and assimilate at the cellular level, literally bypassing the digestive system, unlike land-based plant or animal foods.

Nutrition News strongly recommends that if you are interested in this powerful food, you purchase it from a trusted natural products store rather than price shop it online. It seems that some unscrupulous sellers are promoting watered down and “live” versions. Living product would continue growing and burst its container!

Your Superfoods Grocery List

The Top 10 Superfoods

q Açaí berries q Green Grasses & Algae

q Aloe vera q Nutritional Yeast

q Bee products q Soybeans

q Dark Chocolate q Tea

q Eggs q Whey Protein

Veggies

q #1 tomatoes

q sweet potatoes

q leafy greens (chard, spinach)

q pumpkin

q allium family (garlic, onions, etc.)

q cruciferous family (broccoli, cabbage, kale)

q sea veggies (nori, wakame, kelp)

q veggie sprouts

Fruits

q #1 berries

q cherries & 

    tart cherries

q avocados

Beans

q #1 lentils

q black beans

q red beans

Whole Grains

q #1 barley

q oats

q quinoa

Nuts & Seeds

q walnuts

q hemp seeds

Meats & Fish

q #1 salmon5

q sardines

q bison

Footnotes:

1 Nutrition News plans to release a superfoods cell phone app later this year. It will include all the superfoods we discovered, each with a rating scale related to number of mentions, along with defining characteristics.   

   It will also contain a convenient customizable grocery list. We’ll notify you through the newsletter once we are ready to roll.

2 HbA1c is a lab test that shows the average level of blood sugar (glucose) over the previous 3 months, revealing how well a person with diabetes is controlling blood sugar levels.

3 Whey protein is not a whole food and is considered a protein supplement.

4 In hydrolyzed whey protein, long protein chains have been broken down into shorter chains called peptides, making  whey protein more easily absorbed by the body and reducing the potential for allergic reactions. 

   It is often used in infant formula, and sports and medical nutrition products.

5 One source recommended using canned salmon. All the nutrition, much lower cost.

Related Resources:

Each month, Nutrition News features three additional titles to support our main topic. This month’s selections are “Spirulina – Superstar Of Superfoods ”,  “Whole, Fresh, and Lively!” (The Power of Produce), and “The  Green Grasses”.