Super Foods: Hungry for a change?

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Contributed by Prince William Cardiology Associates

By Dr. Sheila Khianey, MD

Hungry for a change? Super foods are a special category of foods found in nature. By definition they are calorie sparse and nutrient dense – packing a lot of punch for their weight as far as goodness goes.

Nothing replaces good habits of eating plenty of vegetables and fruits each day and daily aerobic exercise. This truly is the foundation to good health. Each of these super foods comes from various parts of the globe. Within each of the cultures that these super foods were origi- nally discovered, they have been known for centuries to have incredible health benefits. Reach for these super foods every day!

Turmeric: Turmeric is a common spice used in Indian cooking. It is known as an important ingredient for Indian curries, but its medicinal properties are just as important. It has powerful antioxidants, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to lessen the rate of certain cancers, improve circulation, improve arthritis symptoms, and even protect against developing Alzheimer’s!

Turmeric is a root that is mainly available as powder or in capsule form. There are various recommendations for how much Turmeric to consume. I recommend taking Turmeric in its most natural form, as the powder, and 1-2 tea- spoons a day. As it has a curry flavor, you can consume this amount by using it in cooking, putting it in a salad or even soup.

Coconut oil: Coconut oil has impressive health benefits. It has antioxidants, antibacterial and antiviral properties that help the body prevent and fight off infection. It also helps regulate blood sugar by improving how insulin is used in the body. It supports and balances thyroid function, helps with digestion, and even reduces cholesterol and helps keep one’s body weight balanced. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is a saturated fat that raises the good cholesterol, HDL, which prevents blood vessel blockages and heart disease. Coconut oil can be consumed in many ways. You can cook and bake with it. Suggested daily intake is 1-2 tablespoons.

Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are tiny seeds that come from a flowering plant native to Mexico and Guatemala. According to many historians, it was a staple food crop with the Aztec civilization. Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, omega-3, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Just 2 tablespoons a day provides the same amount of omega-3 as salmon. Chia seeds are also rich in calcium and have a natural appetite suppressing quality so people who eat chia seeds stay full longer.

There are many ways to eat chia seeds. One convenient way is to stir 2 tablespoons of the seeds into either juice or water, let it stand for a few minutes to allow the seeds to soften and then drink it.

Nuts: A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that eating 1-1.5 ounces of nuts every day, in addition to a healthy diet, prolongs life and reduces the risk of premature death from all causes including heart disease and cancer. People were less likely to have memory loss because of the healthy oils and fats in nuts. Nuts reduce inflammation in the body by reducing the central body fat. By reducing the inflammation in the body, this helps prevent the development of heart disease and cancer. It also helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. Nuts can even help people lose weight! A one-ounce serving is about 16- 24 almonds, 16-18 cashews or walnuts, or 30- 35 peanuts.

Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are an incredibly healthy food. They are rich in beta carotene and antioxidants. They are also rich in vitamin-C which can boost your immune system and are high in vitamin-A which has many heart-healthy benefits. Sweet potatoes can also help regulate blood sugar.

Cocoa:  Cocoa, from the cacao tree is native to South America. Its rich flavor was enjoyed as early as 1500 B.C. in Mexico. Cocoa has many healthy prop- erties that help the mind and body. It has endorphins and serotonins, two chemicals that the body naturally makes and boosts our feeling of happiness. It also is rich in antioxidants, and flavanoids which are plant- based nutrients that keep blood vessels healthy by relaxing them. This naturally reduces blood pressure and can be helpful in reducing the risk of heart dis- ease, stroke, and even diabetes. I recommend eating either cacao raw or dark chocolate. Avoid eating too much milk chocolate as the milk fat interferes with the body’s ability to absorb all the nutrients of cacao.

Black Soybean: Native to Japan, black soybeans are rich in protein and antioxidants. They keep people full longer because of their sustainable fiber and therefore, can help with weight loss. Black soybeans are also a very good option for people with diabetes, as they are very low in carbohydrates.

Try these super foods instead of fancy and expensive supplements. These and many other super foods are available in Mother Nature’s backyard! Coupling these with plenty of vegetables and fruits and daily aerobic exercise is a great way to start every day!

Avocado: Not all fats are created equal! The avocado is a rich, creamy fruit that is a nutrient-dense superfood. The avocado contains monounsaturated fats are known to reduce the bad kind of cholesterol and are believed to help increase the good kind of cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins (HDLs). Avo- cados are high in insoluble fiber and lead the way among fruits for folate, potassium, vitamin E, and magnesium content. The avocado also boasts 60 percent more potassium than a banana! These nu- trients make the avocado a great food to regulate blood pressure, prevent heart disease, encourage healthy bones, support cardiovascular health, and stave off migraines.

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