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"Superfoods"is the new buzzword, but what does it mean? Can fruits and vegetables slow down aging, lower blood pressure or even prevent some forms of cancer? As a complementary health practitioner, broadcaster, author, and journalist concerned with natural health, food, and healing, and having been an organic gardener since meeting Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, way back in the 1960s, I have become totally convinced that there are superfoods with the power to enhance and extend life.
Back in 1990, I coined the term "superfoods" with my colleague Barbara Griggs. Personally, I don't grow much in my organic garden that I can't eat, because fresh produce has the most nutrients and the best flavor of all produce types. If it's organic, you get even more nutrients and avoid environmental -- and health-damaging chemicals.
A superfood must have substantial levels of one or more essential vitamins and minerals, and/or be a rich source of unique "phytochemicals:" the powerful natural substances in plants that protect the body's cells from damage. Surprisingly, the two don't always go together.
Celery, for example, is pretty useless nutritionally: it's ninety-five percent water, has only seven energy-giving calories in 100g (3 1/2 oz), and you burn more than that just by chewing it. Yet it has been valued as a medicinal vegetable since the time of ancient Rome. The phytochemicals it contains provide flavor and calming properties. As a natural diuretic, it gets rid of surplus fluid, so it's perfect for women with monthly bouts of puffy hands, feet or breasts.
Superfoods affect whole populations and arethe reasons why southern European men have a fifty percent lower risk of prostate cancer than the British; Spaniards, for example, eat more than twice as much fruit and vegetables as the average Brit. Their superfood diet also means fewer strokes, and less heart disease, bowel cancer, and other ills.
As a practicing naturopath for more than forty years, I base most of my advice for patients on the links between food and health. However, I'm not a member of the "food police" and certainly don't believe that one bar of chocolate, a cup of coffee, a jam donut or whipped cream on your strawberries will put your health at risk for the next twenty years.
I worry desperately about the many people I see (mostly women) who have become so obsessed with food that they worry about every forkful that goes in their mouths. Of course, it's great to eat organic food if you can, and it's important to consume less animal fat, salt and sugar, and more fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain cereals, yet the quest for healthy eating should never become a holy grail. The world has suddenly become inhabited by hordes of people convinced only on the basis of bogus and questionable tests that they're allergic to dairy products, wheat, coffee, tea, and a hundred other staple foods.
These poor obsessives come to your house for dinner with a brown paper bag containing a handful of sprouted mung beans, three grated carrots, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. They've suddenly become macrobiotic believers, vegans, fruitarians or, God preserve us, breatharians, who believe they can survive on fresh air.
For optimum energy, resistance to disease, protection of the heart, slower aging, and an extension of the vital faculties -- reproduction, hearing, sight, memory, reasoning, and above all, the ability to revel in the joy of living -- we all need superfoods.
If you think superfoods are all the exotic, expensive things that ordinary people can't afford, you couldn't be more wrong. Here are ten everyday foods and the reasons why they're super. You'll find them all spread throughout the recipes in the rest of the book.
apples: Contain pectin and vitamin C which reduce cholesterol; pectin protects against pollution by eliminating heavy metals; malic and tartaric acids relieve indigestion and break down fats: so good with cheese, duck, and goose; two a day help arthritis, rheumatism, and gout; grated apple stops diarrhea.
avocados: Provide potassium which relieves fatigue, depression, and poor digestion; vitamins A,B,C, and E make it an anticancer food; contains healthy monounsaturated oil; stimulates collagen production; eat for circulation, skin, and fertility. Ignore all rumors that this nutritional powerhouse is fattening.
bananas: The perfect fast food, containing potassium, zinc, iron, folic acid, calcium, vitamin B6, and fiber. Good for digestion and menstrual difficulties; essential for athletes; perfect food for old and young.With apples, rice, and dry toast, it makes up the BRAT diet, the ideal treatment for sickness and diarrhea.
cabbage: Provides iron, chlorophyll, vitamin C, sulfur compounds, and healing mucilaginous substances. Powerfully anticancer; vital for treating anemia, stomach inflammation, and ulcers; protective against stress, infection, and heart disease. Best eaten slightly steamed.
carrots: Super-rich in betacarotene: one supplies enough for a day; anticancer, especially of the bowel; use puréed for infant diarrhea, juiced for liver problems; also contains vitamins C and E, which ease circulatory disease, chest infections, and skin and eye problems. Eat lightly cooked carrots two or three times a week.
garlic: The king of healing plants. Modern science proves it reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, stops blood from clotting, and improves the circulation. It's antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anticancer, and good for relieving chest infections and stomach bugs, too. Eat at least a clove each day.
oats: Full of protein, polyunsaturated fats, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, silicon, and vitamin E. They're easily digested and soothing to the digestive tract. Oats help depression and reduce cholesterol; a daily bowl can lower levels by twenty percent. They also help regulate sugar metabolism, so they're good for diabetics. They are the best and cheapest of all breakfast cereals.
oily fish: The only source of all the essential fatty acids. These are vital during pregnancy and breastfeeding for the proper development of the brain in babies and infants. In children and adults, oily fish maintain brain function and can help in the treatment of dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).They're also the most important source of vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and many hormone functions. Great for the relief of arthritis.
onions: Protect the circulatory system and are a powerful antibiotic. They're good for chest, stomach, and urinary infections, and their diuretic activity helps with arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. A recent study in Newcastle, England, presented a traditional fried breakfast to volunteers, but half of them got fried onions, too; the onion-eaters' blood was much less likely to clot than the others. Research in the US shows that half a raw onion a day raises the amount of good fats in the blood by thirty percent.
potatoes: Even when boiled or baked, this wonderful vegetable is a source of fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and enough vitamin C to keep scurvy at bay. They are best baked in their skins since lots of nutrients, especially potassium and fiber, reside in the skin. At less than a calorie per gram, potatoes are good news for dieters, particularly since they're cheap and very filling. And all the bad things you read about them are unfair and wrong-unless you only eat fries.ten facts about superfoods