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About the Author
STEVEN PRATT, MD, FACS, is the best-selling author of SuperFoodsRx and SuperFoodsRx Healthstyle, and a senior staff ophthalmologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California. He lives in Del Mar, California.
KATHY MATTHEWS has authored and coauthored 17 books, including the bestsellers SuperFoodsRx, SuperFoodsRx Healthstyle, Medical Makeover, and Natural Prescriptions. She lives in Pelham, New York.
Read an Excerpt
SuperNutrients for Super Weight Loss
If only there were a magic bullet for weight loss, something you could take that would keep you satisfied and boost your body's ability to lose weight. It would have to be safe, and it would be nice if it tasted good, and also if you could get it without a doctor's prescription. Well, there is, or are, such substances: the SuperFoods! It sounds too good to be true but in fact the rich array of nutrients--SuperNutrients--in the SuperFoods actually can help you lose weight. How can this be? The SuperFoods are commonly known to be functional foods. This means that they provide benefits to the body beyond simple sustenance. We've long known that functional foods like the SuperFoods play a role in cancer prevention, reduction of risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and a host of chronic ailments. But research is now demonstrating that many of these same foods can also boost your ability to burn calories and reduce excess weight accumulation.
When you think about it, doesn't it make sense, doesn't it seem natural, and isn't it an appealing notion that you could lose weight employing the very thing that created your excess weight--food? Of course, the critical issue here is choice of food. It's the right food, SuperFoods, that makes the difference and bolsters all your efforts to reduce weight and inches and increase health. So you don't have to have surgery or take a drug or adopt an extreme approach in order to manage your weight. You can turn to nature and the natural functioning of your body to choose foods that will promote weight loss in a variety of safe and effective ways. You can reach your weight-loss goals with the SuperNutrients in SuperFoods.
We've long known that the SuperNutrients promote overall health. If you analyze the healthiest diets in the world, these nutrients turn up time and again. Countless studies have shown that the higher your level of these nutrients, the slower you'll age and the less likely you will develop chronic disease. These are the SuperNutrients that make superstars of certain foods that contain abundant quantities of them--the SuperFoods:
Alpha-carotene Folic acid Resveratrol Beta cryptoxanthin Lutein/zeaxanthin Selenium Beta cryptoxanthin Lycopene Vitamin C Fiber Omega-3 fatty acids Vitamin D Glutathione Polyphenols Vitamin E
The Synergy of SuperNutrients and SuperFoods
It's important to remember a crucial factor when looking at the weight-loss promoting abilities of SuperFoods: synergy. Synergy is the key to the effectiveness of the SuperFoodsRx Diet and, in fact, the key to the choice of the individual SuperFoods themselves.
When I was first studying the various properties of specific foods, it was a revolutionary notion that propelled me. The idea that intrigued me was that certain foods were actually better for you, better for your health, than others. This went beyond the obvious comparisons of, say, a steak and a salad. Most people would guess that a salad is more health-promoting than a steak and they'd be right. But what about the ingredients in that salad: the types of lettuce, the various vegetables? And what about the other choices that we make every day about which foods to include in our diet? I gradually ascertained, by studying volumes of research and discussing critical nutritional issues with the researchers themselves (many of them world-renowned scientists and colleagues), that certain foods like blueberries, spinach, salmon, and a number of others--14 in all--indeed deserved the distinction of being called SuperFoods. They are uniquely rich in an array of nutrients that have powerful health benefits and their nutrient profiles lift them above many other foods in their same category.
Let's take a look at the SuperFoods themselves. The original SuperFoodsRx book featured 14 original foods that research had demonstrated could help promote health in powerful ways. You've probably read about them as they're frequently mentioned in the media. Each of the 14 foods was chosen because of the strength of its nutrient profile: it featured nutrients-- SuperNutrients--that are particularly powerful in promoting health and/or nutrients that are difficult to find elsewhere. In addition to the main flagship, SuperFood, each food has what we called "sidekicks." The sidekicks are foods with a nutrient profile that is similar to the flagship food and as such they are good alternative choices.
14 Original SuperFoods & Their Sidekicks
Beans: all dried beans and low-sodium canned beans plus string beans, sugar snap peas, green peas
Blueberries: purple grapes, cranberries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries, fresh currants, blackberries, cherries, and all other varieties of fresh or frozen berries
Broccoli: brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, turnips, cauliflower, collards, bok choy, mustard greens, Swiss chard
Oats: Super sidekicks: wheat germ, ground flaxseed; Sidekicks: brown rice, barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, millet, bulgur wheat, amaranth, quinoa, triticale, kamut, yellow corn, wild rice, spelt, couscous
Oranges: lemons, white and pink grapefruit, kumquats, tangerines, limes
Pumpkin: carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, orange bell peppers
Salmon: Alaskan halibut, chunk light tuna, sardines, herring, trout, bass, oysters, clams
Soy: tofu, soy milk, soy nuts, edamame, tempeh, miso
Spinach: kale, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, romaine lettuce, orange bell peppers
Tea: green and black
Tomatoes: watermelon, pink grapefruit, Japanese persimmons, red-fleshed papaya, strawberry guava
Turkey: skinless chicken breast
Walnuts: almonds, pistachios, pumpkin, sesame and sunf lower seeds, macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts
After the original SuperFoods book was published, research of course continued. By the time the second book, HealthStyle, was under way there were additional foods, and sidekicks, as well as some extraordinary spices-- Super-Spices--that could be counted as SuperFoods.
Additional SuperFoods, Sidekicks, and SuperSpices
Avocado: asparagus, artichokes, extra virgin olive oil
Dried SuperFruits: raisins, dates, prunes, figs, apricots, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, currants
Extra virgin olive oil: canola oil
Kiwi: pineapple, guava
Onions: garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, chives
Cinnamon Oregano Cumin Thyme Garlic Turmeric
What makes say, spinach, a SuperFood when compared to other green leafies? Spinach provides your body with a rich infusion of SuperNutrients including lutein/zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids, glutathione, alpha lipoic acid, vitamins C and E, the B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, B6, and folate; minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc; various polyphenols, and betaine. That's a pretty impressive array of nutrients for a simple, delicious leaf. And, in fact, it's only a partial list of the nutrients in spinach.
The SuperNutrients in most of the SuperFoods (with the exception of soy and yogurt) that particularly enhance their ability to promote health are a category of SuperNutrients called the phytonutrients. These phytonutrients (from the Greek word "phyto" for plant) are nonvitamin, nonmineral, and noncaloric components of plants foods that provide significant benefits to your health. In spinach, just as one example, the somewhat amazing array of phytonutrients includes the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta- carotene among many others.
We mentioned the concept of synergy earlier. Spinach is an excellent example of synergy in a particular SuperFood. It's the power of all the nutrients working in concert that makes spinach and the other SuperFoods such standouts in the world of nutrition. But there are actually two levels, if you will, of synergy that come into play when looking at these foods: the synergy of nutrients in the SuperFoods themselves and the synergy of the SuperFoods themselves eaten together on a regular basis in your daily diet--the SuperFoodsRx Diet.
In the foods themselves, the SuperNutrients they contain work together to amplify an effect that any of the single nutrients might not have if working alone. It's the synergy of the nutrients in whole foods that have sometimes caused consternation in the world of science when single-nutrient research projects have failed to prove a hypothesis that initially seemed inevitable. For example, most people associate calcium with preventing osteoporosis. But research employing a single factor, calcium, doesn't always prove this hypothesis. Why? Because building strong bones takes calcium working along with other constituents including vitamin D, boron, vitamin C, and magnesium, among others. And exercise figures into the equation as well since it's the weight-bearing exercise that stimulates bones to use those multiple nutrients to build, rebuild, repair, and preserve strong and healthy bones.
In the SuperFoodsRx Diet, synergy again is key to effectiveness but in this instance it's the synergy of all of the SuperFoods that you'll be eating together that will help you feel and look better than ever and of course lose weight. Your goal is a healthy, whole-foods diet that emphasizes the SuperFoods.
This synergy of SuperFoods eaten together and regularly is important. For example, though we know that oranges and green tea, to choose two SuperFoods, have special properties that will help you lose weight, we also know that these foods are most effective and powerful when eaten in concert. Here's a very specific example of this amplifying benefit: While we know that broccoli and tomatoes, both SuperFoods, are independently recognized for their ability to help prevent cancer, a study published in the journal Cancer Research reported that when both are included in the daily diet, the ultimate effect on prostate cancer is greater than when either vegetable is eaten alone. As the report noted, "The combination of tomato and broccoli was more effective at slowing tumor growth than either tomato or broccoli alone."1 And we are convinced that this amplifying ability of the SuperFoods to create a health-promoting environment is even stronger when they're eaten together regularly as a major part of your daily diet.
While the SuperFoods themselves can go a long way to promoting health and preventing chronic ailments like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis among others, they can't obliterate the effects of other, poor food choices. Which means that you can't eat steak, french fries, and a giant cinnamon roll and expect that a cup of green tea is going to bail you out. It just doesn't work that way. In order to achieve the best results in terms of short-and long-term health, you need to rely on a diet based primarily on the SuperFoods and their many sidekicks working synergistically in concert to help you achieve your immediate weight-loss goals as well as your long-term health goals.
As noted earlier, the power of the SuperFoods isn't just relegated to reducing your risk for long-term disease. The exciting news is that these same foods also actually promote weight loss. Once again, it is the SuperNutrients that make significant contributions to the power of these foods to help get your body back in balance and shed £ds. Here's one way to look at it: You know how when you wash a load of heavy items like towels, sometimes the spin cycle becomes unbalanced? At first the machine spins normally but then after a few revolutions the unbalanced weight begins to take its toll and the washer begins to rock, the motor makes angry banging noises and eventually, if you don't stop the cycle, the washer will practically start walking across the floor and ultimately grind to a stop. This lack of balance takes a toll on the motor. Your body, like the washer, functions best when it's balanced. When it's unbalanced it's more prone to function poorly, which translates into increased risk for chronic ailments including obesity. The best way to get your body back in balance is with the best foods--the SuperFoods. You know you can almost force a washer to spin properly when it's unbalanced by wedging it into place, which will appear to solve the issue--for a while. It may continue to work but the toll on the motor working under these conditions becomes ever more disastrous. This is akin to what can happen when you try unhealthy fad diets to lose weight: You may get short-term results but in the end you'll be taking a toll on your "motor" that will be hard to recover from.
To place the weight-loss discussion in context, we should recognize that science is an evolving process and the research data on particular nutrients and their effect on weight are, in large part, preliminary. We would love to be able to tell you that if you eat salmon and spinach for a week you'll lose 10 £ds. But that's just not the case. However, the positive changes you'll see in your metabolism as a result of eating these foods in concert are real, though of course they will vary based on your own biochemistry and genetic heritage. Research is just beginning to reveal these subtle but powerful effects. Some of this very recent, emerging research has only been done on animals, not humans. With only one or two noted exceptions, the scientific research that inspired the original SuperFoodsRx and SuperFoodsRx HealthStyle was derived primarily from studies on humans in clinical trials. As you might imagine, it's quite a challenge for scientists to design a strong double-blind study on humans that would focus on a particular nutrient. It's complicated and, in some cases, irresponsible, to manipulate the diets of real people so as to exclude important nutrients. We point this out to you to make it clear that we're not making extravagant claims for the powers of these foods. When it comes to weight loss, people can feel desperate and can become vulnerable to false promises. But the peer-reviewed research we're citing here does suggest that we are on the verge of further important discoveries about how certain foods and their nutrients--the SuperNutrients--play important roles in the complex picture of weight loss. Our hope is that more research of its kind will be conducted in the coming years so that the extraordinary value of the SuperFoods will continue to be confirmed, both as health- promoters and welcome, powerful support to those trying to lose weight.
The SuperFoods/Weight Loss Connection
So let's take a look at what we do know about the SuperFoods and their SuperNutrients and how they can work in synergy to help you shed £ds. It's both exciting and motivating to learn about the special properties of the individual SuperFoods in relation to weight. Somehow when you think of a food as having a positive benefit, such a promoting the rate at which you burn calories, rather than just a neutral benefit, such as not being high in calories, say or saturated fat, it's inspiring. As one large study that investigated functional foods and weight control put it when discussing the value of adding foods like nuts and tea to the diet to help control weight, "if the dietary components were combined, their effects could be significant."2 We're sure that you'll find when you combine these SuperFoods your results will indeed be significant.
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