Just when do natural foods become super natural foods?
Can Mother Natures super natural foods cure everything from cancer to hay fever?
Are they low fat, no fat and/or fat free?
Natures foods give modern health consumers everything we need.
A hit of essential nutrients in an edible form (even if it’s not always to your taste).
There’s also that hint of the exotic which appeals to consumers willing to experiment with peculiar foodstuffs.
It's pretty clear that our appetite for natural foods is becoming increasingly insatiable.
Super-Foods-Update - To you and I, it seems that super foods are popping up faster than birds infected with the avian flu virus.
Barely have you managed to track down a good source of the latest data when it seems it's been superseded by another.
Super-Foods-Update - Pomegranates are already yesterday’s news.
The latest super natural food is the Wolfberry.
This deep-red, dried fruit is grown in China.
It's about the size of a raisin and tastes like a cross between a cranberry and a cherry.
It's a small powder keg of goodness, containing 500 times the amount of vitamin-C by weight than oranges, with even more antioxidants than pomegranates, and it's the richest source of beta-carotene of all known foods.
Wow, how's that for a heavy hitter?
Recent research has found that Wolfberries, also called Goji berries, significantly reduced blood glucose levels, bad cholesterol and triglycerides (fatty acids in the blood stream that lead to heart disease, diabetes and weight gain).
Meanwhile the journal International Immunopharmacology (thats a mouthful)has reported that wolfberries had a significant effect on the size of cancer tumors in mice.
Further research in China has found the fruit to be effective in preventing the growth of leukemia cells.
Chinese studies also suggest that Wolfberries have anti-aging properties.
Perhaps if the Wolfberry isn’t appealing, you could opt for Maca.
This addition to the super natural foods group is a root vegetable, sort of like a sweet potato but sold in the West as a powder.
It’s been dubbed "natural Viagra", with double-blind trials suggesting that it improves sexual desire, sperm count and sperm mobility.
Super-Foods-Update - then there’s hemp oil, one of the richest sources of essential fats.
Hemp oil plays a key role in our brains function, reproduction and food metabolism, also in ailments such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and arthritis.
This oil is also a good source of GLA, which is believed to help in the treatment of pre-menstrual tension.
A study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, compared dietary hemp oil with topical treatments for dermatitis and significant improvements were noted in the group taking the hemp oil.
The problem with our super natural foods list is that the foods themselves are often expensive and can be hard to come by.
The humble broccoli floret no longer quite cuts it in the "new" super natural foods category.
It seems the more far-flung the source, the more we love it.
More importantly, there is no single authoritative definition of what makes foods "super" natural.
Ask your doctor which super-natural foods will work best to combat heart disease, alleviate osteoarthritis or normalize the pH of your stomach or prevent cancer (claims all being made for the pomegranate) and chances are you’ll get a blank stare.
We believe that foods become "super” if they are nutrient-dense and capable of combating serious disease and restoring our body.
There are over 200 super fruits and vegetables that have already been called superfoods or are awaiting the necessary publicity, such as the strawberry which, it appears, is going to be this years blueberry.
Try this strawberry recipe, you'll love it!
A true super natural food provides the most concentrated, usable form of nourishment to cells which govern our immune systems, our hormones, our weight and our aging processes.
It’s important we not rely on a single super natural food and expect it to achieve wonders.
Many can only be eaten or taken in small quantities.
They do provide extra help, but the most important path is to maintain a varied and healthy diet.
The British Nutrition Foundation agrees.
While acknowledging the benefits of less common super natural foods such as bee pollen and sea vegetables.
The key message is that a wide variety of the less expensive fruits and vegetables is necessary to keeping us all healthy.
What identifies super natural foods comes down to who you ask.
A nutritionist is more likely to opt for natural foods that are the most nutrient-packed and most easily digested.
A doctor might list those fruits and vegetables that have been subjected to the most scientific research.
Among the recent being broccoli, which is rich in isothiocyanate and sulphoraphane.
These are substances that are believed to help the body fight cancer.
Any fruit and vegetable will help your health and the more the merrier.
According to a recent study in the medical journal, The Lancet, states that there is strong evidence that we should eat more than five servings a day of these foods if we want to maximize our protection against heart disease and stroke.
Our "Core 4" super natural foods.
1) Green Superfoods
What are they?
Wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina and chlorella.
How do they help?
Well, they each contain chlorophyll, which is similar to the haemoglobin in our blood.
They're also said to ease constipation.
Barley and wheat-grass are rich in superoxidase dismutase which some studies suggest have the same anti-inflammatory effects as aspirin.
Dr Robert Gallacher, of the Morrison Hospital in Swansea, has researched natural ways to treat digestive problems such as IBS and diverticulitis.
He notes that chlorella one of the richest sources of chlorophyll, vitamin-B12 and zinc, helps to balance the pH of the stomach and to repair the gut lining.
Super-greens are often freeze-dried to preserve their enzymes and nutrients and sold as powders to be mixed with fruit juices.
I mix mine with orange juice each morning, quite tasty actually.
2) Sea Vegetables
What are they?
Marine algae, including fucoidan, dulse, kombu, nori and Arctic wrack.
How do they help?
Sea Vegetables are rich in minerals and protein, they also have as much beta-carotene as carrots.
They’re excellent sources of calcium and minerals for those who avoid dairy and meat.
They’re rich in iodine and therefore vital for the thyroid gland, which produces hormones to govern metabolism and balance female hormones.
3) Sprouted Seeds
What are they?
Any seed, grain or nut that has been soaked in water and has sprouted, including chickpeas, sunflower seeds, lentils and mung beans.
Sprout mixes and kits are readily available in most super markets.
How do they help?
When a seed germinates into a sprout, its’ enzyme, protein, vitamin and mineral content increases and the seed becomes very easy to digest.
Dr Barry Mack, of the University of Pennsylvania, found an average vitamin increase of more than 500 per cent when seeds have been sprouted.
Dr Paul Talalay, at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in New York, found that one broccoli sprout gives as much cancer protection as the full-grown plant.
4) Bee Pollen
What is it?
It's the powder collected by bees from plants and bound with enzymes to aid digestion in their pollen sacks.
The powder is then collected from the bees’ legs.
How does it helps?
Bee Pollen contains a full range of vitamins and enzymes, including 27 minerals, 22 amino acids, plus the antioxidants which help to prevent many degenerative diseases.
French research suggests that its greatest benefit lies in helping with intestinal problems.
But this was achieved only using frozen fresh pollen, rather than the standard dried pollen.
Allergy UK reports anecdotal evidence that hay fever sufferers also benefit from bee pollen.
Holistic practitioners suggest slowly building up to a teaspoon a day at the approach of the hay fever season.
When it comes to phytonutrients, experts say we've only scratched the surface.
With each new study, watch for more antioxidant-rich foods to arrive at a store near you.
Here are a few creating the most recent buzz;
The newest research coming out is pointing to pomegranates as the next great super-licious food powerhouse, with three times more antioxidant power than green tea and red wine.
It's sort of like dental floss for your arteries.
Touted to contain 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 times more anthocyanins than red wine.
This little berry from the Brazilian rainforest is poised to climb its way into our hearts and diets.
The acai berry contains vitamin-A, vitamin-C and omega fatty acids 6 and 9.
Gogi Berries (go-gee):
A berry from Tibet, is high in antioxidants.
Goji is described as a cross between a cherry and a cranberry.
"There isn't a lot of science on it yet, but you know there isn't a bad berry on the planet."
It's an odd-looking, fuzzy fruit originally from New Zealand.
It's become a mainstream supermarket item.
Rich in vitamin-C, it has more vitamins and potassium than a banana and more fiber than a bowl of bran flakes.
With the whole-grain emphasis, watch for less familiar grains to make it into the mainstream.
A staple of the ancient Incas, quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids.
Super Foods Lingo
Phytonutrients: These natural compounds are found in plants.
They appear to be potent disease fighters because of their
Antioxidants: Think of antioxidants as rust fighters.
They protect the body from rust (oxidation) by those dreaded free radicals.
Oxidation is the enemy because it speeds up aging and leads to disease.
Carotenoids: Are found in the red, orange and yellow pigments of fruits and vegetables, carotenoids include beta-carotene, one of the best-known antioxidants, as well as lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin.
Polyphenols: A large group of antioxidants, including anthocycanins, catechins, ellagic acid, quercetin and other substances.Tweet
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