Thursday, April 27, 2006


These antioxidant-rich foods have the power to change your life Full story:

By Jill Wendholt Silva
Knight Ridder Newspapers

Blueberries are brain food.

If there's one good-for-you food that has cut through the din of conflicting
and controversial diet headlines, it's the tiny indigo berry native to North
America, which scientists have discovered contains powerful disease-fighters
that may improve memory, intelligence and coordination.

But blueberries aren't the only food with bragging rights.

Pomegranates, kiwi fruit and, yes, even dark chocolate are the latest buzz,
joining such everyday foods as broccoli, spinach, wild salmon, sweet
potatoes, soy, oats, walnuts and tomatoes. Together these nutrient-dense
foods containing health-promoting phytonutrients are dubbed "super foods."

"Super foods are foods that have longevity and contribute to good health,"
says Steven Pratt, an ophthalmologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La
Jolla, Calif., and co-author of the best-selling "SuperFoodsRx" and
"SuperFoods HealthStyle" (William Morrow, 2005, $24.95).

"It's foods that are available in markets around the world and make up part
of a dietary cuisine," Pratt says. "It's also food that has been studied,
and the scientific studies have been peer-reviewed."

Cruise the aisles of any supermarket in America and broccoli is ubiquitous
for three reasons: It's easy to buy, it's inexpensive and it's easy to cook.
It's also one of the most studied, which is how we know it's one of the most
nutritious foods on the planet.

Beyond the traditional vitamins and minerals Mother told us about,
scientists have discovered broccoli is also a good source of lutein, an
antioxidant available in colorful fruits and vegetables that helps prevents
macular degeneration, a condition that can cause blindness in older adults.

Nutrition experts agree we've only begun to scratch the surface in our
efforts to discover how foods prevent disease in the body. Pratt's first
book featured 14 super foods, a term he believes he coined but could not
trademark. His second book adds 10 more to an ever-growing list, and there
are "sidekicks" galore -- related foods that provide similar health

One of the most surprising super foods to hit the headlines is dark
chocolate. It is loaded with health-promoting polyphenols -- antioxidants
that may help lower blood pressure and promote vascular health. Cocoa has
more polyphenols than red wine or green tea. But to qualify, the chocolate
must contain at least 70 percent cocoa solids.

With the $640 million premium juice market projected to grow to $1.4 billion
by 2008, it's no surprise that Naked Juice is already marketing grab-and-go
bottles of juice made from the obscure Brazilian berry known as acai
(pronounced ah-sigh-ee), which is touted to have 10 times the antioxidants
of red grapes.

But typically Brazilians pour an avalanche of sugar on acai to tame its
tartness. Naked Juice chose to combine the tart berry juice with sweeter
apple, banana and white grape juices. "Sometimes with the higher-antioxidant
fruits, you need to find the right mix of fruits," says Rachel Kenney,
education manager for the California-based company.

In "12 Best Foods Cookbook" (Rodale, 2004, $21.95), Dana Jacobi highlights
foods that are not only loaded with phytonutrients but also have what she
calls a certain "voluptuousness." After all, if a food doesn't taste good,
most of us won't eat it, no matter how good for us.

"I tried to look at foods beyond what its headline fame might be," says
Jacobi, a New York-based food writer and chef who developed the recipes for
her book. "What these 12 foods do -- besides providing phytonutrients -- is
they cover the whole range of what a balanced diet is and include variety."

To that end, she made a choice to leave apples out of the cookbook, even
though they taste great, are easy to buy and rate high on the USDA's list of
20 top antioxidant foods. And she chose chocolate over red wine and walnuts
instead of almonds, even though red wine and almonds are delicious and
possess plenty of proven health benefits.

"What I hope [readers] take from the book is the things that are good for
them and have a good time with them. Not to have them feel like this is a
duty or a sacrifice," Jacobi says.

Food, after all, should taste better than a spoonful of medicine.

12 super foods

When it comes to super foods, there's a lot of compulsive list-making going
on. Some lists focus on a half-dozen foods; USDA scientists have focused on
100 foods and spotlighted 20. But you can forget the numbers game and feel
good about adding any of these to your grocery cart:

1. Beans

Why? High in folate, fiber and antioxidants, beans can help lower
cholesterol and LDL levels, scavenge free radicals, moderate insulin levels
and reduce cancer risk.

How much? Eat two ½-cup servings a day of cooked or canned beans.

2. Blueberries

Why? A true nutritional powerhouse, blueberries provide more antioxidants
than any other fruit or vegetable. Phytonutrients include anthocyanins,
chlorogenic acid, ellagic acid, catechins and resveratrol, substances that
fight cancer, heart disease and age-related memory loss.

How much? If possible, eat 1/2 cup fresh or frozen or 1/4 cup dried
blueberries every day. Eat any type of berry at least three times a week.

3. Broccoli

Why? Cruciferous vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. Broccoli contains
cancer-fighting sulforaphane, indoles and carotenoids plus beta-carotene,
lutein and zeathanin that promote eye health and ward off macular

How much? Eat 1/2 cup raw or 1 cup cooked broccoli every day.

4. Oats

Why? Oatmeal's mighty nutrition profile.

How much? Eat at least three servings of whole grains a day. A serving
equals one cup cooked oatmeal, 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats or 1/4 cup
steel-cut oats.

5. Soy

Why? An important source of vegetable protein, soy also contains
isoflavones, estrogenlike substances that protect and maintain bone
strength. Soy also contains important omega-3 fatty acids, which promote
heart health.

How much? Eat one serving of soy foods a day. The size depends on the form
of the food. Try edamame for snacking out of hand.

6. Spinach

Why? Spinach contains more than a Popeye-sized dose of iron. When it comes
to antioxidants, it's packed with carotenoids such as beta-carotene and
lutein for eye health.

How much? Eat at least 1 cup cooked spinach or other dark leafy green
vegetable a day.

7. Sweet potatoes

Why? Loaded with beta-carotene, sweet potatoes boost the immune system. They
also reduce cholesterol buildup in the arteries and help fight age-related
macular degeneration and a variety of cancers.

How much? Eat at least one 1/2-cup serving of sweet potatoes or other
beta-carotene-rich produce (carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin and orange
bell peppers) a day.

8. Tomatoes

Why? Tomatoes contain lycopene, plus a range of beneficial phytochemicals
that protect against heart attack, cancers and age-related macular
degeneration. Cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene than raw tomatoes.

How much? Eat one serving a day with a little bit of healthy fat, such as
olive oil, to help absorb the lycopene. Serving sizes are one medium raw
tomato, about 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup sauce, 1/4 cup puree, 2
tablespoons paste or 6 ounces juice.

9. Walnuts

Why? If you're looking for an excellent source of "good" polyunsaturated
fats, walnuts are one of the few plant sources high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts are the only nuts that contain ellagic acid, a cancer-fighting
antioxidant. The amino acid arginine can reduce the risk of heart attack.

How much? Eat 1 ½ ounces of nuts per day. One ounce equals 14 walnut halves.

10. Wild salmon

Why? Wild salmon contains large amounts of omega-3, a fatty acid that
reduces the risk of heart disease and heart attack by lowering blood
pressure and bad cholesterol. Omega-3s also reduce inflammation that
triggers arthritis and autoimmune diseases.

How much? A serving is just 3 ounces, roughly the size of a deck of cards,
or 1/4 cup canned. Eat 12 ounces a week.

11. Extra-virgin olive oil

Why? The monounsaturated fats of olive oil are considered "good" fat that
reduces cardiovascular disease, lowers blood pressure and prevents some
types of cancer.

How much? Eat 1 tablespoon most days.

12. Dark chocolate

Why? Dark chocolate has the highest antioxidant content of any food. The
darker the chocolate, the higher the count.

How much? Eat a 1-ounce serving daily. Also, try grapes, red wine and green
tea, which are high in polyphenols, which boost good cholesterol. In
addition to dark chocolate candy, try raw cocoa nibs. Although somewhat
bitter, they have an intense, tannic flavor, like wine.

Some new superstars

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 new buzz:

Pomegranate: The newest research points to pomegranates as the next great
super-food powerhouse, with three times more antioxidant power than green
tea and red wine. Pom, the marketing machine behind pomegranates, has
trademarked the term "The Antioxidant Superpower."

Acai (ah-sigh-ee): Touted to contain 10 times more antioxidants than red
grapes and 10 to 30 times more anthocyanins than red wine, the little berry
from the Brazilian rainforest is poised to samba its way into American
hearts and diets. The acai contains vitamin A, vitamin C and omega fatty
acids 6 and 9.

Gogi or goji (go-gee): A berry from Tibet that is high in antioxidants, goji
is described at as a cross between a cherry and a
cranberry. "There's not a lot of science on it, but you know there's no bad
berry on the planet," says Steven Pratt, author of "SuperFoods HealthStyle"

Gold kiwi fruit: An odd-looking, fuzzy fruit originally from New Zealand, it
has 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, according to Zespri Kiwifruit.

Quinoa (keen-wah): With the whole-grain emphasis in the 2005 Dietary
Guidelines, 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.

Sources: "12 Best Foods Cookbook" and "SuperFoods HealthStyle"


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