10 Minute Compendium of Healing Foods for Healthy Living for Everyone
…when you don’t have enough time to research a large health database but you know the simple basics are vital …
Do you remember, as a child, being told by your mother to eat all your carrots because they are good for your eyes? Guess what, recent studies have shown that Mom was right! Foods can prevent eye disease, heart disease, arthritis and more.
Some Basic Science: In recent years scientists have discovered that foods contain “phytochemicals,” a fancy name for naturally occurring chemicals. They have properties that can aid in disease prevention. Scientists have identified thousands of these chemicals in the foods we eat and a single serving of fruits or vegetables can contain as many as 100 different phytochemicals.
The most commonly known phytochemicals are the antioxidants. They protect our cells from damage from toxic substances and from free radicals, a by-product produced by our bodies converting oxygen into energy. Free radicals can damage cells in our bodies and lead to disease. Antioxidants protect the body from oxidation and reduce the risk of acquiring many of our common ailments.
Fruits and Vegetables
In fruits and vegetables you can tell what kind of main phytochemicals they contain by their color.
Orange carrots,cantaloupes and mangoes contain beta carotene.
Red tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit contain lycopene.
Yellow pineapples, oranges, and peaches contain beta cryptothanxin.
Green broccoli, cabbage, and kale contain indoles.
Purple blueberries, grapes, and eggplant contain anthocyanins.
Garlic, onions, and chives contain powerful allicin.
Healing Properties Of Fruits
Amaranth: This is technically a fruit, but can be used as a grain in breads, muffins and other flour based foods. The seeds are higher in muscle building protein than other grains and are full of immune boosting Magnesium, Copper and Zinc.
Apricots: A super source of the antioxidants beta carotene, vitamin C and fiber. Studies suggest beta carotene may help protect against lung cancer.
Bananas: This fruit may help lower blood pressure because of their important ingredient: Potassium. Bananas are rich in Vitamin B6, which research at Tuffs University found is essential to maintaining a strong immune system.
Cantaloupe: Brimming with beta carotene and vitamin C, plus fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. Though studies show that beta carotene’s anticancer effect is against lung tumors, it may also protect against oral cancers and cancers of the stomach, cervix and uterus.
Figs: Figure on getting vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and fiber from figs, fresh or dried. All fiber is associated with reduced blood pressure.
Grapes: All grapes are a great source of boron, a mineral that may help ward off osteoporosis. Red grape juice is another healthy pick, besides boron, it contains reservatrol, a chemical that could prevent heart disease by inhibiting the clumping of blood cells.
Kiwifruit: Its fuzzy brown exterior hides a bright green interior chock full of cancer fighting fiber and vitamin C that can play a role in the prevention of cataracts.
Mango: Brimming with beta carotene and vitamin C to help lower blood pressure, plus vitamin B6 and copper.
Orange Juice: The classic source of vitamin C with a kick, folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects. Other citrus fruits and juices also contain limonoids, substances that studies show can activate detoxifying enzymes in the body, possibly cutting cancer risk such as cervical.
Pears: A super source of fiber combined with a low fat diet can lessen the risk of developing polyps in the colon, which may be a precursor to cancer. Also provide some vitamin C, potassium and boron.
Prunes: The classic source of relief for constipation, because they contain sorbitol (a natural sugar) and lots of fiber with a bone saving source of boron and vitamins A and E.
Strawberries: More vitamin C and fiber than you will find in most fruits, including oranges with additional ellagic acid, a natural cancer fighting chemical. Researchers have found that this compound is a potent inhibitor of such carcinogens as tobacco smoke and nitrosamines.
Healing Properties Of Vegetables
Broccoli: “The best prescription ….” Bursting with the cancer fighting fiber, beta carotene and vitamin C, plus folic acid, bone building calcium and boron, as well as more potassium which helps lower blood sugar.
Researchers have also found in broccoli a hidden cancer fighting chemical, sulforaphane, which stimulates the activity of detoxifying enzymes in the body.
Brown Rice: Contains a substance called oryzanol which reduces LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 20 percent, offers vitamin B6 and magnesium and thiamine (important for the functioning of nerves) niacin, copper and zinc. It also has vitamin E that studies show strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of heart disease and cataracts.
Cabbage: An important member of the cruciferous family of cancer fighting vegetables because of a phytochemical called indoles. Scientists think that one indole in particular may help prevent breast cancer by decreasing the activity of the chemical estradiol, which is a precursor to the hormone estrogen that can fuel the growth of certain tumors.
Carrots: Best for their high beta carotene content. A recent study of 87,000 female nurses found that those who eat 5 or more servings a week were 68 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those eating one or fewer carrots a month.
Kale: Packed with fiber, vitamin B6, calcium, copper, manganese and potassium. Another boon against heart disease, kale is especially rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, both of which may reduce the harmful effects of LDL cholesterol.
Pumpkin: Very high in carotene content, just like its winter squash cousins, butternut and hubbard. All are fiber rich too. Diets that are high in carotenes have a lower risk of cataracts requiring surgery.
Red Bell Peppers: A better anticancer pick than green peppers because they contain extra carotenes. They also supply more potassium and vitamin C which, aside from its antioxidant properties, also helps fight cancer by inhibiting the formation in your body of carcinogenic nitrosamines which can form when you eat foods containing nitrites, such as bacon.
Spinach: A powerhouse of antioxidants and virtually every nutrient you can think of. It is a particularly rich source of folic acid, which may not only reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects but also protect against cervical dysplasia, a condition that precedes cervical cancer.
Sweet Potatoes: These pack almost twice as much fiber and significantly more beta carotene than white or red potatoes.
In the Harvard Nurse’s Health Study, women who took 15 to 20 milligrams of beta carotene a day ( about 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potatoes) had a 39 percent lower risk for heart attack than women who consumed less than 6 milligrams of beta carotene a day.
Tomatoes: Contain lycopene, a phytochemical also found in red grapefruit, thought to help prevent some cancers.Also supply respectable amounts of vitamin A and C, as well as fiber and potassium.
Healing Properties Of Seeds, Nuts, Oils and Fish
There are healthy fats as well as unhealthy fats. The healthy fats are monounsaturated fatty acids found in vegetable oils, seeds, nuts and some plants and omega-3 fatty acids found mostly in the deep water fatty fish. Small amounts of healthy fats help the body absorb nutrients from vegetables and fruits.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are known to play a beneficial role in a healthy heart and other chronic illnesses. The research has shown they can help prevent and treat heart disease, cancer, diabetes,obesity, inflammatory conditions and muscular-skeletal pain.
Fish: The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils help to lower blood fats especially triglycerides. As a natural anti-inflammatory, they help in the prevention and treatment of inflammation, mental health disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, and cancer.
Mackerel, lake trout, herring, anchovies, blue fish, salmon and sardines have the most fatty acids … so eat fish two or three times a week.
Flax seed Oil: It is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which also contains lignans. Research has shown that a diet that contains lignans can reduce the risk of several types of cancer as well as heart disease and osteoporosis.
Nuts: They are a surprising help for your heart. A study at Loma Linda University in California found that adults on a low fat diet who ate 2 ounces of walnuts five or more times a week lowered their total cholesterol levels by 12 percent. Apparently replacing saturated fat in your diet with polyunsaturated fat in nuts pays off.
Nuts listed in order of the highest to lowest in monounsaturated fatty acids:
Macadamias, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Almonds,Cashews, Pistachios, Brazil nuts, Peanuts, Pine nuts,Walnuts
Olive Oil: A key component of the healthy Mediterranean diet. It is the oil richest in monounsaturated fats which lowers blood cholesterol.
If you don’t like olive oil, try canola oil, it is almost as high as monounsaturated, with even less saturated fat. Other oil sources of monounsaturated fats are Peanut oil, Sesame oil, Walnut oil, Soybean oil, Flax seed oil and Grape seed oil.
But do not go overboard on any oil, they all contain 14 grams of fat and 120 calories per tablespoon.
Sunflower Seeds: Similar to nuts in polyunsaturated fat content, but with much more vitamin E, the antioxidant that fights cancer, heart disease and cataracts.
Healing Properties Of Grains
Grains are the seeds of plants. Whole grains contain all parts of the grain, including the bran, endosperm and germ.
Bran. Forming the outer layer of the seed, the bran is a rich source of niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc, as well as the majority of the seed’s fiber.
Germ. A concentrated source of niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc that also contains protein and fat. It is a rich source of fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, Vitamin E, folate, selenium, zinc and iron.
They tend to have a low glycemic index, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels that helps to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, constipation, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
Barley: Brimming with beta glutens, a type of fiber that can lower your risk of heart disease by reducing levels of artery clogging LDL (low density lipoprotein)
Look for the term “unpearled” on the box; this means the barley is unprocessed and higher in fiber.
Bran Cereal: Pick one high in wheat bran, there’s no better source of cancer fighting insoluble fiber, the kind that increases stool bulk and speed. (Scientists think that faster the toxins move through your bowels, the lower your risk of colorectal cancer.)
Look for a cereal that provides at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Oats: A good choice for lowering LDL cholesterol. Recently, an analysis of 10 studies found that eating 3 grams of soluble fiber a day, the amount in a large bowl of 100 percent oat bran cereal, or three packets of instant oatmeal can cut LDL cholesterol by at least 5.6 percent in six weeks.
Wheat Germ: Top notch for almost any nutrient. Just a quarter cup packs in 5 grams of fiber, as well as almost all the B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc. It is incredibly rich in manganese and is one of the best sources of vitamin E and chromium, a mineral that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Whole Wheat Bread: Whole wheat bread flour and bread contain triple the fiber found in white bread. It is also richer in vitamin B6 and magnesium.
According to nutritional researchers, we need extra B6 as we age to keep our immune system strong. Whole wheat pasta can also provide protection.
Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are an excellent low fat source of protein and fiber, rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Research has shown that they can help prevent and treat a wide variety of chronic diseases such as inflammatory diseases, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, obesity, cancer and strokes.
Healing Properties Of Beans and Lentils
Black Beans: A bonanza of soluble fiber, the kind that helps lower LDL (by as much as 24 percent) and reduce blood pressure by keeping sugar levels on an even keel. Most common types are:
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), Lima beans, Fava beans,Black-eyed peas, Kidney beans, Navy beans, Great northern beans,Pinto beans
Lentils: A powerhouse of nutrients mostly B vitamins, which recent research from the ongoing Physicians Health Study, suggest it may help protect against heart attacks. High in fiber, protein and minerals such as iron and immune boosters copper, manganese and zinc.
Miso: This soybean paste (used to season soups and sauces) contains isoflavones, substances that may protect against breast cancer by inhibiting the growth of blood vessels that fuel solid tumors.
Tofu or soybean curd, is also rich in iron and calcium.
Another soy product, tempeh, also provides vitamins A and B6, magnesium and zinc with less fat than tofu.
Healing Properties Of Herbs and Spices
Spices and herbs can be helpful in treating many medical conditions such as, nausea, infections, inflammatory conditions, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Garlic: It is not just folklore, research suggests garlic helps protect against heart disease and stroke, may lower blood pressure, and test tube studies show it even act as a antibiotic. Best of all, garlic contains substances that appear to detoxify carcinogens. A member of the allium family, which includes onions and scallions, garlic has been linked to lower stomach cancer rates.
Ginger: Ginger, with other spices including oregano, pepper, rosemary and thyme are natural antioxidants. May be a natural diet aid, possibly boosting the rate in which the body burns calories, according to Australian researchers.
Turmeric: This yellow spice which is most familiar in Indian cooking and American prepared mustard is an excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It can help alleviate the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, arthritis, tendonitis, and other disorders with inflammation.
Fresh or Dried Peppermint: Peppermint is excellent as a remedy for all types of stomach upset such as, indigestion, nausea and heartburn.
Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne pepper has a variety of uses. It can be used to ease toothache pain, reduce the tendency of blood to clot, decrease cholesterol, improve circulation and prevent heart disease.
Tea contains a large amount of an antioxidants called polyphenols. This antioxidant has been shown to have many benefits: protect against strokes, inhibit the growth of cancer cells, reduce high blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart, reduce cholesterol and risk of osteoporosis, alleviate the inflammation from arthritis, improve the bodies ability to fight infections and diseases.
Most research has been on green tea but evidence suggests similar benefits from oolong tea. The green and white teas are the least processed and have higher levels of the polyphenols than the black teas.
Other Healing Foods
Chocolate: Yes, chocolate can be good for you, but it has to be the dark chocolate, not milk chocolate. Milk will bind to the antioxidants in the chocolate and make them unavailable to your body. For this same reason, you also do not want to drink milk when eating dark chocolate.
Chocolate contains procyanidins and epicatechins. These are flavonoids that are part of a group of antioxidants called polyphenols. The benefits of daily eating a small amount of dark chocolate: decrease bad cholesterol,inhibit the formation of blood clots,increase blood flow through the arteries, elevates mood and pleasure by causing an increase in serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain.
Yogurt: The ultimate health food may prevent allergic attacks, say researchers at the University of California. They found people who ate two 8 ounce cartons of yogurt with live cultures (specifically lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptocus thermophilous) per day came down with fewer colds and almost 10 times fewer allergy symptoms than those eating the same amount of yogurt with “killed” (pasteurized) cultures.
Other research found that women with recurrent yeast infections had almost seven times fewer infections when they ate yogurt containing live cultures like lactobacillus acidophilus.
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