Eating healthy does not have to be difficult; there are lots of nutrient dense foods out there to include in your diet. We wrote this (quite lengthy!) article to help you discover new healthy foods, and to learn the benefits they bring with them.
We have also created a Healthy Food Finder tool, which allows you to visually compare the foods mentioned in this article. Give it a try when you have a minute!
These odd looking little beans have a slightly sweet and nutty flavour that makes them popular for use in dessert dishes in countries like Japan and China. They also come with a wonderful range of scientifically proven health benefits, making them a healthful choice for the store cupboard!
Adzuki beans could help prevent diabetes and manage its complications. Scientists are always testing new methods of managing diabetic complications, particularly through diet.
One such study used rats and mice that consumed a specialised diet designed for rodents. A test group also received the adzuki bean extract and this continued for eight weeks – the point of this exercise was to find out if type 2 diabetes could be prevented. In order to investigate how symptoms of type 2 diabetes could be improved, another group of older mice were fed the extract for four weeks.
The results showed that in the first group of rodents the extract had a lowering effect on things like blood glucose levels, insulin levels and total cholesterol levels; these kinds of effects were also noticed in the second group of older mice. The researchers concluded that adzuki beans have both preventative and healing effects on type 2 diabetes.
They can also help manage weight. In 2012, a study was published that examined the effects of adzuki bean extract on lipid metabolism in the blood, which is the rate at which fats are removed from the system. Four groups of rats were fed either a control diet or a high fat diet, then one of the control groups and one of the high fat groups also received adzuki bean extract. The researchers also used human fat cells to examine the effects of the adzuki bean extract.
The results showed that in the rats that had consumed adzuki extract, lipid metabolism was greatly improved in both groups. In the human fat cells, adzuki bean extract had lowered triglyceride levels and inflammation in the cells. These results show that adzuki beans are a promising natural weight management food.
Another great reason to eat them is that they can help lower cholesterol. The health effects of eating foods from the legume family have been known for a while, but a study conducted recently wanted to examine exactly what effect the consumption of adzuki beans and cowpeas would have on rats with high cholesterol.
All but one of the groups of rats had the same high cholesterol diet, the other group had a basic diet; one group also consumed adzuki beans, another consumed cowpeas, another consumed simvastatin and the other group only had the high cholesterol diet.
The results showed that the rats that had adzuki beans or cowpeas in their diet experienced a reduction in cholesterol levels, compared to eating a high cholesterol diet without them.
Finally, they could help lower blood pressure. A 2009 study examined how adzuki bean extract might affect the blood pressure of hypertensive rats. It is believed that the polyphenols that adzuki beans contain have blood pressure reducing effects. The rats were divided into two groups, both groups ate a regular diet, but one group received a supplement in the form of the adzuki bean extract.
After eight weeks, the results showed that the rats that had been receiving the supplement experienced a significant drop in blood pressure, compared to the rats that did not receive the supplement.
Almonds are a very popular nut and are found not only in the diet but also in many health and beauty products. This may be for a very good reason, as they are filled with loads of health-boosting properties.
Can fight against cancer and disease. Almonds are packed with antioxidants, which fight off free radicals, molecules created through radiation, pollution and other processes, which cause diseases such as cancer.
Liu et al (2013) found that consuming 56 g of almonds per day for 4 weeks led to a significant reduction in inflammation and free radical damage in patients with type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, Bostick et al (1993) found that consuming foods high in vitamin E (an antioxidant found in almonds) could significantly reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.
Protects against damage to cell membranes. Almonds are one of the best sources of vitamin E (with one ounce containing a massive 37% of the RDA), which is very important for protecting cell membranes from damage.
This damage has been identified as a cause of metastatic cancer (cancer which spreads away from its place of origin, Jaiswal and Nylandsted, 2015), cell death following spinal cord injury (Creutz, 2012), and death of bone marrow cells (Xin et al, 2014) among other health problems.
Can protect against heart disease. Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries due to cholesterol build up. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide (NHS, 2014), so it is an extremely important global health issue that needs to be tackled.
One very effective way to deal with the problem is to alter the diet, and almonds have been shown to significantly reduce both low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and is particularly effective for LDL cholesterol which is also known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol (Lovejoy et al, 2002).
Excellent for weight loss. Almonds are rich in fatty acids which may put some people off when they are trying to lose weight, but research shows that they may actually be extremely good for weight loss.
Wein et al (2003) assessed weight loss in overweight women who either had an almond enriched or complex carbohydrate enriched low calorie diet. Those on the almond enriched diet ate 84g almonds per day.
The researchers found that those on the almond diet lost 7% more weight, saw a 5% greater reduction in their waist circumference, and had a 10% greater reduction in their fat mass. They also had a reduction in body water and systolic blood pressure.
A staple part of many a fruit bowl, you’ve undoubtedly heard the adage of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” But did you know that there is now scientific evidence that supports this theory?
From helping to lower the risk of asthma to preventing neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, it seems that the reliable apple is one superfood that keeps being overlooked.
Lower the risk of asthma. A study conducted in 2007, by Willers et al, showed that mothers who ate apples in pregnancy greatly reduced the risk of their children developing asthma in later life, by as much as 53%.
It is thought that the antioxidant flavonoid known as quercetin is a major contributing factor to this outcome. It is also understood that these results can be observed in adults who regularly eat apples as well.
Help lower cholesterol. It would seem that eating apples on a regular basis can help to lower overall cholesterol, particularly in postmenopausal women, according to a study by Dr. Arjmandi et al, published in 2012.
The women ate the equivalent of 2 apples a day for 12 months, with their blood being taken at 3 monthly intervals. It was found that their bad cholesterol had been reduced by as much as 24% within the first 6 months.
Help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s. Oxidative stress – which is an imbalance that can occur in one’s body, preventing it from counteracting the harmful effects of free radicals – damages neurological cells and thus causes diseases like Alzheimer’s.
A study, published in 2008, found that eating apples, oranges and bananas on a regular basis helped to protect the neuron cells from oxidative stress thanks to the antioxidants and phytochemicals they contain.
Reduce the risk of stroke. A 28-year long study of more than 9,000 Finnish men and women has shown that eating apples is associated with a significantly decreased risk of experiencing a thrombotic stroke – which is the kind of stroke affecting the brain.
Initially, the researchers thought that quercetin was responsible for decreasing the risk, but their study found no such link. Instead, apple consumption seemed to be the most prominent factor. It is not entirely known why this is, but the results clearly speak for themselves.
Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. A team of researchers sifted through piles of research relating to studies of more than 180,000 people regarding the effects that eating certain fruits had on participants with type 2 diabetes.
They published the study in 2013 and it clearly showed that regular consumption of most fruits, but particularly apples, blueberries and grapes, helped to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 7%.
Prevent breast cancer. Rui Hai Liu has conducted a number of studies relating to how cancer cells form and finding ways to prevent this. Two of her studies have concentrated on how apple extracts affect breast cancer cells in human cells (1) and the mammary glands of rats (2).
What she has found strongly suggests that certain phytochemicals found in apples significantly affect the ability of cancer cells to form and reproduce.
Apricots are related to plums and peaches; they are a soft orange-golden coloured fruit with a hard seed in the middle. They are enjoyed either on their own or as part of a healthy dessert.
100g of apricots provides you with 16% of your recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin C, 38% RDA of vitamin A and 8% of your RDA of fiber. They are also very low in calories with 100g containing only 48 calories. As with many other fruits, they come with a whole host of health benefits.
The high amounts of vitamin A and C in apricots means that they are great for your eye health. Vitamin C is responsible for forming and maintaining connective tissues, such as collagen within the eye. Additionally, it helps fight against the formation of cataracts.
Vitamin A is necessary for rhodopsin synthesis, which is found in the rod cells in the retina. A lack of rhodopsin can result in night blindness, which precedes xerophthalmia (two common eye related ailments), so consuming foods rich in vitamin A can help prevent these diseases from manifesting.
Apricots also contain quercetin, a phytochemical which protects against inflammation. Inflammation is present in quite a few bodily problems, including heart disease and arthritis. Quercetin helps reduce inflammation by encouraging the body to use its own anti-inflammatory system more effectively and fighting against free radicals, due to its antioxidant properties.
Apricots also help with weight loss as they are a good source of dietary fiber (which prolongs a feeling of fullness). They do contain a fair amount of sugar, however this could prove to be an advantage as people trying to lose weight can help satisfy their sweet tooth by eating apricots, rather than a bar of chocolate.
This article also shows that apricots maintain bone health, treat ear aches and may also improve fertility!
The artichoke is a rarity. It is a plant originally derived from the thistle, yet for a food that started out so unappetising, research is now showing that it may possess a multitude of health benefits for your heart, gut and liver.
In addition, the artichoke is a great source of vitamin C, and two hard to find essential minerals: potassium and magnesium.
Preparing an artichoke is a slightly harder task than it looks, so it’s important to know what you’re doing (this doctor ended up visiting the hospital, and could not go to work). Essentially, the artichoke ‘fruit’ (which is actually a flower that hasn’t bloomed) has two edible parts: the tender, inside portion of the leaves, and the heart.
Boil or steam the artichoke, then remember to remove the leaves and the hairy, prickly section (sometimes called the ‘choke’) so you don’t end up with any nasty surprises.
The artichoke provides a good amount of nutrition for the calories it contains. 1 medium artichoke (128g) contains 60 calories, and is high in three micronutrients: vitamin C (25% of your daily value per artichoke), magnesium (19% DV) and potassium (13% DV).
Vitamin C is important for iron absorption, gum health and may have cardiovascular benefits. Potassium is an essential mineral that may help with such disparate things as blood pressure complications and muscular strength, and magnesium intake is a great benefit to the heart and blood vessels.
What is important about artichoke having such high levels is that potassium and magnesium deficiency are quite common, and eating artichokes may go some way to preventing these.
The positive benefits of artichoke that are being researched, however, have less to do with the nutritional benefits.
Firstly, artichoke has a fantastic cardiovascular benefit, as it has been shown to reduce cholesterol, possibly helping with cardiovascular disease. With high cholesterol being a major risk factor for some of the top killers in the developed world, namely coronary heart disease and strokes, anything that reduces your cholesterol is a major plus point.
Also, the possible cardiovascular benefits of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium make the artichoke a great choice for a healthy heart.
Secondly, the artichoke has a number of digestive benefits. For those suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and dyspepsia, artichokes may have some positive effects on relieving the symptoms and discomfort associated with these conditions. One medium artichoke contains 28% DV of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is important for the health of your colon, and may lower cholesterol.
Finally, the artichoke may have substantial benefits for your liver. One study showed that it had both liver-protecting (‘hepatoprotective’) and antioxidant benefits in rats that were exposed to dangerous chemicals that resulted in free radical damage.
This study found much the same effect more than 10 years later. What this means is that eating artichokes may prevent liver disease arising before it occurs, a fantastic benefit when liver disease is so prevalent (although there is no suggestion in these studies that artichokes will counteract the effect of alcohol!).
Arugula (also known as rocket), is a somewhat unconventional member of the brassica family, or the ‘cruciferous vegetables’.
In addition to being a great in salads & sauces, and boasting a distinct, somewhat peppery flavour, arugula also has a number of health benefits.
Nutritionally, arugula benefits from something a lot of the brassica family can boast: very high vitamin K. According to the USDA database entry, 100g of arugula gives 136% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K (based on a 2000 calorie per day diet). Vitamin K is important for a number of processes within the body, in particular for blood clotting and bone health.
Arugula is also high in several other important nutrients. 100g contains 47% of your DV of vitamin A, a vitamin important in eye health (vitamin A deficiency is the largest preventable cause of blindness worldwide), 16% DV of calcium, a micronutrient vital for bone health, and 11% DV of magnesium, a mineral with important cardiovascular benefits (like reducing high blood pressure).
Finally, possibly the greatest benefit of arugula lies in its potent cancer-fighting properties. The brassicas as a family are reputed to have great cancer-fighting potential, (this review focusing on the benefits of the brassica family is a good example). A lot of that reputation is based on their high levels of compounds called glucosinalates.
But whereas most brassicas have high levels of a compound called sulforaphane, arugula is a little special, as its major cancer-fighting compound is in fact something called erucin. This study demonstrates the potential of this compound in fighting tumours.
What’s great about the fact that arugula has a rarer cancer fighting compound is that if you eat say, broccoli and Brussel sprouts in large amounts you can only get so many benefits from that sulforaphane.
Eat broccoli and arugula, however, and get twice the anti-cancer benefit! Nutritious, cancer-fighting, and delicious (especially in Italian cuisine) arugula is a distinctive food with distinct benefits for your health.
Asparagus, something of a luxury in the vegetable world, is a spring vegetable that is delicious when blanched, steamed, griddled, roasted or eaten raw.
Asparagus has a good nutritional profile, and couple that with the fact that this vegetable could be one of the few that’s really easy to eat in large amounts (as much as I love kale, try eating 100g of it raw …), and it may just be really beneficial for your health. 100 g of raw asparagus contains 15% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin A, 11% DV of iron, and 9% DV of vitamin C.
Iron is an essential mineral, and deficiency is common – you may know someone who has suffered from iron deficiency, also know as anaemia. Iron deficiency can lead to tiredness, lethargy, and a pale complexion initially, and worse problems as it progresses. An added plus of eating your asparagus is that vitamin C helps with iron absorption!
However, asparagus’s main benefits might not be their helping hand with warding off nutritional deficiencies. Asparagus has been studied for a number of beneficial health effects, from cancer prevention to managing the symptoms of diabetes.
Firstly, asparagus has fantastic anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties. Not only will it help manage and treat the health issues related to stress management and inflammation, but it has also been studied for its broad anti-tumour properties and its beneficial effects on liver cancer.
With stress being such a big part of life in the modern world, and cancer risk a reality in most of our lives, a little asparagus may go a long way!
Secondly, asparagus may have some benefits for blood sugar management and weight loss, both helpful for managing diabetes. One study demonstrated that mice fed a high fat diet benefited from asparagus due to its liver-protecting and fat-lowering effects. There is some evidence that asparagus promotes insulin production. Finally, studies on models of diabetes in rats have shown that asparagus has beneficial effects on blood sugar and fat levels.
Avocados are a versatile, nutrient-dense and delicious addition to your diet. They are a fruit native to Mexico and Central America, with a wide range of culinary uses and a host of health benefits to go along with them.
Avocados are extremely nutrient dense; meaning that for every calorie consumed, a high number of your essential vitamins and minerals are consumed along with it. 100 grams of Hass avocado (the most commonly cultivated avocado) contains 15% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin B6, 14% of your DV of vitamin C, and more potassium than a banana!
In addition, avocado is one of the most abundant protein containing fruits. It is also very high in monounsaturated fats (and comparatively low in saturated fats), containing 10g per 100g of avocado. Finally, 100 grams of avocado contains 28% of your DV of dietary fibre.
Aside from the exceptional benefit in terms of nutrients, avocados also have a number of concrete health benefits. They help with weight control – despite their bad reputation, as a result of being a high calorie food. Avocados help with weight loss in four main ways: (see this review)
First, monounsaturated fat has been shown to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and blood sugar. Avocado, along with olive oil, is extremely high in this kind of fat.
Second, its high fat content gives it a high satiety (fullness) rating. Third, the high fat content could possibly reduce the temptation to binge on unhealthier high-fat foods, hence the classic diet tip to replace butter with avocado when making toast.
Finally, the nutrient density of the avocado means that, although it is fairly high in calories, the rich supply of vitamins and minerals will lead to people feeling healthier and thus more energetic and satisfied, helping them to stick with weight loss programs.
Another major benefit of eating avocados is its importance in preventing serious (and common) health issues like strokes, heart disease, and cancer. These three are all in the top five causes of premature death in the UK and US.
The nutrients present in avocado have health benefits in this regard: the high level of potassium in an avocado is a plus, as research links potassium deficiency with an increased risk of strokes. Potassium and monounsaturated fats in an avocado may also be the reason behind its ability to lower blood pressure; further reducing the risk of strokes.
Avocadoes have been linked to low cholesterol, improving your cardiovascular health generally, and decreasing your risk of heart disease.
Finally, avocados have strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants prevent damage by ‘free radicals’, particles linked to DNA and cell damage, possibly leading to mutations & cell death. The antioxidant properties of the avocado could conceivably lower the risk of cancer, and perhaps reduce some of the negative effects of aging.
Overall, avocado is an extremely versatile and delicious fruit that your body could really benefit from. It is nutrient dense, it promotes weight loss, it may help you live longer, and it can even be used as a cosmetic!
Whether you like eating them in cakes or straight from the fruit bowl, bananas are a regular staple in many households. They provide a delicious, naturally sweet treat and scientific evidence is able to show just how beneficial they are to overall health.
Here are some (of the many) benefits of eating bananas:
Lowers blood pressure. In 1999, a study found that bananas had a significant effect on systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Healthy volunteers were subjected to the cold test – which is where one of their hands is put in very cold water for up to a minute – and the changes in their blood pressure and heart rate were monitored.
It was found that consuming a banana beforehand resulted in lower blood pressure for participants in the experiment group.
Helps prevent kidney cancer. Like many fruits and vegetables, bananas are strongly linked to a reduction in the risk of cancer; a study published in 2005 showed that they may be the most effective fruit when it comes to preventing cancer. The research focuses on kidney cancer and followed 61,000 Swedish women over 13 years.
Naturally, the women who ate at least 75 portions of fruit and veg a month had a lowered risk of developing kidney cancer compared to those who ate roughly 11 portions a month; and those women who consumed between 4 and 6 bananas a week halved their risk of developing kidney cancer compared to those who didn’t.
Management of diabetes. When treating diabetes, it is important to ensure that the condition is managed properly through diet and lifestyle, as well as any necessary medication.
Finding tasty, sweet and satisfying snacks can sometimes be difficult, but this study has looked at the glycemic responses of 4 banana varieties and has said that they are all suitable for diabetic patients to have as snacks. This is true especially if they are on specialised dietary plans or receiving treatment for managing blood glucose levels.
The banana varieties tested were the Latundan/Silk banana (which is one of the most common types available in the supermarket), the Myrose banana, Gros Michel banana and the Pisang Awak banana.
Treats diarrhea. The thought of eating an unripened, green banana may not seem entirely appealing; but if you are suffering from diarrhea, then you may wish to give it a go. According to this study, eating cooked green banana can greatly assist in the treatment of diarrhea.
Nearly 3000 children in rural Bangladesh were followed during a bout of diarrhea and some of them were given cooked green banana from their mothers, whilst others were not. The children who ate banana were markedly improved by days 3, compared to 7 days for those who did not.
Helps prevent age-related neurological disease. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the proliferation of free radicals and the body’s ability to deal with them; this leads to a number of problems, including age-related neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.
In 2008, a study was published that had looked at how the most commonly consumed fruits – bananas, apples and oranges – affected oxidative stress that causes neurological disease.
It was discovered that the phenolics found in bananas, apples and oranges played a huge part in protecting the neuron cells and preventing damage from oxidative stress, thus helping to reduce the risk of neurological diseases.
A true health food, beetroot is a valuable resource not only for those looking to maintain their long-term health, but also for those looking for their diet to have athletic benefits. Delicious when roasted, blended, or even in juice form, adding beetroot to your daily diet will have fantastic benefits.
The leaves of the plant (beet greens), are a low-calorie source of nutrients. Whichever part of the plant takes your fancy, eating beetroot is something wholeheartedly recommended.
Beets are an impressive source of nutrition. The beetroots themselves are a decent source of vitamins and minerals: 100g of raw beets contains 11% of your daily value (DV) of dietary fibre, 9% DV of potassium, and 8% DV of calcium. This will have great benefits for your digestive, cardiovascular, and bone health respectively.
But while the benefits of the root are more to do with athletic performance, beet greens are the real nutritional powerhouse here.
100g of raw beet greens contains 500% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, 127% DV of vitamin A, 50% DV of vitamin C, 14% DV of iron, and 12% of calcium. That’s a lot of nutrients! Deficiency in these could lead to anything from bad blood clotting to poor eye health, bleeding gums and tiredness. There’s a reason these nutrients are called essential, so always remember to eat your greens.
As mentioned above, the real benefits of beetroot comes with its remarkable and possibly unique benefits for athletic performance. This review notes that beetroot juice ‘appears to improve performance without any side effects’. This is great news for anyone engaged in athletic activity.
What is particularly impressive is the vast range of athletic pursuits that beetroot juice seems to improve. At first, the advantages gained from drinking it appeared to be just for endurance sports, like running and cycling, but there are papers that show that, for example, bursts of high intensity exercise are made easier by beetroot juice.
Even strength sports may be assisted by beetroot juice, as it appears to increase muscle contraction. For anyone who takes their sport seriously, or maybe even just enjoys feeling at their fittest, beetroot juice is an absolute must.
There are a few other benefits to drinking beetroot juice. In fact, the broader benefits for your long term health and the short term athletic benefits may even be due to the same mechanism, although research has not proven this.
Research into beetroot has shown that the nitrate in its juice has cardiovascular benefits, because it lowers blood pressure and protects blood vessels.
Moreover, this review lays out a whole host of potential therapeutic benefits of beetroot juice: from anti-oxidant properties, to reduction of inflammation, and preserving cognitive function as people get older. That paper was only published in April of 2015, so no doubt more benefits of beetroot juice are yet to be discovered!
Bell peppers are like a ray of sunshine and colour on any salad plate and they make a deliciously healthy alternative to breadsticks and crisps when dipping into salsa or houmous. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their bright colours, especially the red ones, mean that they are chock-full of nutrients that are incredibly beneficial to your health and body.
Help Effect Weight Loss And Maintain Heart Health. There have been many rumours associated with the power of peppers in helping people to lose weight, but now a very recent study has examined whether or not this is the case. The researchers gave a group of mice either a high-fat diet supplemented with green pepper juice, a high-fat diet on its own or a control diet.
The results showed that the mice that ate the high-fat diet that was supplemented with the green pepper juice experienced less weight gain than those that did not receive the supplement. The juice group also experienced a decrease in triglycerides, overall cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, as well maintaining blood pressure and heart rate levels that were similar to the control group that had not eaten the high-fat diet.
These findings are certainly promising, but further research does need to be done into this area to fully appreciate the benefits that bell peppers can have on weight loss and maintaining heart health in human participants.
May Help Ease Allergic Reactions. Many foods claim to help ease or prevent allergic reactions, but few have actually been scientifically proven; the humble bell pepper, however, was the subject of a successful study that took place in 2011.
A mouse model of asthma was induced with egg whites and treated using an extract created from bell peppers. The extract was administered orally and the results showed a significant decrease in the symptoms associated with an allergic, asthmatic reaction such as inflammation and narrowing of the airways.
Of course, this doesn’t suggest that taking a pepper extract will prevent allergic reactions, and proper medication should be taken, but it does suggest that a diet rich in bell peppers could help to alleviate the symptoms of allergic reactions.
If You Eat Only One Colour, Make It Red! Red bell peppers are perhaps the most beneficial to our health and not without good reason. They contain a biological compound called capsaicin in large quantities, which has been extensively studied for its various health benefits. A recent study has reviewed the wealth of available scientific evidence regarding the benefits of capsaicin.
The review concludes that consumption of red bell pepper can help to maintain a healthy heart, assist weight loss, prevent cancer, provide anti-inflammatory effects and assist pain relief.
Black beans, also known as turtle beans because of their shape which is like a turtle shell, originate from Peru and are an important part of South American diets. They are also a staple for many vegans, vegetarians and health food fanatics alike because, like many legumes, they are full of protein, fibre and nutrients that are essential for maintaining a healthy body.
Can Help Inhibit Cholesterol Increase. In 2013, a study was published that had examined the effects of black bean extract on lowering cholesterol levels by preventing cholesterol micelle solubility. Cholesterol micelles are tiny cells that carry fats to the intestinal cell wall. These fats are not very soluble and cannot be absorbed properly without the micelles; the micelles also carry cholesterol.
The results of this study, however, found that saponin, a compound in black beans, was effective at reducing the solubility of the cholesterol micelles, thus reducing cholesterol levels. It was also noted that the higher the concentrations of saponin, the higher the decrease in cholesterol absorption were.
Can Help Manage Blood Sugar Levels In Type 2 Diabetic People. Beans of almost every shape and size have long been associated with regulating blood sugar. In 2012 a study examined how eating rice either on its own or with one of three beans would affect glucose levels in type 2 diabetic participants.
Seventeen participants ate one of four meals – rice on its own, a black bean/rice combo, a pinto bean/rice combo or a kidney bean/rice combo. They fasted for twelve hours overnight and then consumed this meal for breakfast. Their blood glucose levels were measured immediately after eating and in thirty minute intervals afterwards, for three hours.
Not surprisingly, those who had eaten one of the bean meals had lower blood sugar levels, with both black and pinto beans having a significant difference compared to those who had just eaten rice.
Can Inhibit Cancer Cell Growth. The compounds saponin and genistein, as well as flavonoids that come from black beans have recently been shown to prevent cancer cells from growing.
The beans were sprouted for three days and then an extract was created that was tested on different cancer cell types. Genistein proved incredibly successful at inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells, whilst the flavanols and saponin were very effective at preventing liver and colon cancer cell growth.
Excellent Source Of Protein
Combining protein-rich pulses with a carbohydrate, such as beans and rice, will allow our bodies to form a complex protein from them, which is essential for good health.
In 2013, research investigated the actual levels of protein in black beans, pinto beans and bambara groundnuts. The results showed that they consisted of between 85.2% and 88.2% protein, making them an incredibly efficient source of non-animal protein.
Autumn not only precedes winter, but it signals the start of blackberry season – those plump, purple, juicy fruits that burst in your mouth and taste divine in a crumble! It is not surprising that these wonderful fruits are popular both to eat and within health-conscious circles – they are literally bursting with wonderful health benefits that have been scientifically proven as fact.
Help Prevent Cell Damage And Lower Levels Of “Bad” Cholesterol. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the levels of free radicals and the ability of the body to hunt them down and destroy them. This results in cell damage which in the long term can lead to the development of serious diseases like heart disease and cancer. Blackberries have an inhibitory effect on the processes that cause oxidative stress to occur.
A study on hamsters found that blackberry nectar significantly reduces the levels of “bad” cholesterol whilst not affecting the levels of “good” cholesterol. The researchers also discovered that lipid peroxidation was greatly inhibited – lipid peroxidation is the process whereby free radicals steal electrons from lipids, which results in cell damage. Therefore this study supports the aforementioned one regarding the ability of blackberries to prevent cell damage from occurring.
Helps Prevent Problems Related to Obesity. Obesity not only causes problems for the skeleton and joints, it can often lead to inflammation of cells which in turn can cause problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A recent study has examined how beverages made from blackberry and blueberry juice might affect such inflammation from occurring. The results found that because of the high levels of anthocyanins that both types of berries contain, the juices had a significant impact in lowering the inflammation caused in relation to obesity.
Prevents Risk Of Cardiovascular Problems. Endothelial dysfunction is usually the catalyst for a number of cardiovascular-related problems such as high blood pressure and heart attacks; a compound called peroxynitrite can often be the cause of endothelial dysfunction. Thankfully, blackberries have been shown to scavenge and remove the harmful peroxynitrite.
The anthocyanin that gives blackberries their colouring – cyanidin-3-O-glucoside – is responsible for removing the peroxynitrite and protecting the endothelium. This anthocyanin is available naturally in a number of foods, but has been shown to account for around 80% of the total anthocyanins available in blackberries. This means that regular consumption of them can offer protection to and maintenance of cardiovascular health.
Blueberries have long been touted as the superfood that everyone should include in their diet and there is growing scientific evidence for some of the claims relating to the health benefits of blueberries, including lowering blood pressure, preventing heart disease and fighting cancer.
Lower blood pressure. A recent study looked at how consuming freeze-dried blueberries on a daily basis can help to lower blood pressure in postmenopausal women.
The researchers followed 48 women over 8 weeks; their blood pressure was measured at the beginning, at 4 weeks and at the end of the trial. A control group received a placebo and the study was conducted on a double blind basis.
The results showed that there was no improvement for the women who received the placebo powder, but those who received the blueberry powder did experience lower blood pressure. This lead to the conclusion that regular consumption of blueberries can help to lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
Lower risk of developing diabetes. This study looked at a huge amount of data relating to which foods carried a higher risk of causing type 2 diabetes.
The researchers waded through information on nearly 190,000 people and came to the conclusion that consuming 3 portions of blueberries, grapes and apples each week was linked to a far lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than many other foods, with blueberries having the lowest risk.
Help prevent heart disease. Blueberries are packed full of an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which has long been thought beneficial in maintaining heart health.
A study collated data from a long-term study of more than 93,000 women, aged between 25 and 42 years old, over an 18 year period. Their lifestyles and diets were examined and then cross-referenced with incidents of heart attacks.
The results suggested that consumption of anthocyanin-rich blueberries and strawberries, at least 3 times a week, helped to lower the risk of experiencing a heart attack.
Help fight against cancer. Natural killer cells are an important part of the immune system and play a pivotal role in the fight against cancer. In 2014, a study was published that looked at the effect blueberry consumption might have on these cells.
25 men and women participated in the trial; half of the group were given blueberry powder to consume daily that was equivalent to 250g of berries, the other half were given a placebo.
Tests were performed before the trial began and then again after 6 weeks. The group that consumed the blueberry powder experienced an increase in the number of natural killer cells, whereas the placebo group did not.
The researchers concluded that regular consumption of blueberries could help increase the number of natural killer cells, which in turn can help in the fight against cancer.
Improve age-related cognitive decline. A study looked at how anthocyanin-rich foods affected cognitive function on a long-term basis. Beginning in 1980, a questionnaire was given to more than 16,000 participants every 4 years, with the aim of recording their dietary habits.
Between 1995 and 2001, the researchers began examining the cognitive functions of participants who were 70 years of age or older and continued with follow-up assessments every 2 years.
The results found that the participants who consumed the highest levels of blueberries and strawberries experienced cognitive decline at a far slower rate than those who did not. This concluded that regular consumption of berries is key to maintaining cognitive health, particularly in old age.
Bok choy, also known as pakchoi or Chinese cabbage, is a food popular in China and Southeast Asia, commonly used in oriental cuisine.
A member of the brassica family, bok choy is becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the world, firstly because it is easy to grow (being resistant to cold winters), but also because of its recognised health and nutritional benefits.
Bok choy benefits from being a vegetable with a lot of nutrients and a lack of calories. 100g contains just 13 calories, placing it second in lowest number of calories out of all the foods in this list, beaten only by watercress, which contains 11 calories.
In those 13 calories however, you get 57 % of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, a vitamin essential for blood clotting and bone health, and 75% DV of vitamin C, a vitamin crucial for the creation of connective tissue and a powerful antioxidant.
Beyond the nutritional strengths common to brassicas, bok choy benefits from some other high nutrient values. 100g contains 89% DV of vitamin A equivalents, which is great for the long-term health of the eye. It also contains 10% DV of both calcium and vitamin B6. Calcium plays a role in bone health and regulates muscle activity. Vitamin B6 is essential to a plethora of processes in the body, and helps everything from digestive to immune health to flourish.
The real benefits of bok choy, and the brassica family, lie not in the ‘micronutrients’ (vitamins and minerals), but in the ‘phytonutrients’ (compounds that are beneficial to health but not essential). In particular, compounds called glucosinalates (sulphur-containing compounds unique to brassicas) have been shown to have great cancer-protective properties.
Most brassicas contain high levels of two really beneficial compounds, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (arugula being an exception). Studies on cruciferous vegetables have shown that increased intake of brassicas seems to have benefit for a whole range of cancers; breast cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer have all been studied and have all shown the power of cruciferous vegetable intake.
Sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol have further beneficial effects, as shown when they are studied independently. This review paper notes that sulforaphane has been shown to have general tumour prevention properties. Indole-3-carbinol is not only being linked with the anti-cancer properties mentioned, but also with a broad ‘chemo-protective’ effect, meaning that it may protect healthy tissue from the toxic effects of chemotherapy (and possibly other) drugs.
The bottom line: the brassica family are great when it comes to fighting cancer!
There are some things to bear in mind, however. Firstly, different brassicas contain differing levels of glucosinalates, meaning it’s best to get a wide variety of them for the full health benefits, and bok choy does not have the highest concentration of glucosinalates (but Brussel sprouts, horseradish, kale and broccoli do).
Also, glucosinates, while fantastic in reasonable doses, do come with a health warning. Extremely high levels of brassica intake have been associated with hypothyroidism: in one tragic case, an elderly woman who attempted to cure her diabetes by eating over a kilo a day of raw bok choy developed hypothyroidism and died.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat brassicas! Obviously those with pre-existing thyroid problems have to be careful, but there seems to be no reason to worry aside from that – this study, for example, found that eating 150g of cooked Brussel sprouts a day had no effect on thyroid function.
So long as you don’t suffer from thyroid issues, bok choy is a great addition to your diet and proof that it should include large amounts and a variety of cruciferous vegetables. Bok choy is low in calories, high in nutrients, and fantastic for your health!
Brazil nuts are large, creamy sources of selenium, which is an important contributing factor to a properly functioning immune system. Indeed, Brazil nuts actually contain the highest known levels of selenium of any food and so a lot of study has been done on the effects of eating these delicious nuts.
Reduces Inflammation And Lowers “Bad” Cholesterol Levels. Brazil nuts are so packed with selenium that consuming just one nut a day can have a significant impact on your health, according to research that investigated how their consumption would affect cell damage and inflammation in patients receiving haemodialysis treatment.
Participants consumed one nut a day for three months. The results showed that the levels of oxidative stress had been reduced. Additionally, the inflammation that led to cell damage fell. It was also noted that the levels of “bad” cholesterol had decreased, whilst levels of “good” cholesterol had increased. This isn’t surprising really since Brazil nuts, like most nuts, are a rich source of unsaturated, good fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
Helps Prevent Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease. Whilst being overweight or obese is not the only factor that can cause cardiovascular disease to develop, it is certainly an important one. Losing weight in a healthy way is obviously the best option, but whilst this process occurs, how do you prevent cardiovascular disease becoming a big problem? According to this study, you consume one Brazil nut a day!
Thirty-seven morbidly obese women consumed one nut a day for eight weeks, then they underwent tests to measure factors that would contribute to heart disease. The results found that their lipid profile – levels and types of fat in the blood – had improved and their levels of selenium and”good” cholesterol had increased.
The increase of selenium is important because, as evidenced above, it helps to significantly reduce inflammation that can lead to cell damage that leads to disease. All of these factors contribute to a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular related diseases.
Improves Cognitive Functions. A very recent study has examined how the consumption of just one Brazil nut a day can affect cognitive function in older adults who have mild cognitive impairment. It is understood that a reduction in selenium in the diet over time can have a major impact on the levels of antioxidants in the body that fight against cell damage. Consumption of selenium-rich Brazil nuts can help to restore this balance.
The participants were on average 77 years old and 70% of them were female; they consumed one Brazil nut a day for six months, the control group did not. After this time, the group who had consumed Brazil nuts experienced an improvement in their verbal fluency, as well as their constructional praxis – which is the ability to build simple shapes out of things like sticks and blocks.
Broccoli is not only a nutritional wonder, but was probably also one of the first members of the brassica family you came across, especially if your family were keen on you eating healthy.
While overcooking and other preparation mistakes may have ruined broccoli for some, by making it taste excessively bitter, those who eat broccoli enjoy huge health benefits. Most notably, broccoli has one of the highest concentrations of cancer-preventing compounds of any brassica.
The USDA database states that 100g of broccoli not only provides 127% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, great for blood clotting and bone health, but it also provides a huge 148% DV of vitamin C, a vitamin that is essential not only for essential processes like the formation of connective tissue and wound healing, but also iron absorption.
Many people are under the false impression that high doses of vitamin C can only be obtained from fruits such as oranges and strawberries, however this is far from the truth. Vegetables such as kale and broccoli contain much more vitamin C.
Broccoli is not only beneficial for its great nutritional breakdown, however. The anti-cancer effects of cruciferous vegetables are extremely powerful, and broccoli may even have some unique advantages. It has an extremely high concentration of glucosinalates (the anti-cancer compounds found in brassicas). In fact, broccoli sprouts have the highest concentration of any food!
The brassica family has been shown to have great anti-cancer effects (see ‘Bok Choy’). Brassica intake results in tumour prevention, has benefits for breast cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer, and may have a ‘chemo-protective’ effect, possibly limiting some of the damage caused by chemotherapy drugs.
Broccoli may even be an especially great cancer-fighting food among cruciferous vegetables. Sulforaphane was studied in conjunction with other compounds found in broccoli, as this review paper notes, and the results showed that broccoli is even better than isolated compounds.
Inhibition of breast cancer cells, and lowering your risk of colon cancers are important, but particularly interesting is the finding that broccoli inhibits certain digestive tract infections that cause gastric tumours, and potentially stomach cancer. So for those of you looking for a way to pack nutritious and cancer-fighting foods into your diet, broccoli has to be near the top of the list.
Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is a cruciferous vegetable (or brassica) associated with Italian, French and Portuguese cuisine. High in both micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytonutrients (non-essential but beneficial compounds), rapini is a great addition to any diet, and a must for those whose diet lacks vegetables from the brassica family. Specifically, rapini helps fight cancer and promote bone, blood, eye, and cardiovascular health.
Before we get into all that, a word on preparation. Like many brassicas, rapini suffers from being widely considered too bitter to be tasty. But it doesn’t have to be this way! If you undercook rapini, it tastes bitter, if you overcook, it tastes stringy. Instead, try blanching it in salt water to get the most out of this vegetable (it also goes great with garlic).
With that said, let’s talk about rapini’s impressive nutritional profile. According to the USDA database 100g of cooked rapini has just 33 calories. But like many brassicas, rapini is very high in vitamin K and C: 100g contains 256% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, vital for blood and bone health, and 61% DV of vitamin C, important for creating connective tissues, absorbing iron, and promoting cardiovascular health. Rapini is also extremely high (90% DV) in vitamin A, which is vital for eye health.
Rapini’s nutritional benefits continue to impress with high levels of somewhat more uncommon micronutrients. 100g contains 11% DV of vitamin B6, 10% DV of calcium and 9% of potassium. Vitamin B6 is important for a plethora of processes in the body, including those involved in digestive and immune health, calcium is great for bone health and muscle regulation, and potassium is a vital part of maintaining your cardiovascular health. Deficiencies in all three are not uncommon, so pack in those greens!
Finally, like most brassicas, the phytonutrients are where much of the real benefit of rapini is, specifically those compounds with anti-cancer effects (see ‘Bok Choy’). Eating cruciferous vegetables has benefits for tumour prevention, breast cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer, and may protect from chemotherapy drugs.
Overall, rapini is a great addition to any diet wanting in cancer-fighting green vegetables, and an adventurous choice for those looking to dabble in European cuisine.
Rice is a popular food and is eaten either as a main course or as a side dish. Unfortunately, most of the rice eaten world wide is white rice, which is far less healthy than brown rice. Brown rice is the whole grain of rice (with only the outer hull removed), whereas white rice has the bran layer removed as well.
100g of brown rice contains approximately 3.4g of dietary fiber. It is also a good source of manganese, niacin (vitamin B3) and selenium. Manganese is required by the body for the synthesis of fatty acids and for the derivation of energy from proteins and carbohydrates. Selenium helps fight against a number of diseases, including cancer.
Due to its high fiber content, brown rice can help with satiety and therefore weight loss. The fiber makes you feel fuller for longer, meaning you eat less throughout the day. Its high fiber content also helps keep your digestive system in check as it helps with regular bowel movements.
Brown rice regulates blood sugar levels much better than white rice. This is because it releases sugars into your blood stream much more slowly. Unlike white rice, which actually increases your chances of developing diabetes, brown rice does the opposite.
However, since brown rice is a high glycemic food, your best option would be to eat a small portion of it together with lots of vegetables and healthy sources of protein. Quinoa is a grain similar to brown rice, but it contains almost 6 times more protein, so you could perhaps consider mixing the two together?
Brussels sprouts are not just that well known staple of Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, they are also a great way of incorporating those super healthy brassicas into your diet.
While cooking Brussels sprouts you may have experienced bad smells and a bitter taste, but this is actually due to overcooking (especially over-boiling), so don’t worry, they probably don’t taste as bad as you may remember.
Packed with nutrients that are sure to benefit your long term health, Brussels sprouts are fantastic cancer-fighters and anti-inflammatories, and have extremely high levels of fibre.
Brussels sprouts have a great nutritional profile. Many brassicas such as broccoli and rapini have fantastic amounts of vitamins K and C, and Brussels sprouts are no exception, boasting 221% DV and 142% DV respectively (see USDA database).
However, the real benefits of Brussels sprouts lie in their preventative effects on a number of health issues. For example, 100g contains 15% DV of dietary fibre.
Fibre lowers cholesterol levels. This is because it binds to bile acids, resulting in less bile acids in the body. This is important because the liver needs to produce bile acids from cholesterol, so when intake of fibre reduces the level of bile acids, the liver must use up more cholesterol to produce bile acids. That’s quite a mouthful! In short: the more fibre, the less bile acids in the body, and therefore the more cholesterol broken down.
Fibre is also important for digestion. Not only does it improve the mechanism of digestion itself, but it may increase satiety, and help you feel fuller.
The sulforaphane in Brussels sprouts also protects the digestive tract by inhibiting the growth of Heliobacter pylori, a bacteria that can lead to a multitude of gastric problems, potentially even stomach cancer.
Another important property of Brussels Sprouts is the antioxidant benefits they possess. Antioxidants prevent ‘free radical’ damage (that may lead to DNA damage, cell death and mutations), and so are an important part of any healthy diet. They are extremely high in these compounds.
Vitamin C we have already discussed, but there are also a number of ‘flavonoid’ antioxidants (isorhamnetin, quercitin, and kaempferol) present in Brussels sprouts that make this a particularly potent source of antioxidants.
Finally, it benefits from being high in a number of compounds with anti-cancer effects (see ‘Bok Choy’). In fact, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, Brussels sprouts possess one of the highest concentrations of glucosinalates of any food.
Cabbage is an extremely low-calorie and nutritious food with a variety of culinary uses. A member of the cruciferous family of vegetables (along with Brussel sprouts and broccoli, for example), cabbage has a number of nutritional benefits, mostly due to its high levels of vitamin C and vitamin K, that will help you meet your requirements for these essential vitamins. In addition, cabbage has been associated with a number of health benefits, from protection against colon cancer to reducing inflammation.
Cabbage is an extremely nutritious option in terms of the calories you consume. According to the USDA database, 100g of cabbage contains 44% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and a vitamin vital to the creation of connective tissue. In addition, 100g of cabbage contains 72% of your daily value of vitamin K, a vitamin vital to blood clotting and bone health.
Although cabbage, like most brassicas, has high levels of vitamins C and K, there are a number of other significant nutritional benefits. 100g of cabbage contains 11% of your folate DV, 10% of your vitamin B6 DV, and 10% of your dietary fibre DV.
Folate is important for a number of reactions including the synthesis of DNA, and deficiency is fairly common, so 11% is a pretty significant amount. Vitamin B6 is important for digestive and immune health, and is even involved in serotonin production, a mood regulating hormone, an imbalance of which has been speculated to be a leading cause of depression. Finally, dietary fibre is essential for digestive health and may help to prevent heart disease. All this for just 25 calories!
In addition to its nutritional benefits, cabbage (specifically red cabbage) has a number of completely unique health benefits. The anthocyanins (plant pigment) in red cabbage have well documented cancer fighting potential. And the natural anti-inflammatory effects of red cabbage have been shown to have anti-inflammatory potential.
As a member of the brassica family, cabbage also benefits from being rich in anti-cancer compounds called glucosinalates (see bok choy & broccoli).
Cabbages are great to eat raw, steamed, sautéed, pickled, braised or boiled. As well as being a staple of European cuisine, like bubble and squeak, they go well with everything from a salad to a stir fry, so you’re sure to find a tasty way to introduce them into your diet.
Cantaloupe melons are a welcome and refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day. What’s more, they can be eaten pretty much guilt-free and are a brilliant source of vitamin C. Plus they are a fun way of helping you stay hydrated thanks to their high water content. Here are some of the benefits the bring:
Help Relieve Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As part of a diet containing other recommended foods, cantaloupe can be enjoyed as a sweet, refreshing treat for people suffering from IBS, according to this study. The list of foods that could not be very well tolerated by IBS sufferers included pretty much every other type of fruit and vegetable, therefore making cantaloupe, along with watermelon, the only fresh source of vitamin C for people suffering intensely with IBS.
Have Anti-Inflammatory Effects. A study conducted in 2004 looked at the effects of cantaloupe melon extract on inflammation and antioxidant levels in mice. Researchers gave different supplements to each group of mice – 1.) a placebo, 2.) the cantaloupe extract, 3.) gliadin, which is a protein from gluten found in wheat, 4.) a combination of cantaloupe extract and gliadin, 5.) a cantaloupe extract and gliadin formula where the extract had been specially treated to produce superoxide, which is an enzyme that speeds up chemical reactions in the body.
After twenty-eight days, the researchers found that the only treatment that protected the mice from artificially induced inflammation was the cantaloupe extract and gliadin combination. This suggests that eating cantaloupe either immediately before, after or with a wheat-based food will help to protect you against inflammation of cells, which can help prevent diseases from developing.
Cardamom is a popular ingredient in Indian and Bangladeshi cooking. It is often used in sweets and puddings to provide a beautiful, aromatic flavour. For a long time, cardamom has also been used in folk and Ayurvedic medicine. Now the scientific evidence is beginning to stack up to support claims made that cardamom is a powerful medicinal plant.
Helps Fight Against Cancer. A few studies over recent years have investigated the effects that cardamom has on various types of cancer cells; one of those studies was carried out on stomach cancer in mice. The initial findings seem very promising for application in human trials and show that treatment using cardamom helped to reduce the incidence of tumours by 41.7%; even more encouraging were the results that showed that cancer cell growth had been reduced by as much as 74.5%!
Lowers Blood Pressure, Acts As A Diuretic And Is a Relaxant. Generally, most scientific trials try and examine one or two aspects of something. But in 2008 a team of researchers decided to get stuck in and investigate the effects of cardamom on gastrointestinal health, blood pressure, as a relaxant and as a diuretic. They used different animal models to do this.
The results showed that cardamom 1.) reduced blood pressure in anaesthetised rats, 2.) relaxed induced contractions and spasms in a rat aorta and part of a rabbit’s small intestine, 3.) encouraged a diuretic effect in rats, as well as a saluretic one, which is the removal of excess or unneeded salt via urine; and 4.) it helped anaesthetised mice to sleep for longer.
Can Help Manage Diabetes Complications. Glycation is a process whereby sugar molecules react with proteins in the body to form structures that are classed as non-functional; they are of no use to the body. This in turn leads to the proteins becoming compromised and effecting various diabetes-related diseases such as nerve damage and cardiovascular problems. This is seriously bad news for anyone who suffers from diabetes!
However, cardamom, along with wild caraway, black pepper and turmeric, was found to be a strong antiglycation agent – this means that cardamom had a significant impact in preventing glycation from occurring in the first place and therefore helps to manage complications associated with diabetes.
Bugs Bunny loves carrots and they are also a staple of many people’s diets, particularly when it comes to fruit and vegetables. With huge amounts of vitamin A helping you to maintain great eyesight long into your later life, links with lower cholesterol and a reduced risk of certain cancers, carrots are a really easy way of promoting longevity and health.
Nutritionally, the main benefit of carrots lies in a compound called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid (in fact, this class of pigments was named that because they were first found in carrots!), with anti-oxidant effects, that is converted by the body into vitamin A.
100g of carrots provides only 41 calories, but provides a stunning 334% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin A, a vitamin essential to the health of your eye and a vitamin that many people worldwide are deficient in. It also provides 11% DV of dietary fibre, which is great for digestion, and 9% DV of potassium, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Carrots may have further beneficial health effects, possibly due to a number of different compounds. For example, they have been linked with decreasing cholesterol levels.
Further, it is suspected that it is beta-carotene (or associated carotenoids) that is responsible for a possible link between carrot intake and a lower risk of prostate cancer.
A study done on colon cancer in Japan also demonstrated that beta-carotene intake, and carotenoid intake generally, lowered the risk of colon cancer. Another compound found in carrot, falcarinol (and also perhaps falcarindiol), has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer.
In addition, this study notes possible areas of research to come in a number of different fields, as falcarinol has ‘demonstrated interesting bioactivities including antibacterial, antimycobacterial, and antifungal activity as well as anti-inflammatory [effects]’.
Further research will most likely uncover even more benefits of eating carrots.
Cashew nuts are a favourite amongst vegans; they are packed full of protein and their inoffensive, mild flavour makes them an excellent base for a number of recipes, especially in raw vegan diets. Like many nuts, they have a number of benefits, including:
Could Help Prevent Cell Mutations.
Genotoxicity refers to certain chemical agents that act to damage cells and cause cell mutations. These mutations often end up encouraging diseases like cancer to grow and make a nuisance of themselves. This study investigated the effects that consumption of a Brazilian cashew nut and apple juice drink would have on genotoxicity in mice.
The results showed that the cashew nut and apple juice drink, along with another drink called cajuina, had a significant effect on reducing the incidence of genotoxicity. This is thought to be due to the high levels of antioxidants in the drinks. It is unclear if the cashew nuts and apple juice work just as well on their own as they do in combination, so there is definitely scope for further investigation, but the results are promising.
Can Help Manage Diabetic Related Damage
Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme responsible for breaking down harmful oxygen molecules in cells that might otherwise cause damage to tissues in the body. This is particularly relevant to diabetic patients because without this enzyme, issues like kidney and liver damage can spiral out of control.
A recent study has examined the effect that cashew nuts, and other medicinal plants, can have on the levels of superoxide dismutase in the body.
The research was carried out on fifteen groups of young, diabetic Wistar rats; each group was given a different medicinal plant on its own, or a combination of different plants, regular diabetic medicine and there was also a control group.
The findings show that the group that was treated solely with cashew nut extract experienced a significant increase in superoxide dismutase activity, but no such increase was recorded in any of the other groups. This suggests that cashew nuts can have a positive effect in managing damage caused by diabetes.
Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, probably originating from the northeast Mediterranean. Delicious when roasted, fried, boiled or steamed, it is a key ingredient in a number of great dishes (such as cauliflower cheese!), and is great for weight loss. In fact cauliflower mash is often used as a low-carb alternative to more conventional potato mash.
Not only will it fill you up on next to no calories, but the humble cauliflower is high in vitamin C and a host of other vitamins, and boasts great anti-cancer and antioxidant benefits, making it a convenient and healthy choice for those wishing to live a healthy lifestyle.
The nutritional benefits of cauliflower are extremely beneficial to your health; preventing deficiencies linked to everything from poor bone health to poor cognition. The USDA database states that cauliflower, like many brassicas, is high in vitamin C (80% DV per 100g), vital for iron absorption, collagen production and so on, and vitamin K (19% DV), vital for blood clotting and bone health.
Cauliflower is also high in folate and B6. Folate is important for a number of reactions in the body (e.g. DNA synthesis), and it is easy to be deficient in this essential vitamin, so the 14% DV that cauliflower provides is significant. Vitamin B6 is important for cognition and is essential to digestive and immune health. Cauliflower provides 9% of your DV in just 100g. Remember, 100g is just 25 calories!
Finally, 100g of raw cauliflower (not a lot), provides 6% DV of dietary fibre which is important to the health of the colon and good for lowering cholesterol (see Brussel sprouts). In addition, the sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables may prevent Heliobacter pylori taking hold in your digestive tract, preventing many gastric problems, potentially even stomach cancer, making cauliflower great for digestive health.
As a cruciferous vegetable cauliflower has anti-cancer and antioxidant properties as mentioned in the ‘Bok Choy’ section.
Brassica intake has been linked with decreased free radical damage, i.e. it has antioxidant effects. Indole-3-carbinol, discussed in the ‘Bok Choy’ section, is a potent antioxidant. Couple that with the fact that vitamin C may have antioxidant properties, means that cauliflower is a potent food for preventing DNA damage and a host of other issues.
With a reputation for being more of a key component of the ‘supermodel diet’ (not something we recommend) than a powerful force for your health, it may come as a surprise to some that celery does have some important health benefits.
It improves digestive health and could help combat the negative effects of eating fried foods. While its reputation may always be as one of the ultimate low-calorie foods, it is worth thinking of celery as more than just a diet fad.
Nutritionally, celery doesn’t do particularly well per gram. But per calorie, it has some fantastic nutritional benefits. 100g provides 8% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin A, 7% DV of potassium, and 6% DV of dietary fibre. While this isn’t a huge amount, consider that you get all this nutrition for a mere 16 calories!
The obvious point to make here is one about weight loss and satiety. Celery has long been associated with the ‘fact’ that it takes more calories to digest than you get from eating it; it’s a ‘negative calorie’ food. This is a myth. Your digestive system is efficient enough to extract the calories from celery without expending more than it gains.
However, this doesn’t discount the fact that celery may be a great weapon in people’s war on weight gain. The dietary fibre in it will go a long way to increasing satiety (the feeling of fullness), and, frankly, when you can eat a kilogram of something and it only provides you with 160 calories, it’s going to help you lose weight (N.B. this isn’t a good approach!).
Beyond even this, celery may have some profound health benefits. First, it has advantages for digestive health. One compound, luteolin, which celery is high in, has been found to help inhibit the inflammatory response in inflammatory bowel disease. It has also been shown to prevent gastric ulcers, and to protect the gastric lining.
Finally, there is one benefit of celery that is rather recently discovered (and slightly controversial): it protects from the toxic effects of acrylamide. Acrylamide is a compound with possible (but not proven) carcinogenic properties and toxic effects, which has been found in certain starchy fried foods, so it is possible that celery could counteract some of the toxic effects of processed foods.
Regardless of whether you choose to believe this, celery is still a fantastic addition to any healthy and balanced diet.
Cherries are the ultimate treat whether simply chopped and served with ice cream or bubbled down into a compote to eat with yogurt. They are also bursting with scientifically proven health benefits that will leave you wanting to incorporate more of them into your diet.
Help Prevent Obesity. Cherries have long been associated with weight loss and a recent study has investigated what, if any, effect cherries would have on levels of obesity.
Mice were fed a high-fat diet and given one of two concentrations of cherry anthocyanin extract – either 40mg/kg or 200mg/kg. In both groups, there was a significant reduction in body fat of 5.2% for the first group and 11.2% for the second. The results also showed that there was a decrease in the complications associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose.
Reduces Risk Of Gout Attacks. Gout is a form of arthritis that makes joints become incredibly swollen when small crystals of uric acid form. Studies have been done to investigate ways to manage the symptoms as naturally as possible. One such study has identified cherries as being able to reduce the risk of gout attacks.
633 people suffering from gout were asked to consume cherries for two days; it was found that they experienced a 35% decrease in the risk of gout attacks. This pattern was found to be true across all subgroups. The researchers also found that if cherries were taken in conjunction with allopurinol, a gout medication, the participants experienced a massive 75% decrease in the risk of suffering a gout attack.
Increases Post-Exercise Recovery. We’re told that protein helps sore muscles recover from a vigorous exercise session, but a recent study turns that conventional wisdom on its head by showing that consumption of cherries can be just as beneficial in relieving sore, tired muscles.
Cyclists consumed 30ml of sour cherry extract, twice a day, for eight days and completed a 109 minute cycling trial on the fifth day. The results showed that they had experienced far less inflammation and tissue damage and had recovered more quickly than the cyclists who had received a placebo.
Relieve Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis. In 2013, this study was published that had examined the effects of consuming cherry juice on the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. Fifty-eight participants consumed either two bottles of sour cherry juice or a placebo every day, for six weeks.
They took a week off, then swapped treatments. The results found that the cherry juice did help to relieve the symptoms for those suffering with mild or moderate knee osteoarthritis; they also experienced a decrease in their WOMAC scores, which is a measure of the level of pain they are experiencing.
Lower Blood Pressure. Black cherries have the ability to lower blood pressure. Hypertensive rats were given a black cherry extract for four weeks. The results showed that they experienced relaxation of aortic rings, but more importantly the extract had a significant effect in lowering their systolic blood pressure. Black cherries are rich in phenolic compounds and antioxidants, which lowered the blood pressure in the rats.
Chia seeds are obtained from the chia plant, also known as Salvia hispanica, and originates from both Mexico and Guatemala. They were consumed by Aztecs and Mayans in the past. Many people may not know about these seeds, however they are a powerhouse of nutrients and have only become popular very recently. They can be sprinkled over yogurt, added to smoothies or used to make chia pudding, as part of a healthy breakfast.
Even though the seeds are very small, they are loaded with nutrients; 100g of chia seeds contains 16g of protein, 34g of fiber, 83% of your RDA of magnesium and 42% of your RDA of iron. 100g does contain 486 calories, which is a bit on the high side, however some of the fiber may not be used by the body for energy. Chia seeds are whole grain and gluten free.
Their high protein content means that these seeds are a fantastic protein source for vegans and vegetarians. Chia seeds are great after working out and for those trying to lose weight (protein has high satiety). Although studies have not shown a direct correlation between chia seed consumption and weight loss, there is no doubt that combing them with a healthy diet and lifestyle will aid weight loss.
Also, when chia seeds are soaked in water, they swell up and form a gel (due to the fiber they contain); this means if you eat them dry, they expand in your stomach, making you feel full faster. The fiber they contain is food for the good bacteria in your intestines, and therefore help to keep your digestive system running correctly, fighting off problems such as constipation.
Chia seeds, similar to many fruits and vegetables, are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants play an important role in the body as they help fight against free radicals, which can cause diseases such as cancer.
Chia seeds have been shown to help with bone health as they are rich in calcium and phosphorus. This may be particularly useful for those of you who are lactose intolerant.
Finally, they can help reduce blood pressure and inflammation in type 2 diabetics, as seen in this study.
A meat so ubiquitous that it spawned the phrase ‘it tastes like chicken’ – we eat so much chicken that we compare all other food to it! Chicken is the most common type of poultry worldwide. Often the subject of intensive farming, it is an example of where it is important to distinguish between different types of produce. A battery farmed animal is not the same as an organic and pasture raised animal; not only ethically and financially, but also nutritionally, so pick carefully.
Used in a huge range of culinary traditions, and found in everything from chicken nuggets to butter chicken masala to a traditional Sunday roast, chicken is an excellent source of lean protein and vitamin B6, and an interesting alternative for those worried about the possible risks of red meat.
In terms of nutrition, chicken breast is very low in fat and calories, and high in protein. It’s easy to see why it’s a favourite with bodybuilders: 100g contains 165 calories, and 31 grams of protein. To put that into perspective, that’s 62% of your Daily Value (DV) of protein, in a piece of chicken that provides 8% DV of calories.
Beyond being a source of lean protein, chicken is also high in vitamin B6 (30% DV), potassium (7% DV) and magnesium (7% DV). All of these essential nutrients are required to function day to day, cognitively and athletically, so make sure to get them however you can.
Perhaps the main reason people eat chicken in large quantities, however, is because of the association of large quantities of red meat with serious health problems. A number of observational studies point toward a link between red meat intake and cancer: colorectal and breast cancer, for example. Many people tend toward chicken because of fears over excessive red meat intake, but it must be said that studies on white vs red meat have been far from conclusive.
What the consumer should likely be more worried about is not white or red meat, but simply the quality of the meat. Feed makes a big difference. Somewhat unsurprisingly, one study demonstrated that feeding chickens omega-3 fatty acids resulted in an increased amount of healthy omega-3s in the meat. However, this study alleged that it found no significant difference in the fatty acid profile between chickens bought from different supermarkets, for different prices, or even between organic and non-organic, so you’ll have to do your research!
Chilli peppers are a fiery spice and a fantastic accompaniment to many dishes. What you may not know, however, is that chilli peppers are also a great source of vitamin C and B6, a potent cancer-fighter, and an anti-inflammatory, with possible medical application to arthritis! Easy to put into almost any dish (provided you can take the heat), the chilli is a must have spice for anyone looking to make healthy food that still tastes vibrant and interesting.
Chilli peppers are a surprisingly good low-calorie option for getting some essential nutrients into your diet. 100g of red chilli peppers (2-3 chilli peppers) contains just 40 calories, but a huge 239% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C. In fact as you’ll see using our healthy food finder, gram for gram, it has the highest amount of vitamin C compared to any other food on this list.
The surprises don’t stop there however. That same 100g of red chilli peppers contains 25% DV vitamin B6, 19% DV vitamin A, and 9% DV of potassium. Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient in a number of areas of the body, but is particularly important to cognitive function. Vitamin A is fantastic for the long-term health of your eye, and potassium is fantastic for protecting your cardiovascular health. Couple that with some of the health benefits below, and chilli peppers start to seem like a powerful force for your health.
Chilli peppers also have a number of health effects, mainly due to something called capsaicin. Capsaicin is an active ingredient in chilli peppers, and a compound that produces that hot, burning feeling on your tongue that makes the chilli pepper so addictive. The hotter the chilli, the more capsaicin.
Capsaicin has a number of researched benefits, such as powerful anti-cancer properties. Studies done on capsaicin have shown that it successfully inhibits the growth of both prostate cancer cells and leukaemia cells by causing ‘apoptosis’ (cell suicide).
Eating capsaicin is not the only way that this may have a benefit, however. Applying it topically (onto the skin), has been shown to have some fantastic benefits for pain relief and fighting inflammation. For example, this study and this study both report positive effects on pain management of arthritis in patients.
This is significant for a number of people living with arthritis as there is no known cure, so alleviation of the symptoms is important for leading a pain-free life. Applications of capsaicin also may have positive effects on diabetic neuropathy (a complication of diabetes) and post-herpetic neuralgia (a complication of shingles), although the evidence is not conclusive.
Finally, capsaicin is important because of its benefits for cardiovascular disease, in particular its ability to lower cholesterol and improve circulation. The study above found that by giving hamsters on high-cholesterol diets capsaicin (and similar compounds called ‘capsaicinoids’), they had lower cholesterol levels and better circulation.
This is significant because high cholesterol and bad circulation greatly increase your chances of heart attacks, strokes, and coronary heart disease (the biggest killer in the developed world).
Chives are an interesting way of spicing up any dish (egg or cheese dishes work particularly well) without adding very many calories. As a member of the allium family, chives benefit from profound anti-cancer effects, making this surely a great thing in the world of health: a low calorie cancer fighter!
Nutritionally, chives are fantastic by calories consumed, but usually you’ll not be eating enough of them to have a hugely positive effect (although if you’re making a pesto, for example, this may not be the case). 1 tablespoon of chopped chives provides 3% of your daily value (DV) of vitamins A and C, for just 1 calorie!
If you managed to eat 100g of chives, that would provide you with 87% DV of vitamin A and 97% DV of vitamin C. Deficiencies in these could lead to poor eye health and inability to form connective tissues, so if your diet lacks green leafy vegetables, the more chives you can eat, the better.
100g of chives also provides you with 9% DV of calcium and 8% DV of iron.
While it’s unlikely that you’re going to meet your nutritional requirements by eating huge amounts of chives, this delicate food does have a powerful advantage in fighting cancer.
The allium family (chives, onions, leeks, scallions, etc.), has been found to have a number of broadly positive effects on cancer, although as this review points out, the mechanisms of action are still unknown.
While a number of compounds found in allium vegetables, like quercetin (see onion) may be responsible for this effect, the lack of definitive research means that it’s probably best to simply eat a wide variety of allium vegetables to ensure you benefit from these cancer fighting properties. Chives are a great way to add variety and spice to your allium intake, so why not give them a try?
The ‘cinnamon challenge‘ was a popular internet sensation where people would try and swallow a spoonful of powdered cinnamon in less than 60 seconds, without drinking anything. Consuming it in this way is dangerous to your health, however if consumed in a sensible manner, cinnamon can bring lots of health benefits.
Cinnamon is a woody looking spice and is used in a variety of ways; it can be sprinkled over coffee for example or used as an ingredient for a number of desserts. It is obtained from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree, by separating it from the woody parts.
There are two types, namely ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. The latter is the more common type, however is not as healthy as the former. Cinnamon comes in stick or powder form.
Cinnamon contains antioxidants such as polyphenols, which are required by the body to fight off free radicals. It has been shown to rank very high when compared with 25 other spices for antioxidant activity.
You may already have heard somewhere that cinnamon is great for lowering blood sugar – this is not a myth! Not only does it reduce insulin resistance but it also lowers the amount of glucose that the body absorbs into the bloodstream, after eating.
Additionally, it has been shown to help prevent and treat cancer. It does this by reducing the growth of cancerous cells and causing their death, due to its toxicity on them. A study carried out on mice who had colon cancer revealed that cinnamon prevented further cancer growth. It is believed it does this due to its high antioxidant properties, as mentioned above.
Cinnamon may help fight against inflammation, when it becomes a problem in the body. Even though inflammation is important (as it assists our bodies in fighting off infections), it can cause problems when it affects our body’s tissues. Studies have shown that cinnamon contains antioxidants which reduce inflammation.
There are a number of old wive’s tales relating to the things that cloves can apparently cure, but here we have collected the scientific evidence that shows exactly what health benefits you can expect to derive from cloves.
Help Prevent Stomach Ulcers. Clove essential oil has the ability to prevent stomach ulcers from forming. It is believed that cloves contain something called eugenol which encourages mucus production. This is important in protecting the stomach and preventing issues like ulcers. The researchers did conclude that further research needs to be done in this area, but the initial findings are promising.
Improves Libido. Cloves have been used for some time in traditional folk medicine to treat a number of sexual problems and a study conducted in 2004 went some way to proving the truth of this claim. An extract was created from cloves and then given to male rats once a day, for seven days. Each group received different concentrations of the clove extract.
The researchers found that the extract did, indeed, increase sexual activity between the male rats and their female counterparts and that the stronger the concentration of clove extract, the more notable the increase. This study suggests that using clove as a natural aphrodisiac is scientifically sound, although human trials would need to be conducted to test the relevance of the findings on human sexual activity.
Anti-Inflammatory. Cytokines are the cells that send signals between different cells and macrophages are responsible for responding to infections or collections of dead cells and dealing with them. A certain amount of inflammation is needed to allow the damaged tissue or cells to be repaired, but too much inflammation can cause problems. This study looked at the effects cloves had on inflammation.
The researchers found that extracts of clove or pure eugenol, which is a compound found in cloves, acted to significantly inhibit communication between the macrophages and cytokine cells, which shows that cloves are able to exert anti-inflammatory effects.
Manage Diabetes. Cloves can affect complications associated with type 2 diabetes in diabetic rats. The rats were divided into groups and given varying quantities of clove powder, with one group being the control group and receiving no supplementation.
The results showed that blood glucose levels slowly decreased in the rats that were taking the clove powder and they also experienced lower levels of cholesterol; antioxidants levels had also increased in the rats taking the clove powder.
Coconuts have a very distinctive taste, are quite exotic and for a long time now may have become more greatly associated with body butters than food. It’s time to add the coconut back into the diet, however, as the fruit is filled with loads of surprising health benefits!
It can help you to lose weight. Coconut oil has become increasingly popular as research shows that it can actually help to burn body fat, despite being a fat itself. It is extremely rich in saturated fats, but it is one of the best sources of Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs).
Other oils, such as sunflower oil and olive oil consist of Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFAs), and this distinction can have a big impact on body weight. A meta-analysis by Bueno et al (2013) found that there is evidence that replacing LCFAs with MCFAs can lead to a significant reductions in body weight, body fat and waist circumference.
It can act as a sunscreen. Sun protection is extremely important, particularly as people take more foreign holidays to hot climates, and do not adequately protect themselves from sun damage. Coconut, however, has been proven to have some UV-fighting properties, and can actually protect the skin from damage.
Although it is no substitute for commercial suncreams, a study by Kaur and Saraf (2010) found that coconut oil has an SPF (Skin Protection Factor) of close to 8, and had the second highest SPF of all the products tested (beaten only by olive oil, which was just marginally higher).
An SPF of 8 means that theoretically you should be able to stay in the sun for 8 times longer without damage than you would without any protection. Commercial brands are still better as they are specifically formulated to block out both UVA and UVB rays, but coconut may make an excellent natural base for many of these products.
It can improve brain function in Alzheimer’s patients. Coconut contains a significant amount of saturated fat, which for a long time was off-putting for those trying to be healthy. Recent research, however, has suggested that coconuts contain medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are actually beneficial to the body, and help it to produce ketones, which are an important energy source for brain function.
A review by Fernando (2015) has found that there is a small amount of significant evidence suggesting that coconut leads to marked improvements in cognition for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Collard greens are an excellent addition to any diet lacking in green vegetables and cancer-fighting foods. A member of the brassica family (other members include some of our other 100+ healthiest foods, like kale and broccoli), collard greens are grown across the globe, from such disparate parts of the world as Brazil, the US, India and even Croatia.
Distinctive and nutrient-dense, they are a great option for anyone either put off by some of the other great brassicas (broccoli isn’t to everyone’s taste), or simply looking to add even more great foods to their diet.
Collard greens have a lot of benefit when it comes to meeting your nutritional requirements. The USDA database notes that 100g, while only 36 calories, provides a huge 594% of your daily value (DV) of Vitamin K, a vitamin essential to blood clotting and bone health. That value is so high, in fact, that individuals on anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) medication, should probably avoid collard greens, and most of the brassica family.
In addition, collard greens are also, like many brassicas, a great source of vitamin C (32% of DV per 100g), a potent antioxidant (which may prevent damage caused by ‘free radicals’ that may lead to DNA damage, cell death and mutations) and an important vitamin in the production of connective tissues (see Broccoli). Surprisingly, collard greens are also an effective source of calcium (21% of DV per 100g), the mineral essential to bone health.
The benefits of collard greens are far more than simply saving you from micronutrient deficiencies, however. The main benefit probably comes from its potent anti-cancer properties.
As we saw in the ‘Bok Choy’ section, those who eat brassicas are the lucky recipients from a number of anti-cancer compounds called glucosinalates, which have a wide range of benefits.
Corn is found in a lot of products within the western diet, and it is often used as a healthy alternative, e.g. corn crisps rather than potato crisps. It seems that corn is a very healthy dietary choice, and some of the benefits are below:
Rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are needed in order to reduce the number of free radicals in the body and are found in many fruits and vegetables, but tend to be lost during the cooking process. Corn is different, however, and research by Vinson et al (2012) has found that cooking it into popcorn can actually increase the amount of antioxidants from 114mg to 300mg in the same sized serving. Raw corn also contains many antioxidants which may help with a variety of health problems (as noted in Harakotr et al, 2014).
Reduces the risk of colon cancer. Corn is one of the most fibrous foods, and fibre is extremely important for maintaining digestive health. Corn fibre has been shown to significantly reduce orofeacal transit time (i.e. how long it takes for food to pass through the intestine) when compared to potato fibre (Cherbut et al, 1997), increased stool output and increase the amount of short chain fatty acids found in the gut. These are all effects which can potentially reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.
May help to prevent HIV. HIV affects millions of people all over the world, and has killed over 39 million since the epidemic began (CDC, 2013). A new treatment called microbicides may help to prevent the disease, however, and corn may play an unexpected role. Microbicides are a topical treatment which can be applied to the genitalia before intercourse and are created from antibodies taken from a variety of sources, one of the most promising being corn. Corn contains antibodies such as 2G12 and 2F5, and research by Sabalza et al (2012) has shown that 2F5 antibodies in corn can be expressed as effectively as they can be from mammalian cells, in order to treat HIV.
Can prevent anaemia. Anaemia is a condition caused by an iron deficiency in the blood, and can lead to dizziness, headaches, tiredness and feeling very cold. Corn contains a fair amount of iron. A study by Faber et al (2005) showed that a fortified corn-based porridge led to a significant decrease in infants with anaemia, from 45% to 17%.
Longevity benefits. Recently science has begun to investigate ways to increase longevity, and corn oil may be one way to do so. A study by Hongwei et al (2014) investigated the health and longevity of mice fed either a normal diet, or one boosted with corn oil, a potential substitute for saturated fat. They found that the mice who consumed the corn oil had significantly reduced pro-inflammatory markers which indicate aging.
There was a lower mortality rate of mice in the corn oil condition (23.3% mice died at the age of 25 months in the corn group compared to 53.8% in the normal group). Unfortunately, the mice in the corn group were significantly heavier than those in the normal group despite consuming the same amount of calories, suggesting that corn oil may also lead to fat retention.
Cottage cheese may not be something that many people include in their diets unless they are particularly health conscious, perhaps because it has an unusual texture and appearance. But research shows that it would make a brilliant addition to anybody’s diet because of its excellent health benefits.
Weight management. Cottage cheese contains a significant amount of casein, which is a protein found in many varieties of milk and cheese. Research has shown that casein doesn’t fare as well as whey protein when measuring short-term satiety, but a study by Pal et al (2014) found that casein was superior when measuring energy intake and body weight over a 12 week period, suggesting it can significantly reduce hunger and food consumption.
Muscle Development. Protein is the main building block of muscles, and research by Kerksick et al (2006) has shown that when casein and whey are combined into a dairy protein (which is 80% casein) it leads to a significant increase in lean body mass. Casein has been shown in two studies (1, 2) to inhibit protein breakdown, which may be one reason for its success in creating muscular structures.
Reduced Risk of Breast Cancer. Breast cancer affects both women and men, but thankfully is one form of cancer which is relatively easy to treat if caught early. Better yet, however, would be to be able to prevent it entirely, and cottage cheese may help with that.
A cohort study by McCullough et al (2005) found that consuming two or more dairy products per day was significantly associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, and that low-fat products such as cottage cheese were even more strongly associated with a decreased risk.
Cranberries are a sharp, tart fruit which are excellent in pies and as a juice drink. They have been heralded as a ‘superfood’ for their health-boosting properties, and are a food item that many would benefit from adding to their diet.
Antioxidants. Cranberries have a very distinct, rich, red colour to them, and that colour comes from a specific type of antioxidant. The antioxidants are called anthocyanins, and are a type of polyphenol (a sub-class of antioxidant) which has a red pigment. Cranberries are packed with them.
In fact, cranberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants of all fruit and vegetables (Vinson et al, 2014). Antioxidants are very important for a number of health reasons, as they fight off free radicals. These are molecules which have been mutated as a result of pollution, radiation, and other environmental factors, and can lead to a variety of diseases such as inflammatory conditions and cancer.
Infection-fighting Properties. For many years, cranberries have been thought to be good for urinary tract infections due to their high acidity content. New research, however, suggests that it is due to the anthocyanins found in the fruit.
Jepson and Craig (2008) suggest that it may be because they can prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, which can reduce the infective power of the bacteria. They performed a research study which has shown that consumption of cranberries can reduce UTI symptoms significantly over a period of 12 months, and that they work particularly effectively for those who have recurrent UTIs.
Dental Benefits. Research by Bonifait and Grenier (2010) has suggested that the polyphenols found in cranberries have the ability to prevent the production of acids and ‘biofilms’ created by bacteria in the mouth. In much the same way as for urinary tract infections, it is also thought that the antioxidants can reduce adherence of bacteria to the teeth and gums.
Furthermore, they may decrease the magnitude of the inflammatory response, which can cause enzymes to worsen dental problems. The combination of these factors can help to prevent dental caries, also known as tooth decay.
Cardiovascular benefits. There is also some evidence that cranberry consumption may help to alleviate the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing some of its risk factors, including atherosclerosis, oxidative stress (the impact of free radicals on the body) and dyslipidaemia (high cholesterol).
A review by Blumberg et al (2013) found that consumption of cranberries can lower the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase the amount of HDL (high) cholesterol, leading to a more healthy cholesterol balance.
This in turn can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing of the arteries as a result of too much fat in the blood. Furthermore, the review found strong evidence for the reduction of blood markers of oxidative stress following cranberry juice consumption. This suggests that cranberries have a very effective antioxidant response.
The cucumber is a member of the gourd (cucurbitaceae) family, and has the advantage of being not only great for your health, but a very versatile vegetable in the culinary sense. Cucumbers can be eaten either fresh or pickled, and served in everything from sandwiches to curries.
They are an extremely low calorie vegetable, mainly due to the fact that they are 95% water weight. With many public health bodies recommending we increase our daily water intake (to two litres a day), what is often neglected is that those who eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables need substantially less water than those who don’t.
Drinking plenty of water is obviously an extremely good idea, and eating plenty of fresh vegetables prevents you from having to choke down litres of water: just something to bear in mind.
Cucumber is incredibly nutrient dense, but in terms of how much you can eat in a sitting, it may not be quite so beneficial. 100g of cucumber has just 16 calories, in addition to 16% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, 4% DV of magnesium, and 4% DV of manganese. But remember – always leave the cucumber skin on, as that’s where a large proportion of the nutrients are.
Cucumber’s real benefits come with its fantastic phytonutrient profile. It contains the flavonoids apigenin, quercetin, and kaempferol, all of which have a long list of proven health benefits we could spend a long time discussing.
What is really significant about cucumber however, is the presence in high amounts of compounds unique to the gourd family: cucurbitacins.
Cucurbitacins are compounds with strong anti-cancer properties which are the subject of a number of different studies, some ongoing, investigating whether these compounds could have benefits in humans.
While research is in the early stages, it certainly seems promising with regards to anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting benefits. Specific studies, on pancreatic cancer for example, show that these compounds may have potent anti-cancer potential.
Cumin is an Indian spice used in many curry dishes to add flavour and heat. What is unknown is that it is also extremely good for the body in a number of ways.
Diabetes. Diabetics are at an increased risk of developing kidney disease because high blood sugar can cause the kidneys to over-filter blood. This over-working of the vital organs can result in damage over time. In a review by Rathore, Saxena and Singh (2013) it was found that in animal studies, consumption of cumin lowered elevated levels of plasma urea by as much as 50%.
Urea is a substance secreted in the urine and can give an indication of how well the kidneys are functioning. This shows that cumin may be very effective at reducing this side-effect of diabetes, which can help to prevent serious life-threatening complications of the disease.
Cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, more than one in two people who were born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and 40% of cancer cases are due to lifestyle choices. In other words, a massive number of cancer cases are preventable, and one way to protect oneself against cancer is through the diet.
In a study by Kahn et al, 2011, cumin was shown to inhibit the creation of new cancer cells, suppress proliferation of cancer cells, and there is also evidence that cumin can protect cells from radiation. These effects were found for numerous types of cancer, including those of the blood, breast, colon, lung, skin, cervix, and prostate.
Digestive health. Fiber is very important for the digestive system. There are two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is important for helping stool pass through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber can help to move food through the digestive system more easily in order to prevent digestive problems and keep bowels healthy.
In the modern western diet, fiber is not always readily available. Cumin, however, is a good source, with different types of cumin containing between 15 and 45% fiber (Rathore, Saxena and Singh, 2013). Cumin can be added to a variety of meals in order to gain a fibrous benefit.
Dandelions are best known as being attractive weeds, but weeds all the same. They are a gardener’s worst nightmare. What is less well known about dandelions however, is that they are entirely edible. Furthermore, they host a myriad of health benefits, particularly in the green parts of the plant – the dandelion greens.
High in vitamin K. Dandelion greens are extremely rich in vitamin K, with 55g containing a massive 535% of the RDA of the vitamin K. The body can store excess vitamin K in the liver for future use, so there is no need for concern regarding eating above the RDA if consumption does not occur every day.
Vitamin K is very important for a variety of bodily functions, but its main use is in blood clotting and strengthening bones (NHS, 2015). A review by Price, Langford and Liporace (2012) has shown that there is good evidence for vitamin K as an important factor in both bone synthesis and bone maintenance.
Can alleviate andropause symptoms. Andropause, also known as the male menopause, is a condition that affects all ageing males. It is characterised by a decline in both physical and mental prowess, and can significantly reduce sperm count. A study conducted in Korea by Noh et al (2013) assessed the effects of daily consumption of a dandelion and rooibos (legume) extract concoction on andropause symptoms in rats.
After four weeks, it was found that both testosterone and sperm count were significantly enhanced, and physical movement was markedly improved. Furthermore, oxidative stress of the cells which produce testosterone was significantly reduced, suggesting that the extract also has antioxidant properties.
Can fight Leukaemia. Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood cells, where the production of normal blood cells is significantly hampered. Dandelion has been used in traditional medicine to treat leukaemia, but a study by Ovadje et al (2011) confirmed that they are an excellent treatment for this disease.
They found that after treating leukemic cancer cells with a water-based solution of dandelion root extract, the body’s normal process of cell apoptosis occurred. They proposed that this happened because the dandelion induces the activation of caspase, a protein which triggers apoptosis.
Apoptosis refers to a process whereby the body causes cells to die (as oppose to cell death by external sources such as injury). In other words, dandelion root extract has been shown to encourage the body to kill the cancerous cells without the need for external assistance.
Promotes liver health. The liver is an organ which is vital for filtering out toxins in the body. It is important to keep the liver healthy, as a damaged liver can cause the body to become highly susceptible to infection, disease and death. In a study by Adbulrahman et al (2013), carbon tetrachoride (CCI4) intoxification of the liver was induced in rats.
CCI4 is a man-made solvent which can cause liver damage in high doses. When compared to no treatment, treatment with dandelion leaves water extract led to a significant reduction in serum markers which usually indicate significant damage.
This means that dandelion was able to very successfully protect the liver against damage, and restore normal function following intoxification. Previous studies have also shown that dandelion root is extremely effective at detoxification of the liver, which can improve its function and lifespan (Hu and Kitts, 2003).
Most people wouldn’t think that chocolate could ever be considered healthy. It is one of the most popular indulgent foods in the world, and the Aztecs and Mayans referred to it as the ‘food of the gods’. Nevertheless, new research suggests that adding dark chocolate to your diet can provide a number of health benefits.
Promotes cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular disease is defined as a disease of the heart and blood vessels, and can lead a variety of serious health problems, such as heart attack, stroke, and death. There has been a vast amount of research into the benefits of dark chocolate for preventing and fighting cardiovascular disease, and the result have been extremely favourable.
A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials showed reductions in blood pressure, improved dilation of blood vessels, reductions in both LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol, and increased insulin resistance (Hooper et al, 2012). Most effects were found at very small doses of chocolate, but doses greater than 50g led to a better result for blood pressure.
High in antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for a wide array of health benefits. Dark chocolate has been found to have very high levels of antioxidants, with a capacity of 13.1 per 100g (Haritha et al, 2014). Jorgustin (2015) compiled a list of the top 100 high antioxidant foods, and dark chocolate was 31st on the list.
Natural cocoa powder contains high levels of procyanidins, and the higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant level. This is why dark chocolate is much better than milk chocolate. It is important to remember that although dark chocolate does have antioxidants, it also has a lot of fat and sugar (a 40g bar of bournville contains 40% RDA saturated fat and 29% RDA sugar), so it should still be considered a treat.
Good for cognitive and mental health. A small amount of dark chocolate is not only good for the body, but it is also good for the mind. Modern life is extremely mentally taxing, and 1 in 4 people are expected to be affected by a mental health problem each year according to the mental health charity Mind.
Dark chocolate consumption, however, has been shown to have mood-boosting effects. Scholey et al (2009) compared cognitive performance and mood in participants who consumed a drink which contained cocoa antioxidants or a placebo, whilst completing a time-consuming cognitive task.
They found that rapid visual information processing responses were faster for participants consuming the cocoa drink, plus they had a significantly better task performance than the control group, and reported less mental fatigue. Another study by Sathyapalan et al (2010) found that consuming chocolate which is high in cocoa can significantly reduce both depression and anxiety associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
The date is the sweet tasting fruit of the date palm, likely first cultivated in the Middle East. Often eaten dried so that it can be preserved longer, this sugary fruit also tastes great fresh. Produced mainly in Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia, this exotic food is almost all sugar, hence its sweet, almost toffee like taste.
This also may go some way to explaining why dates are almost always a feature of desserts (sticky toffee pudding and so on), although could just as well be used as part of a granola or smoothie. With a solid nutritional profile high in fibre, and fantastic benefits for gut biology and colon cancer prevention, dates are an excellent food for the digestive system.
There’s no getting around the fact that dates are delicious because of their high sugar levels. That aside, dates still have some nutritional benefits: 100g of medjool dates contains 277 calories, 28% of your Daily Value (DV) of dietary fibre, 19% DV of potassium, 13% DV of magnesium, and 10% DV of vitamin B6. These nutrients are essential to processes as diverse as maintaining digestive health, blood pressure, kidney health, bone integrity, nerve health, the creation of red blood cells, neurotransmitters and much more. Not bad for such a sweet tasting food.
In addition to the nutritional content of dates, they possess a number of other health benefits, including a substantial antioxidant capacity, digestive support, and possible benefits as a male aphrodisiac. The antioxidant capacity of dates is of course significant for the broad base of health benefits antioxidants can give, but perhaps more interesting, is the fact that dates appear to have a beneficial effect on gut microbiology, and may even help to prevent colon cancer.
Couple that with substantial amounts of dietary fibre, and that’s fairly complete digestive protection. On an interesting side note, extract from date palm pollen, originally used in folk medicine to treat male infertility, has been shown to have some limited aphrodisiac effects in males.
As mentioned above, dates are very high in sugar, so eat them sparingly.
Edamame is the name given to a preparation of immature soybeans in the pod. Traditionally found in the Oriental cuisines of China, Japan and Korea, edamame is working its way into the West as a tasty snack renowned for its health food status.
While you probably should try to avoid seasoning edamame with too much salt if you want to reap the full health benefits, regardless, edamame has a balanced nutritional profile and possible applications for lowering cholesterol and decreasing the risk of prostate cancer.
Edamame shines on two fronts: high protein and high fibre. 100g of cooked edamame contains 122 calories, and 11 grams of protein, 20% DV of dietary fibre, 16% DV of magnesium, 12% DV of iron, 12% DV of potassium and 10% DV of vitamin C.
It has a surprisingly well rounded set of essential nutrients, covering a number of common deficiencies: iron deficiency anaemia is very common, especially in women, magnesium deficiency is especially common in those who exercise regularly, and potassium deficiencies, although often not as severe, do happen in those who don’t remain hydrated properly.
In addition to the nutritional benefits, there is some evidence that soy has beneficial effects on cholesterol, lowering total cholesterol, LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, and the level of triglycerides (which are a major risk factor for heart disease). Direct evidence for soy having a positive impact on heart disease itself is certainly not conclusive, meaning that the benefits of the reduction in cholesterol may not be quite as significant.
However, soy products do have the ability to help reduce the risk of another common cause of mortality in the developed world: cancer. Specifically, a meta-analysis of prostate cancer showed that soy food consumption could lower the risk of getting prostate cancer, the most common type of cancer in older men.
Eggplant, also known as aubergine, is a fruit traditionally used in dishes such as baba ghanoush, moussaka and ratatouille. It can be prepared by roasting, deep frying, baking, or stewing, and while all these preparation methods differ, eggplant tends to retain its rich, slightly sweet flavour.
It has a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals, potent and unique antioxidant benefits, and it reduces the risk of the biggest killer in the developed world: cardiovascular disease.
Eggplant has some fairly surprising nutritional benefits. One large eggplant, unpeeled (548g), contains 136 calories. You will also get 64% of your daily value (DV) of dietary fibre, 35% DV of potassium, 25% DV of vitamin B6, 20% DV of vitamin C, and 19% DV of magnesium.
Keeping your body in good shape requires a lot of nutrients from a lot of different sources, but what is great about eggplant is it has reasonable amounts of many nutrients, covering many bases.
It is also a potent source of antioxidants and has a number of proven benefits for decreasing the risk factors of cardiovascular disease. In particular, it’s peel has a unique antioxidant called nasunin that has been shown to successfully fight free radicals. This study showed that when dosed with paraquat, a highly toxic weed killer, nasunin protected the rats from damage to a degree.
Eggplant also benefits from having a broad range of other antioxidants. All of this is important because antioxidants prevent ‘free radical’ damage (that may lead to DNA damage, cell death and mutations), and thus have a broad spectrum of positive health effects.
Eggplant reduces some of the risk factors of cardiovascular disease. It may be linked to a reduction in cholesterol and weight, although this is based on animal trials. In the study just referenced, researchers found that feeding eggplant juice to rabbits with high cholesterol diets caused a reduction in cholesterol and weight gain.
In addition, it may have some benefits for lowering blood pressure. With high blood pressure and high cholesterol being such important risk factors for cardiovascular disease, eggplant is a great benefit to your cardiovascular health.
Eggs are considered to be one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. The egg white and yolk are both full of nutrients (they turn a cell into a chicken!) and therefore are considered a ‘superfood’. Eggs can be fried, boiled, poached or scrambled, making them a cheap, versatile and tasty breakfast option.
One large egg (50g) contains 6g of protein, has 10% of your RDA of vitamin B12, 11% of your RDA of vitamin D and 22% of your RDA of selenium, among a whole load of other nutrients. All of this for just 78 calories! Eggs can be considered an optimal food source as they contain a little bit of almost all the nutrients out body’s need to function properly.
Eggs have been compared to beef, soy and milk and they win when it comes to which of these foods provides the highest quality of protein. This is why they are eaten in large amounts by bodybuilders, as they are a complete protein source, providing all 9 essential amino acids.
Eggs are a great source of choline, a nutrient that is vital for healthy cell membranes, and helps the cardiovascular system and brain function correctly.
They are also beneficial to your eyes as they contain Lutein and Zeaxanthin, two antioxidants which reduce your chances of suffering from cataracts and macular degeneration. To gain the most benefit, you should eat eggs with greens such as kale, spinach, chard or collards – they also contain high doses of these antioxidants and the fat found in egg yolks will help absorb them into your body.
A common misconception is that due to the high levels of cholesterol in eggs (372mg / 100g) they increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. However this is not true. Eating eggs does not necessarily raise your blood cholesterol; your liver produces cholesterol every day so when you eat eggs, it ends up producing less.
Due to their high satiety, eggs tend to fill you up faster, meaning you eat less throughout the day. As a result, they are a great food choice for anyone trying to lose weight. This study carried out in 2008 showed that replacing bagels with eggs for breakfast lead to noticeable weight loss.
Endive is a leaf vegetable belonging to the chicory genus, placing it alongside foods such as radicchio, sugarloaf and the Belgian endive. Belgian endive (a variety of common chicory, like radicchio) is often confused with endive because of the name, but in fact endive is a different species: Cichorium endivia.
Endive comes in two main forms: curly endive and escarole, with escarole being less bitter, and has a wide variety of culinary applications, although admittedly often in a series of exotic salads. Low-calorie, nutritious and high in phytonutrients, endive is a great leafy addition to any balanced diet.
Nutritionally, endive shines most prominently as a great weight loss food, because of two things: it is low-calorie and high in fibre. One head of endive (513g) contains just 87 calories, and 64% of your Daily Value (DV) of fibre. Someone would have to eat huge amounts to gain any substantial amount of calories, and the high water and fibre values both contribute to high satiety levels, making sure that dieters continue to lose weight.
But endive also benefits from a number of other nutritional highlights, with a head of endive containing 222% of your DV of vitamin A, 52% DV of vitamin C, 46% DV of potassium, 26% DV of calcium, and 23% DV of iron. While you probably won’t eat a whole head in one go, considering you get all this nutrition for 87 calories, this is quite the nutrient dense food. In addition, these essential vitamins and minerals are great for the long-term health of everything from your eyes to your bones, so it’s important not to skimp on them!
While chicory has unfortunately not been studied much in isolation, there are two evidence based benefits to report. The first is that extracts from the plant may protect the liver, with there being some evidence that endive extract has the ability to prevent and treat liver disease. In addition, endive is high in the flavonoid kaempferol, which has been shown to provide protection from blood vessel damage, and has a broad cancer-protective effect.
Delicious raw or slow cooked, in salads or in pasta dishes, fennel is a plant with a strange and unique taste (that changes substantially when cooked), and a raft of health benefits to go with it.
Although it is no slouch nutritionally, with decent levels of vitamin C and potassium, it is fennel’s dizzying (and slightly bizarre) list of health benefits that is really where the interest is.
100g of fennel (a bulb is around two and a half times that) contains 20% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, 12% DV of dietary fibre and 11% DV of potassium. This nutritional boost comes for the price of just 31 calories.
There is some evidence that fennel may help with the treatment of glaucoma, a condition that causes gradual loss of sight. Also, one study showed that fennel oil had remarkable effects on the treatment of colic in babies (severe abdominal pain often caused by trapped wind).
Additionally, it seems that it may have some beneficial effect when it comes to lowering blood pressure, which, with cardiovascular disease killing so many in the developed world, is a major plus.
Fennel has both antioxidant and anti-microbial properties, which may go some way to explaining the tentative links with its and reduced cancer risk. Fennel intake has also been linked to protection from liver damage.
Specific compounds in fennel may have some benefits when it comes to reducing inflammation. One study on anethole, a compound found in fennel, found an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effect.
Another study on dilliapole, a compound found in it as well (and more often dill), found an anti-inflammatory effect. This is important because the inflammatory response, while important, can do serious damage to our tissues if it goes on for too long.
The fig is the fruit of a species of flowering plants native to Asia, eaten either fresh or dried. The fig is most commonly used in sweet foods like jams and pastries, and are also fantastic in savoury dishes such as stuffing, dips and chutneys. With high levels of fibre, and benefits for weight loss, cardiovascular disease and cancer, figs are an exotic way to deliver a number of unique health benefits.
Figs benefit mainly from being low-calorie and high in fibre. 100g of fig contains 74 calories, and for that you get 11% of your Daily Value (DV) of dietary fibre, 6% DV of potassium and 5% DV of B6. The high fibre has distinct health benefits for weight loss, and is also great for the digestive system. Potassium and B6 are both vital to a number of processes in the body, including blood pressure regulation and the formation of red blood cells, so while a diet of only figs is not a wise idea, as part of a balanced approach, figs could be quite beneficial.
Figs have been identified as being a source of phenolic acids and flavonoids including gallic acid, catechin and gallocatechin, with potent antioxidant benefits. There is evidence that figs may suppress the proliferation of cancer cells, which is certainly an interesting avenue of research.
There is also evidence that fig leaf may have benefits when it comes to preventing some of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Fig leaf extract has been shown to decrease the level of triglycerides in the blood, and to also lower blood sugar levels. The high amounts of fibre in figs could be useful for the treatment of obesity and protection against cardiovascular disease.
Flax is a food crop grown primarily for its use in textiles (it is used to produce linen), and for its seed, flaxseed. Also made into an oil (linseed oil), flaxseed is becoming increasingly known as a nutritional supplement for vegetarians and vegans. This is due to its extremely high levels of omega 3s, usually found in oily fish.
Flaxseed must be ground so that we can digest it effectively, which gives us a lot of opportunities to put it into meals, such as baked goods or porridge. Flaxseed has an amazing nutritional profile, a huge amount of omega-3s and is the number one source of lignans. A really great food for a lot of people, and essential for vegetarians looking to live healthily.
100g contains 534 calories, so it is admittedly rather high calorie, but with 18g of protein and huge amounts of omega 3, it is an extremely balanced food. That 100g also contains 108% of your Daily Value (DV) of dietary fibre, which is fantastic for digestion, 98% DV of magnesium, essential for heart health, 31% DV of iron, great for staving off tiredness, 25% of both B6 and Calcium, great for blood and bone health, and 23% DV of potassium, a mineral essential for cardiovascular health. Overall, flaxseed is a great natural way to supplement your diet with a number of vital essential nutrients.
As mentioned above, flaxseed is a fantastic source of omega 3s. In fact, it has the most omega-3 fatty acids per gram of almost any food. Unfortunately, this is in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which must be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to have beneficial effects. Some of it is lost in conversion, so in real terms, salmon probably has the most omega-3s.
Omega 3s lower blood pressure, help prevent breast cancer, and delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration. They prevent the shortening of telomeres, associated with age-related diseases and early mortality, in addition to preventing or delaying neurodegenerative diseases.
The second major benefit of flaxseed is its use as a source of lignans; the number one source of dietary lignans in fact. Lignans have proven benefits when it comes to tackling three of the biggest problems with health in the developed world.
Firstly, they have been proven to lower cholesterol, fantastic for heart health. Second, lignans reduce inflammation, which is the cause and catalyst of a huge range of diseases. Finally, lignans have some value in preventing cancer, specifically breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Garbanzo beans, often known as chickpeas, are a high fibre source of vegetarian protein. An extremely versatile food, it can be used in traditional salads or stews, as a roasted topping, or as the main ingredient for the foods for which it is perhaps best known: hummus and falafel. Popular from the Iberian Peninsula to the Middle East, the garbanzo bean is a potent weight loss tool, and a heart-healthy food.
Nutritionally, the garbanzo bean follows the pattern of many other legumes: low fat and low calorie, high protein and high in nutrients. That tends to be a winning combination. 100g contains 364 calories, but those 364 calories are home to 19g of protein, or 38% of your Daily Value (DV). Chickpeas are also very high in dietary fibre – 68% DV, and also have 34% DV of iron, 28% DV of magnesium, 25% DV of B6, and 25% DV of potassium. With those essential nutrients being completely necessary for proper blood and heart functioning, you really don’t want to skimp on the chickpeas!
Not only is the chickpea fantastic when it comes to nutritionals content, it can also help you to get to, or stay at a healthy weight by modulating your appetite and food choice. Chickpeas have proven benefits when it comes to lowering cholesterol and preventing diabetes, undoubtedly confirming them as a heart healthy food.
In addition, high fibre and high legume diets in general have been shown to be good for cardiovascular disease. High fibre diets are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and diets high in legume consumption have been shown to have an extremely reduced risk of heart disease as compared to a control.
Finally, there is some association that has been suggested between high fibre diet and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
Apart from being used to scare off vampires, garlic has also been used as a medicinal food for centuries. Hippocrates, who is considered one of the most important figures in modern medicine, used it to treat toothaches and chest pain.
Garlic is a part of the allium family and is related to onions and leeks. Due to its incredibly strong taste, people don’t tend to eat it on its own; it is usually used as a base ingredient in a large number of dishes instead.
For 149 calories (per 100g) it provides 52% of your RDA of vitamin C, 60% of your RDA of Vitamin B6 and also contains decent amounts of manganese, calcium and potassium.
Scientific studies have proved that garlic can help boost your immunity; having a strong immune system means that you are less susceptible to colds and the common flu. If you do end up getting the flu, add lots of garlic to your diet – it has been shown to reduce the number of days you spend sick in bed.
The main active medicinal compound in garlic is known as Allicin. Research was carried out where rats were fed a diet high in fructose (a type of sugar), to make them fat. Some rats were then fed allicin, whilst they kept consuming the fat inducing diet. The results showed that these rats stopped gaining weight, whereas the others continued to do so. Even though this test was carried out on rats, garlic may have the same effects on humans, on a smaller scale.
Other studies carried out on humans have also found that garlic supplementation can lower blood pressure levels; this is particularly important for people who suffer from hypertension. This study found that garlic at high doses was as effective as Atenolol, a drug used to treat hypertension. Of course, if you do suffer from hypertension, never change or stop taking medication without speaking to a health professional first!
Widely used in many cultures, ginger has been an important part of folk medicine for centuries, claiming to cure all kinds of problems including sickness, pain and digestive problems. Here are some the health benefits it brings with it:
Relieves nausea. It is often touted as a miracle cure for morning sickness during pregnancy, and now a study published in 2014, has looked at the effects of ginger consumption on women who experienced mild to moderate morning sickness before 16 weeks gestation.
They were divided into 3 groups – those who received a ginger tablet, those who received a placebo and those who received nothing.
The study was conducted over 7 days and the results showed that ginger did indeed help reduce the occurrences of morning sickness amongst the women who took the ginger tablet.
Another recent study has looked at 16 trials and reviews relating to how ginger affects symptoms of nausea in general and the results suggest that in those cases ginger did have some impact on nausea, although it was recommended that further research be done in this area.
Improves pain and inflammation. There has been quite a bit of interest in this area of study, perhaps because most trials show that ginger does appear to be beneficial as a pain reliever. One such example is shown in this study on the effects of ginger on pain experienced by patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knees.
It is also showing itself to be an excellent anti-inflammatory, as shown in this study by Matsumura et al on the effects of ginger on muscle soreness post-exercise.
However, more research is still needed to really look in-depth at the anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects of ginger, but the results so far are definitely promising.
Naturally relieves menstrual pain. Between September 2006 and February 2007, a study of 150 women, aged 18 years and older, was conducted to examine the effects of ginger, ibuprofen and mefenamic acid on menstrual pains.
The participants were divided into 3 groups, each of which received one of the aforementioned treatments – 250mg ginger tablet, 250mg mefenamic acid and 400mg ibuprofen.
The results found that ginger was just as effective at relieving menstrual cramps and pains as the mefenamic acid and ibuprofen, making it an excellent natural alternative to modern medicines, in relation to menstrual pain.
Helps fight against cancer. Published in 2015, a study conducted by Akimoto et al has looked at the effectiveness of ginger in destroying pancreatic cancer cells in both human and mouse cancer cells.
The team created an extract from ginger and used it to treat the cells; they also injected mice with the cancer cells and treated them with the ginger extract to test the effectiveness of the solution on live models.
The results suggest that ginger has a significant role to play in the fight against cancer in the future, and that further study in this area needs to be done using human trials.
Love it or hate it, the juicy grapefruit has an awful lot going for it. There has been much speculation regarding the actual health benefits of consuming this highly acidic fruit.
There is no doubt that it is packed full of vitamin C goodness that is guaranteed to give the immune system a boost, but scientific evidence is being amassed that shows that this sunshine fruit really is excellent for our health.
Helps with weight loss. In 2006, Fujioka et al published a study relating to how grapefruit can assist weight loss over a 12 week period. The team took 91 obese volunteers and divided them into 4 groups; each group took a different supplement before each meal, 3 times a day, for 12 weeks.
They were either given 207ml of apple juice with a placebo capsule; 207ml of apple juice with a grapefruit capsule; 237ml of grapefruit juice with a placebo capsule or half a fresh grapefruit with a placebo capsule.
The results found that whilst everyone did manage to lose some weight, the greatest proportion of weight lost was in the group that consumed half a fresh grapefruit before each meal, losing a total body weight of 1.6kg.
Lowers blood pressure. A study was published in 2015 that looked at the effects of grapefruit on weight and cardiovascular risks associated with obesity. From a group of 250 participants, the research team found that grapefruit did seem to help lower systolic blood pressure, but they admit that further investigation is needed in this area to fully explore this issue.
Cancer prevention. Bergamottin is a naturally occurring chemical compound found predominantly in grapefruit juice; it has recently been investigated as a potential inhibitor of cancer cell growth in a study conducted by Kim et al.
They found that bergamottin blocked the signalling pathways between cancer cells, which in turn made it more difficult for the cells to proliferate.
The results of this study suggest that grapefruit and the bergamottin it contains may play a pivotal role in helping to prevent cancer.
De-clog the arteries and lower cholesterol. Atherosclerosis occurs when fatty substances clog up the arteries of the heart, leading to the risk of heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
It has a number of causes including high cholesterol levels. In 2006, this study looked at the way in which eating grapefruit might affect the level of atherosclerosis in participating individuals.
57 patients aged between 39 and 72 years old, who had received a coronary heart bypass,were divided into three groups; one group consumed a blonde grapefruit, another group consumed a red grapefruit, the remaining group consumed no grapefruit – they did this daily for 30 days.
It was discovered that the patients who had eaten the red grapefruits had a significant impact on lowering the levels of cholesterol in their blood, which in turn has a positive impact on the effects of atherosclerosis.
Grapes are a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and you’ve probably heard it said that the people living in this region have one of the healthiest diets in the world.
There is certainly something to be said for regularly consuming grapes, be it in their raw form or even as a glass of quality wine. The scientific evidence speaks for itself and suggests that resveratrol, which is found in high concentrations in red and purple grapes, could be a huge contributing factor to good health.
Kick start your weight loss. Some research conducted by Dr. Della-Fera et al suggested that an important antioxidant called resveratrol could help prevent fat cells from forming in rats and mice, as well as breaking them up more quickly when they do. Resveratrol is found in a number of foods, with high concentrations being available in red and purple grapes.
Reduce inflammation and protect heart health. There is a wealth of evidence relating to the effects of resveratrol on heart health and a review carried out by Anna Csiszar has looked at a number of studies that support these claims.
In particular, she found that people who had diets rich in resveratrol were at a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and that they experienced less inflammation in the lining of their blood vessels, allowing for better blood circulation.
Improve brain health. It is thought that resveratrol can help improve overall brain health, particularly memory in to old age.
A study published in 2014 has taken the first steps in proving the truth of this claim. 23 participants, aged between 50 – 75 years old, took 200mg of resveratrol daily for 6 weeks and another group of 23 took a placebo; after this time they were tested to see how it had affected their brain functions.
The group who took the resveratrol had improved memory and function connectivity of the hippocampus, whereas the placebo group did not.
Improve diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy occurs when diabetes is not managed well and vision is significantly affected.
This study has suggested that resveratrol may help to improve the effects of diabetic neuropathy. The study was conducted on diabetic rats, who were then treated with resveratrol for 2 weeks; there was significant improvement in their diabetic neuropathy.
Eating foods that are rich in resveratrol, like red and purple grapes, may well help improve vision in diabetic people, although advice should always be sought from a doctor first.
Protect eyes from UVA damage. A study, published in 2015, has shown that resveratrol from red grapes can help reduce the damage done to eyes from ultra-violet radiation, specifically UVA.
In particular, resveratrol was beneficial in relation to age-related degeneration that was exacerbated by UVA and the researchers have suggested that further study should be done in this area.
Beef is the culinary name for meat from cows, and is the third most consumed meat in the world, being fairly ubiquitous in the cuisines of the US, China and much of Western Europe. With high red meat intake being blamed for a number of serious health conditions, most notably cardiovascular disease and cancer, it might seem odd to have beef on a list of healthy foods.
However, this article will attempt to argue that grass fed beef avoids a lot of the health issues around heavily processed meats, and that the links between red meat and serious health conditions are not as clear cut as described. Grass fed beef is fantastic source of protein, healthy fats and essential nutrients.
100g of raw grass fed ground beef contains 192 calories, but for those 192 calories, you get a lot of lean protein: 19g to be exact (38% of your Daily Value – DV). On top of that, 100g contains 33% DV of B12, 18% DV of vitamin B6, 11% DV of iron, 8% DV of potassium, and 5% DV of magnesium. Not only is the beef a great source of protein, but it also covers a large base of important nutrients: B vitamins are essential for cognition, and iron, magnesium and potassium deficiencies can all lead to lethargy, so even on a day to day basis it’s a good idea to get these nutrients in.
But there remains the question: is grass-fed really better than grain-fed? And is it any less likely to cause serious health issues? Well, firstly, yes, there is some difference between grass-fed and grain-fed animals when it comes to nutritional balance, especially in the amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).
Omega-3 has a number of health benefits (see the salmon and flaxseed sections), and CLA is heavily associated with weight loss. Grass fed beef has more omega-3 and CLA than grain fed. Further, as this review states, there is evidence that grass fed is higher in vitamin A and C (precursors), and the antioxidant glutiathone. Overall, it seems clear that grass-fed has some nutritional advantages.
The question remains, then, is red meat bad for you? This question is still very much in the air, but there are one or two points in this article that may convince you to suspend judgement. A number of observational studies point toward a link between red meat intake and cancer: colorectal and breast cancer, for example.
However, the problem is that these studies do not distinguish between processed and unprocessed meat. We intuitively see a roast dinner as healthier than a big mac, for example, but these studies were simply looking at ‘red meat’ as a whole.
Correlation (between red meat consumption and cancer) does not imply causation! Significantly, one study found an association between processed foods and higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but crucially, found no such link between red meat and incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Green beans are a nutritious, delicious, and ubiquitous vegetable. Sold canned, frozen and fresh, and a great addition to a range of dishes from casseroles to roast dinners, these beans are great stir-fried, steamed or baked.
Green beans are a very low-calorie source of a number of important nutrients, being particularly high in vitamin C. Although 100g of green beans contains just 31 calories, that same 100g contains 20% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, 13% DV of vitamin A, 10% DV of dietary fibre, and 6% DV of magnesium.
Green beans are high in carotenoids, specifically beta-carotene and lycopene. Both of these substances have antioxidant properties, and in addition, lycopene has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, and the beta-carotene in green beans may lower your risk of getting both prostate cancer and colon cancer.
The hulls of green beans have been shown to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This may seem overly broad, but with inflammation being a cause of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and aggravating many others; and free radical damage (prevented by antioxidants) being linked to DNA damage (possibly leading to cancer) and cell death, this is always a really important finding.
Finally, green beans have cardiovascular benefits, as research has shown they can help to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so it is very important to include foods that lower it, in your diet, to help with your long-term cardiovascular health.
With both magnesium and vitamin C being important for cardiovascular performance, eating green beans is a real win-win situation.
Guavas are a tropical fruit produced mainly in India, known in the West because of the ‘superfood’ status that it was announced with when it became readily available a few years ago, instantly becoming available as a juice, whole, or as a part of soft drinks.
There’s absolutely no denying that guava is extremely good for you. With astronomical levels of vitamin C, antioxidant and anti-cancer benefits, it is a one of the most nutritious fruits available and a great investment in your long-term health.
100g of guava contains 68 calories, which, frankly, is not a lot, when you consider that that same 100g contains 380% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C. That is an astonishing ratio of calories to vitamin C, but amazingly the guava has a number of other nutrients in respectable quantities: 20% DV of dietary fibre, 12% DV of vitamin A, 11% DV of potassium, 5% DV of vitamin B6, and 5% DV of magnesium. With those nutrients essential to the health of your heart, eyes, gums, blood cells and gut, guava is an excellent way to avoid deficiencies.
The high concentrations of fibre and vitamin C have additional health benefits: high fibre diets have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of heart disease and a lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
A study on intake of vitamin C and the prevention of asthma symptoms in children showed that eating foods high in vitamin C significantly reduced the risk. On top of the benefits from vitamin C and fibre, guavas are extremely high in antioxidants, and even has the effect of lowering blood sugar.
In addition to that, guavas are extremely high in lycopene, even higher than tomatoes. Studies on lycopene and prostate cancer have repeatedly shown an association between higher levels of lycopene and a lower risk of prostate cancer. It seems that a reduction in DNA damage may be part of this effect, but regardless, even when compared with other carotenoids the link between eating lycopene and lower instances of prostate cancer seems sound.
Haddock is a popular and heavily farmed saltwater fish, and one of the most used fish in the classic British ‘fish and chips’. Commonly preserved by drying and smoking, or simply eaten fresh, haddock can be grilled, griddled, flamed or fried. Delicious not only dipped and deep fried in batter (which by the way is very unhealthy) but with a light salad or some spring vegetables, haddock is a nutritious and light white fish.
Haddock is a great source of lean protein and B vitamins. 100g of cooked haddock is just 90 calories, but contains a huge 20g of protein (40% of your Daily Value – DV). That’s 40% of your protein in less than 5% of calories! On top of that, haddock contains 35% DV of B12, 15% DV of B6 and 10% potassium. The B vitamins are essential for cognitive function, among other things, and potassium is great for long-term cardiovascular health.
Haddock also contains omega-3s. Although not in the same amounts as say, salmon, it is still significant- Omega 3s lower blood pressure, help prevent breast cancer, and even delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
They also prevent the shortening of telomeres, associated with age-related diseases and early mortality, in addition to preventing or delaying neurodegenerative diseases. Diets with a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio may even run the risk of depression and inflammatory disorders, so make sure you get your omega 3’s.
Hazelnuts are the nuts of the hazel tree, most commonly grown in Europe and US. Consumed raw, roasted or pasted, the hazelnut is most commonly found in the centre of chocolates, as it is used to make praline, or mixed into a jar of Nutella.
Hazelnut has far more variance to it than that, however, and is also great for making nut butter, soups and salads. With a fantastic nutritional profile typical of nuts and seeds, and with a whole range of antioxidant support and benefits for your long term health, the hazelnut is a good way to start introducing all important nuts and seeds into your diet.
Nutritionally, the hazelnut is high in monounsaturated fat and magnesium; both of which have been linked to improved cardiovascular health. 100g contains 628 calories, 46g of monounsaturated fats, 8g of polyunsaturated fats, and 4.5g of saturated fats (remember, monounsaturated is good for the heart). In addition, hazelnuts contain a reasonable amount of protein, 15g or 30% of your Daily Value (DV).
On top of the macronutrients, hazelnuts contain 40% DV magnesium, 30% DV B6, 26% DV iron and 19% DV potassium. Deficiencies in all of these are common occurrences that could have particularly bad consequences for blood and heart health. Finally, 100g of hazelnuts contains 40% DV of fibre, which helps with digestion.
The main benefit of the hazelnut is the huge amount of antioxidant potential it has, in particularly the high levels of Flavan-3-ols and antioxidants. Antioxidants in both the hazelnut kernel and in the skin have been identified. Antioxidants are important for preventing damage by free radicals, which could lead to cell or DNA damage, causing possible mutations, tissue damage and so on.
Nuts as a whole, when studied, show promising benefits. One study showed that frequent nut consumption has a positive effect on the proliferation of cancer and on free radical damage. Nuts can help protect against cardiovascular disease and even lower your risk of gallstone disease.
Honeydew is a cultivar of a species called muskmelon (other cultivars include the cantaloupe), renowned for its sweet tasting flesh and light, refreshing texture. Excellent in fruit salads, or eaten as a low calorie dessert on its own, the honeydew melon is a delicious yet low calorie way of keeping your sweet tooth when trying to lose weight. A common variety of melon, native to Western Asia, honeydew melon is now available all around the world and is grown in many countries as a commercial crop. Low calorie, and with huge antioxidant potential, the honeydew melon is a great addition to the end of any meal.
100g honeydew melon contains just 36 calories, but that small amount of calories contains a number of nutritional surprises: 30% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 6% DV of potassium, and 5% DV of B6. While this is certainly a significant amount of nutrition on a per calorie basis, in reality the most potent effect of the honeydew melon is as a diet aid for those with a sweet tooth. It is mostly water, low in calories, but contains enough nutrition that your body does not crave more food, as it may do with refined sugars.
The most significant benefit of the honeydew melon, however, is the large antioxidant potential it possesses, which is fantastic for the prevention of DNA damage and cell death. Honeydew melon also has confirmed anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, in rats fed a diet intended to give them atherosclerosis, melon appeared to ameliorate some of the effects of the diet and prevent the factors for atherosclerosis arising. Finally, the honeydew melon may have some kidney protecting benefits, specifically, against the oxidative stress produced by diabetes, confirming both a strong antioxidant profile and that honeydew melons are a heart healthy food.
Horseradish is a member of the brassica family, native to southeast Europe and Western Asia, mostly used in sauces and condiments. The plant is now popular worldwide, even being used as a wasabi replacement in Japan and elsewhere due to the scarcity of wasabi (and the relative cheapness of horseradish). With a healthy amount of vitamin C and a whole lot of cancer-fighting compounds, horseradish is a great way to spice up any healthy meal.
The pure nutritional benefits of horseradish are not its strong point due to the relatively small amounts commonly eaten. With that said, horseradish does have a surprising amount of vitamin C, 41% of your daily value (DV) per 100g, according to the USDA database. Vitamin C is an essential mineral, severe deficiency of which can cause serious problems, and is necessary for everything from gum to cardiovascular health, so it’s hard to get too much of it!
The real benefits of the plant, however, lie more with the ‘phytonutrients’ than micronutrients. The first set of phytonutrients we have met before: the glucosinalates that break down into sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, and have a well-studied list of beneficial effects (see bok choy).
The more interesting and unique phytonutrient with which we are concerned, however, is the compound ‘Allylisothyocyanate’. Originally a defence mechanism for the plant, it is now thought to have some benefit to those who eat it: specifically, anti-cancer and anti-microbial effects.
The anti-microbial effects of allylisothyocyanate are less surprising, and perhaps less useful, as I could find no evidence that the compound targets microbes harmful to humans, so perhaps its health benefits may be limited to food preservation.
The anti-cancer effects of the compound are more interesting, however. The study just referenced found that not only does allylisothyocyanate have positive effects on cultured cancer cells and in animal tests, but that the compound is extremely available for oral consumption. While further research is clearly needed, it seems as if the compound may have a strong protective potential against cancer cells.
Jicama (also known as yambean or Mexican yam) is a root vegetable usually eaten raw, and fantastic in soups, stir-fries, salads and Mexican cuisine.
Unlike some other root vegetables, eating the leaves is not such a good idea (they are highly poisonous), but the jicama itself has a sweet, starchy flavour, sometimes described as being somewhere between an apple and a potato.
On top of being interesting in a culinary sense, the jicama is fantastic for digestive health and at reducing your risk of certain cancers.
Jicama has a good nutritional profile, being especially high in vitamin C, important for processes like iron absorption and wound healing.
One medium jicama (659g) contains 221% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, in addition to 128% DV of dietary fibre, which has great digestive benefits (more on that below), and 28% DV of potassium, a mineral with proven cardiovascular benefits.
Jicama is not only high in vitamin C and fibre however. The large amounts of ‘dietary fibre’ in a jicama don’t do justice to the type of dietary fibre contained. Along with foods such as onions and leeks, jicama is very high in oligofructose and inulin, two members of the class of carbohydrate known as fructans.
Both are good for you for three main reasons: they stimulate bifidobacteria growth, they may have benefits for the prevention of intestinal diseases, and they may reduce your risk of cancer (see this review).
Firstly, oligofructose and inulin stimulate bifidobacteria growth. But what does this mean? Bifidobacteria are a kind of bacteria found in your gut, and eating oligofructose and inulin allows them to outcompete other bacteria in the gut that may be detrimental to your health.
Health benefits ascribed to having high levels of bifidobacteria include stimulating the immune system, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and aiding in the synthesis of B vitamins.
The digestive benefits of jicama don’t stop there, however. There is some evidence that they may help to prevent the incidence of intestinal disease, in particular the formation of aberrant crypt foci, clusters of abnormal tube-like glands in the colon. These are one of the earliest warning signs for problems that could be as bad as colon cancer, which, by the way, inulin has been proven to reduce the risk of.
In addition, there is some evidence that inulin and oligofructose reduce the risk of breast cancer. With the digestive and anti-cancer benefits of jicama so powerful, it’s no wonder that it’s made our list of healthiest foods.
Those of you who have read anything about nutrition over the past few years have almost certainly heard of kale. And if you’re looking for an article that attempts to brand kale as anything less than a great addition to the diets of most people, you’re out of luck.
A member of the brassica family (a family of foods you should certainly include in your diet, even if you hate kale), kale is a nutritional powerhouse that almost anyone can benefit from eating.
Kale is an extremely nutrient dense food, in fact, it has a claim on being the most nutrient dense food (per gram) on the planet.
Firstly, kale is supremely high in vitamin K. The USDA database lists raw kale as having 880% of your daily value (DV) in just 100g of kale (cooked kale has 1021%!). Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health. Secondly, raw kale has extremely high levels of vitamin C (200% DV), a vitamin vital to connective tissue.
High levels of vitamin K and vitamin C are, of course, not particularly special in a member of the brassica family. What is special is the sheer amount of these nutrients in just 100g and 49 calories. Kale has, quite frankly, more vitamin K than you could ever need, and this list of foods rich in vitamin C shows that Kale is behind only peppers and foods eaten commonly in small amounts, like chives.
The nutritional benefits don’t stop there though. Three minerals that many people are deficient in are calcium, magnesium and potassium. 100g of raw kale contains 15%, 11% and 14% DV respectively for each of these.
Calcium is of course vital for bone health and plays a role in a number of reactions in the body. It is one of the few minerals we need in reasonably large amounts (1000mg/ day). Magnesium is essential to exercise recovery and may even help protect against blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Finally, potassium has been associated with lower risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
As with most brassicas, the effects of kale go far beyond the nutritional values, however. The benefits of the unique anti-cancer compounds found in brassicas are powerful, and backed up by scientific evidence.
Another great benefit of Kale is that it contains compounds that benefit the health of your eye. Two compounds that are particularly important for the health of your eye are lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are found in huge quantities in kale: this list of foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin puts kale right at the top, with 23.7mg per cup of cooked kale. In fact, lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to protect against two of the most common eye disorders, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Finally, kale contains 4.3g of protein per 100g, making it a great vegan and vegetarian source of protein.
The kidney bean is a variety of common bean, so called because, well, it looks like a kidney. A great source of protein, especially for those who don’t eat meat regularly, the kidney bean benefits from being extremely nutrient dense and high in fibre, with large amounts of a number of essential nutrients. Kidney beans are classically a part of Chilli con carne, but can also be used in bean burgers, bean salads, and as a replacement for ground mince in a number of traditional Mexican dishes. With a fantastic nutritional profile and a confirmed heart healthy food, the kidney bean is a fantastic choice of lean protein.
Nutritionally, kidney beans are like many legumes: a nutrient-dense source of lean protein, or, in other words, really good for you! 100g of raw kidney beans is 333 calories, and those 333 calories provide you with 24g of protein (or 48% of your Daily Value – DV). On top of that, kidney beans follow the pattern of many other legumes by being extremely high in dietary fibre (60% DV) and essential nutrients. Kidney beans contain 98% DV of folate, 44% DV of iron, 40% DV of potassium, 35% DV of magnesium, and 20% DV of zinc. That covers everything from haemoglobin production to male sexual performance to your long term risk of heart disease, and that only scratches the surface, so it’s crucially important not to be deficient.
High fibre and high legume diets in general have been shown to be good for cardiovascular disease. High fibre diets have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and diets high in legume consumption have been shown to have an extremely reduced risk of heart disease as compared to a control. Finally, there is some association that has been suggested between high fibre diet and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
One word of warning, however: kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohemagglutin, so if cooking from dried, it is important that you boil the kidney beans for at least 10 minutes before eating them. And it is important that you boil them: merely heating them may simply raise the toxin concentration. Canned kidney beans, however, do not carry this danger.
Kiwifruits (often known simply as kiwis, or Chinese gooseberries) are a fruit originally native to china that are now grown as a commercial crop, thanks to the kiwi’s soft texture, and sweet and complex flavour. The kiwifruit can be used in anything from fruit pudding to salads to smoothies, but it is almost eaten raw to preserve the flavour. With great levels of vitamin C (much more than an orange per calorie) and antioxidant, anti-atherosclerosis and asthma preventing benefits, the kiwi is a fantastic option for those looking to diversify the delicious fruits they get their nutrients from.
Nutritionally, the kiwi’s headline is certainly the vitamin C content: 100g contains 61 calories, but a staggering 154% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C. In addition to that, the kiwi contains 12% of your DV fibre, 8% of your DV of potassium, and 5% of your DV of B6. These nutrients are responsible for a huge number of processes within the body; for example, vitamin B6 is involved in the production of red blood cells, and vitamin C is essential for the creation of connective tissue (things like gums). The fact that a kiwi a day can take care of your vitamin C needs is fantastic for your health.
However, the kiwi has a number of other health benefits up its sleeve. To begin with, it is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids thought to protect against two of the most common eye disorders, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Beyond that, the kiwi has also been linked to the prevention of asthma symptoms in children, along with other vitamin C rich foods.
In addition, the kiwi is fantastic for the health of the heart, having been demonstrated to prevent atherosclerosis (platelet aggregation and plasma lipids) and oxidative DNA damage. With both antioxidant capacity and the capacity to prevent atherosclerosis, the kiwi is a fantastically healthy food.
Kohlrabi, also known as turnip cabbage or the German turnip, is a member of the brassica family and a kind of cultivated cabbage. Not the prettiest looking vegetable, kohlrabi might surprise you with its somewhat sweet flavour and the great ability it has to be eaten in a number of different ways, tasting either sweet and crunchy when used raw (in a salad say) or richer and slightly more bitter when roasted.
With more vitamin C than an orange and the anti-cancer and antioxidant benefits that come with being a brassica, kohlrabi is a fantastic curveball to throw in the world of cruciferous vegetables.
(N.B. don’t throw away the leaves, they make a nice change from say, kale or collards, and are nutritious in their own right!)
It’s standout statistic is that 100g of raw kohlrabi provides 75% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C for just 27 calories. Moreover, the high levels of nutrients to low level of calories make this a sweet tasting and nutritious snack without the simple sugars present in, say, an orange.
The problem, is that the brassica family is generally studied by scientists as a unitary whole, with little differentiation between the species and cultivars. However, this study did a direct comparison of kohlrabi with a food we know to be great for your health, green cabbage on the effects on cells of the colon and rectum.
What they found was that ‘Kohlrabi should be considered, like cabbage, among the potent anti-carcinogenic cruciferous vegetables’.
There are so many vegetables in the brassica family with proven health benefits that it’s basically a matter of picking the ones you like to eat. With a slightly sweeter taste than most, why not try buying some kohlrabi and see if it pushes you into healthier eating habits?
The leek, a member of the allium family, is a vegetable with a mild, onion like taste. Delicious in soups, salads, or even just fried in butter, the leek is a traditional component of a number of classic dishes (leek and potato soup), in addition to being something of a health food.
With a strong nutritional profile, and an important source of the flavonoid kaempferol, leeks will lend a health advantage to almost any diet, and especially one low in green or allium vegetables.
Leeks are high in some rather unusual nutrients for a green vegetable, which is fantastic for those looking for nutritional variety. While leek is high in vitamin K, containing 45% of your daily value (DV) in 100g, according to the USDA database, it also has significant amounts of some essential vitamins and minerals many people’s diets lack. 100g contains 18% DV of vitamin B6, 16% DV of folate, 16% of iron, and 14% DV of vitamin C, all for just 61 calories.
These slightly harder to come by essential micronutrients perform a plethora of different functions in the body. B6 is important in a huge amount of processes, including forming haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body. Folate may benefit your health by preventing an excess of homocysteine, which is related to higher risk of cardiovascular disease and depression.
Iron deficiency results in tiredness and paleness, and should be avoided, and vitamin C is essential for iron absorption, gum health and a host of other things. Unlike, say, vitamin K, it is not uncommon for those in the developed world to be deficient in these, so eating leek may have some real health benefit to a lot of people.
Leek really shines, however, in its high concentration of a flavonoid called kaempferol, also found in a number of other allium vegetables. This review sees kaempferol as having ‘antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer,cardioprotective, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, anti-osteoporotic, estrogenic/antiestrogenic, anxiolytic, analgesic and antiallergic’ effects, so clearly this is something that needs further research!
All of these health benefits add up to a very convincing set of reasons to eat more leeks!
The lemon is a citrus fruit used worldwide for its distinctive bitter taste. With the juice, pulp and rind all available for use, the lemon is a versatile fruit used for a variety of purposes: the juice is used for everything from lemonade to salad dressing, the pulp used for smoothies, and the rind used in all kinds of baking. Although we don’t recommend eating lemon drizzle cake every day, there is certainly a haul of health benefits in lemons. Low calorie, with huge health significance for a number of the most common causes of mortality, and with strong anti-microbial effects, lemon is a unique health food.
Nutritionally, as with many fruits, lemons are low calorie, high in vitamin C, and high in fibre. 100g of lemon contains just 29 calories, but for that you get 88% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 11% DV of dietary fibre, and 5% DV of vitamin B6. The high water and fibre content make it a virtually calorie free addition in many cases. The high levels of vitamin C, fibre and B6 are great for everything from the immune system to blood to digestion, so that’s a lot of benefit for only a few calories.
Lemons have a number of interesting health benefits: they prevent the spread of cancer, reduce the risk of stroke, and have a strong anti-microbial effect. Citrus fruit has been proven to have a broad effect on cancer proliferation, and lemons have an impact on tumour growth. Those two broad brush benefits belie the fact that lemons have a strong cancer fighting impact. In general, intake of citrus fruits also seems to be associated with a lower risk of stroke. With cancer and strokes being so high up on the causes of mortality in the developed world, it’s an interesting thing that something as common as lemon can make a real difference. Finally, lemon has been researched due to its anti-fungal effects.
Lentils are an edible pulse, native to Western Asia, and one of the most common sources of vegetarian protein worldwide. Eaten on an often daily basis as dhal in India, lentils are also used in a wide variety of vegetarian curries and sauces as a pulse or as a thickener. A staple of that most basic of dishes, lentils and rice, the humble lentil makes up for its gentle flavour by being a nutritional powerhouse. With a fantastic nutritional profile and a whole host of scientifically validated benefits for cardiovascular disease and cancer, the lentil is a must for almost any balanced diet.
Nutritionally, the lentil is incredibly low fat and high protein. 100g of raw lentils is 353 calories, but for that your get 26g of protein, or 52% of your Daily Value (DV) of protein. On top of that, lentils are incredibly high in fibre (more on the benefits of that below), containing 120% DV, which is great for digestion; and a whole host of essential minerals. 100g of lentils contains 41% DV of magnesium, 30 % DV of iron and 27% DV of potassium, all minerals that common western diets, high in saturated fats and sugars, and higher in ‘empty calories’ are deficient in. All of these deficiencies, even if minor, can pose threats to your health if not taken seriously enough.
Lentils have more benefits that just keeping you away from mineral deficiencies, however. Lentils contain compounds called lectins, a group of proteins unique to plants that are being researched for possible cancer treatments. On top of that, lentils have benefits for the prevention of heart disease (the West’s biggest killer): one study showed that lentils reduced the likelihood of LDL oxidation or atherosclerosis, both huge risk factors for the development of coronary heart disease.
In addition, high fibre and high legume diets in general have been shown to be good for cardiovascular disease. High fibre diets have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and diets high in legume consumption have been shown to have an extremely reduced risk of heart disease as compared to a control. Finally, there is some association that has been suggested between high fibre diet and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
The perennial salad vegetable, lettuce, is a fantastic food for weight loss, eye health and the cardiovascular system. Lettuce, a member of the daisy family, is most often found in salads, but can also be used for soups, sandwiches, stir fries and wraps.
In terms of health benefits, it is a low calorie and nutritious food, with compounds that lower your risk of cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Nutritionally, lettuce is a bit of a two-trick pony. To begin with, as you might expect, it’s very low calorie: 100g of Romaine lettuce contains just 17 calories. But the real surprise (one pretty exclusive to this variety), is that just 100g of Romaine lettuce contains a staggering 174% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin A equivalent (the actual substance is beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body), in addition to 8% DV of fibre and 7% DV of potassium.
Lettuce does however, have health benefits beyond its nutritional content. The first one is, rather unsurprisingly, weight loss. As a low calorie vegetable, it is possible to eat large quantities of it with negligible calorie intake, and the high dietary fibre content will help increase the feeling of satiety (fullness). It will also help with digestion, as will the very high percentage of water weight.
Secondly, the high levels of beta-carotene in Romaine lettuce may lower your risk of getting certain cancers, specifically prostate cancer and colon cancer. Beta-carotene is also important because it breaks down into Vitamin A, which is essential for eye health.
Finally, lettuce also has a high concentration of a flavonoid called quercetin, which has been shown to lower blood pressure, in addition to reducing platelet aggregation, a major contributing factor to atherosclerosis. Both high blood pressure and atherosclerosis are great risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and should be taken seriously.
Quercetin may have some athletic performance benefits, further proving that eating it will provide some benefit for your heart.
Lima beans (also known as butter beans), are a legume native to South America with a subtle, starchy taste. An excellent base for any number of dishes such as bean burgers or chilli con carne, lima beans can also be cooked as a side dish with lemon, tomato, or a host of other ingredients to make a light curry. Like many legumes, lima beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein and extremely low in fat. As well as being fantastic in raw nutritional terms, lima beans also have a number of fantastic attributes when it comes to preventing heart disease.
100g of large raw lima beans contains 338 calories. However, as a fantastic lean protein source, lima beans contain 21g of protein, or 48% of your Daily Value (DV). That’s 48% DV of protein for 17% DV of calories! Lima beans also shine when it comes to micronutrients: 100g contains 56% DV of magnesium, 49% DV of potassium and 41% DV of iron. All of these minerals are the source of common deficiencies, with magnesium being particularly prevalent in those who exercise (sweat) a lot, and iron deficiency being most common in women. Finally, 100g of lima beans contains 76% DV of dietary fibre, fantastic for digestion, and, as we’ll see, fantastic for health.
Diets high in fibre and high in legumes have actually been the subject of a lot of research, most of which focuses on cardiovascular disease. High fibre diets have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and diets high in legume consumption have been shown to have an extremely reduced risk of heart disease as compared to a control. Finally, there is some association that has been suggested between high fibre diet and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
The lime is a notable citrus fruit, grown year round in tropical climates. With a very slightly less bitter taste than its fellow citrus fruit, the lemon, the lime is used extensively in cuisines as far away as Indonesian and Mexican, for dishes as different as coconut and lime curry and guacamole. In addition to its uses as a fruit, a juice and a flavouring, lime also finds use as a perfume and in cleaning products. With very few calories, concrete health benefit for many of the most common diseases in the developed world, and strong anti-microbial effects, lime is a fantastic food to add to a healthy diet.
Nutritionally, as with many fruits, lime has only a few cards in its hand: it is low calorie, high in vitamin C, and high in fibre. 100g of lime contains just 30 calories, but for that you get 48% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, and 11% DV of dietary fibre. The high water and fibre content ensure that this is not a food you can put on weight with (aside from the fact that eating 2000 calories in limes would not be pleasant). In addition, the high levels of vitamin C are great for everything from the immune system to the gums.
Limes have a number of distinct and intriguing health benefits: they prevent the spread of cancer, reduce the risk of stroke, modulate the immune system and have a strong anti-microbial effect. Citrus fruit has been proven to have a broad effect on cancer proliferation, and limes in particular have possible benefits versus pancreatic cancer. In addition, intake of citrus fruits seems to be associated with a lower risk of stroke. Research is also underway into lime as an immune system modulator.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about the lime is its extremely strong anti-bacterial effect, specifically, its potent benefits against the spread of cholera. Lime juice in food proved to be extremely effective at preventing the spread of cholera in hospitals and inhibiting proliferation of the bacteria in the lab. While it is unlikely many of our readers will be infected with cholera, this is both an undeniably interesting study and a testament to the anti-microbial effect of lime juice.
Macadamia nuts are a nut native to Australia, the oil of which is widely used in skincare and cosmetic products. Sometimes used as a cooking or drizzling oil, macadamia nuts are most often as nuts, whether that’s just salted or spiced or cooked in stir fries and glazes. Often seen covered in chocolate, the macadamia nut is actually extremely nutritionally balanced (although very high calorie), and despite its high fat levels, has been proven to reduce cholesterol. With proven health benefits and a lot of delicious heart-healthy fats; the macadamia nut is a must have food for cardiovascular health.
Nutritionally, macadamia nuts are extremely high in monounsaturated fats: 100g contains 740 calories and 59g of monounsaturated fats, as compared to 12g of saturated fats. Monounsaturated fat intake has been linked to better heart health, as we’ll see below, so this is a good thing (despite the calories). On top of that, macadamia nuts contain 32% DV of magnesium, 20% DV of iron, 14% DV of B6 and 9% DV of zinc. Iron, zinc, and magnesium are all the source of common mineral deficiencies, and can lead to everyday issues such as tiredness, poor male sexual health, and poor athletic performance. On top of that, vitamin B6 is essential for formation of red blood cells, so avoid all these deficiencies if you can.
Macadamia nuts have more than just a solid nutritional profile, however. Despite what you may think about such a high fat, high calorie food having positive effects on cardiovascular health, macadamia nuts are fantastic for long term health. Supplementing the diet with macadamia nuts has been proven to lower total and LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol), both in healthy participants, and those subjects already with high cholesterol. In addition, macadamia nuts reduce the risk factors for coronary artery disease, the most common killer in the western world. If ever there was proof needed that fat doesn’t make you fat, look no further!
In addition, nuts as a whole, when studied, show promising effects. One study showed that frequent nut consumption has a positive effect on the proliferation of cancer and on free radical damage. In addition, nuts can help protect against cardiovascular disease; and even lower your risk of gallstone disease.
Mackerel is a name given to a number of species of white fish, that until recently were extremely abundant. Consumed worldwide, and intensively fished, the mackerel has been overfished in the North Sea, leading to a lack of jobs in the fishing industry, but elsewhere the demand and supply for mackerel thrive fairly unchecked.
Generally eaten fresh (or frozen or cured to prevent the meant from spoilt), mackerel is excellent grilled, flamed, pickled, fried, and in any number of dishes. Nutritious and full of omega 3s, mackerel is a mild tasting entry into the world of fish, and, as an oily fish, one of the healthiest.
100g of raw mackerel contains 207 calories, but for that, you get a lot of nutrition! For that mere 207 calories, you get 18.6g of good quality protein (37% of your Daily Value – DV). On top of that, you get 161% DV of vitamin D, and 19% DV of magnesium. With many of us staying inside throughout the day, vitamin D (ordinarily produced by our skin from sunlight) is becoming an increasing deficiency, which is a major problem for things like bone formation. In addition, magnesium is fantastic for the maintenance of cardiovascular health.
Mackerel are also a great source of omega 3s, which lower blood pressure, help prevent breast cancer, and even delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration. On top of that, they prevent the shortening of telomeres, associated with age-related diseases and early mortality, in addition to preventing or delaying neurodegenerative diseases. Diets with a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio may even run the risk of depression and inflammatory disorders.
Finally, mackerel have some health benefits that are specific to them. Diets high in mackerel have been shown to significantly reduce total cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, in addition to reducing chances of thrombosis.
Mango is a juicy and sweet tasting stone fruit, native to south and Southeast Asia. Preserved in a variety of ways (raw, juiced, pickled), and eaten in a large variety of ways (in mango lassi, sorbet, fruit juice blends, chutneys and curries, for example). A delicious way to pack in a huge amount of phytonutrients, as well as a hefty dose of vitamin C, the mango is an easy way to add healthy foods to your diet, and a great source of health benefits in its own right. Nutrient dense, with potent antioxidant potential and unique compounds, the mango should be right near the top of the list of healthy ways to treat yourself.
Nutritionally, mango is nutrient dense, but regrettably fairly high in sugar. 100g contains 60 calories, but for that you get 60% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 21% DV of vitamin A, and 5% DV of B6. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for everything from iron absorption to immunity, vitamin A is crucial for eye health, and B6 is necessary for the creation of red blood cells. Nutrient deficiencies should be avoided at all costs, even if that means taking a multivitamin, but it’s much better to do it with real food! The only downside of using mango is the large amount of simple sugars present, but as long as you are trying to reduce the amount of refined sugar in your diet, this really shouldn’t be a problem.
Mango’s main benefit is its array of phytonutrients, which directly impact its large antioxidant potential. Antioxidants are essential to prevent ongoing free radical damage, incredibly important for the prevention of damage to both DNA and cells, possibly leading to mutations and tissue damage. Antioxidants are also incredibly important when it comes to aging; specifically preventing age associated oxidative stress. As the authors of that study say, antioxidants could delay the onset of a number of age-related diseases, which in real terms means an improved quality of life.
There are also a number of compounds within mangoes that are fantastic for a number of assorted diseases. A compound called lupeol, present in mango, has been highlighted for its cancer preventive effects, and a compound completely unique to mango, mangiferin, has been highlighted for its gastroprotective effects, and antidiabetic activity. Remember, this is a compound unique to mango!
‘Mushrooms’ is a broad term that refers to the fruiting body of a fungus. While one of the few foods on this list to not be plant or animal based, mushrooms are nonetheless one of the healthiest foods out there; having benefits for your cardiovascular health, immune system and some cancer-fighting benefits.
Not only are mushrooms diverse nutritionally, they are also diverse in a culinary sense, so experiment to see which kinds please your palate the most.
Nutritionally, mushrooms vary to a fair degree between varieties. For example, 100g of raw shiitake mushrooms, according to the USDA database, contains 34 calories, 15 % of your daily value of B6, 10% DV of fibre and 8% DV of potassium.
White mushrooms, by contrast, contain 22 calories per 100g, in addition to 9% DV of potassium, 6% DV of protein and 5% DV of B6.
Mushrooms in general have good amounts of B vitamins and potassium; great for immunity and cardiovascular health, which in conjunction with beta-glucans, make for some profound health benefits. But remember, these are generalisations.
In terms of health benefits, mushrooms benefit from being high in something many of us in the developed world are deficient in: vitamin D. Although we are able to synthesise this vitamin from sunlight, meaning it really shouldn’t need to be addressed in our diet, many of us now work inside all day that vitamin D deficiencies are on the rise. Mushrooms are the only vegan, non-fortified source of dietary vitamin D!
The reason mushrooms have vitamin D is because they contain a molecule similar to the molecule in our skin responsible for the production of vitamin D, so crucially, only mushrooms exposed to sunlight have sufficient levels of it.
The USDA database entry for raw portabella mushrooms shows that they contain a mere 2.5% DV of vitamin D per 100g; whereas the USDA database entry for raw portabella mushrooms exposed to UV light shows that they have a huge 112% DV of vitamin D per 100g!
This gives us a top tip: leave your mushrooms in the sun for an hour or two to get the full nutritional benefits.
Mushrooms are also high in compounds called beta-glucans. Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber with huge benefits for heart health, immunity and cancer prevention. They have been reputed to have broad anti-cancer benefits, although there is a lack of available human trials to draw safe conclusions from.
More significant are the incredible benefits for the heart: beta-glucans have been linked with cholesterol reduction, and have been shown to both prevent and help treat obesity and metabolic syndrome (metabolic syndrome is the combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity).
With cardiovascular disease being such a huge issue for many people, and the biggest killer in the developed world, beta-glucans surely have an important place in anyone’s diet.
The benefits of beta-glucans go beyond even this, however. As this review notes, they stimulate the immune system, decreasing your likelihood of contracting diseases. An increased resistance to biological agents can only be a good thing for your long term health.
It should also be noted that these benefits of beta-glucans are not simply studies of the isolated substance: this review specifically deals with the beneficial effects of beta-glucans from mushrooms, summing them up as anti-carcinogenic, immunity stimulating and cholesterol reducing. If those aren’t good reasons to incorporate mushrooms into your weekly eating habits, then what are?
Finally, mushrooms have a number of studied anti-carcinogenic properties, particularly shiitake mushrooms, as the most studied mushroom in terms of health benefits.
Shiitake mushrooms have been linked with a broad cancer inhibiting effect when tested on cell cultures, causing apoptosis (cell suicide) in different cancers. In addition, they have been found to protect the liver from toxic compounds.
However, not just shiitake mushrooms have been studied: shiitake, portabella and white mushrooms have all been proven to decrease the chance of cancers spreading, which is a major benefit considering cancer spreading from one part of the body to the other significantly decreases the chances of survival.
Mussels is the name given to several kinds of bivalve molluscs. Served mainly at seafood restaurants, mussels are fantastic smoked, boiled, steamed, roasted or barbecued. Because they are filter feeders, it is important to source your mussels from a reliable area, so as not to infect yourself with something, especially if you’re eating them raw. Delicious with something as simple as white wine sauce and garlic, mussels are a seafood delicacy, in addition to being a possible source of B12 and zinc supplementation for ethical vegans/ vegetarians (read on!). Nutrient dense, with plenty of omega 3s, the mussel is a fantastically nutritious food.
100g of cooked mussels will provide you with 172 calories, and a whole lot more! Those 100g will provide you with 48% DV of protein, a huge 400% DV of B12, 37% DV of iron, 22% DV of vitamin C and 18% DV of zinc. The protein makes mussels fantastic for those looking to stay lean, either while building muscle or slimming down, and the nutrient values are fantastic. Iron and zinc are both common deficiencies that can lead to apathy and tiredness, and vitamin C is essential for everything from gum health to iron absorption. Finally, B12 is an absolutely essential vitamin for optimal brain functioning.
In addition to all of that, mussels (like a lot of seafood) are a great source of omega 3s, which lower blood pressure, help prevent breast cancer, and even delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration. On top of that, they prevent the shortening of telomeres, associated with age-related diseases and early mortality, in addition to preventing or delaying neurodegenerative diseases. There is even suggestion that diets with a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio run the risk of an increased risk of depression and inflammatory disorders.
Finally, it should be noted here that there are no vegan sources of vitamin B12. It is in fact the only known essential vitamin that you can’t get from plants. However, there is an argument that vegans can ethically eat bivalves, as they have no central nervous system, and thus can be eaten without causing any of the suffering associated with the meat industry. They also produce next to no bycatch. With 100g of mussels providing 400% of your DV of B12, it’s an interesting alternative to supplementation.
Mustard Greens are the leaves of a specific variety of brassica (Brassica Junkea) that, like many brassicas is very nutrient dense and low calorie. In addition to a fantastic nutritional profile, mustard greens are also distinct in terms of their peppery, spicy flavour. Best boiled or steamed, mustard greens are in many ways a typical member of the brassica family: extremely low-calorie, nutrient dense, and with fantastic cancer-fighting abilities. Eating almost any member of the esteemed brassica family is going to be a big plus for your health, so make sure to give mustard greens a try.
Nutritionally, mustard greens are exceptionally nutrient dense: 100g contains just 27 calories, and a ridiculous amount of essential nutrients. 100g of mustard greens contains 564% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin K, 116% DV of vitamin C, 60% DV of vitamin A, 11% DV of calcium, and 10% DV for both vitamin B6 and magnesium. The high levels of calcium and vitamin K will help to ensure excellent bone health, while the vitamin A will look after your eyes. Vitamin K and B6 will take care of blood health, magnesium the cardiovascular system, and vitamin C the immune system. And that only scratches the surface of the potential benefits!
Beyond the nutritional benefits, there is always the astonishing results that suggest that increased consumption of foods from the Brassica family reduces your risk of cancer. Studies on cruciferous vegetables have shown that increased intake of brassicas seems to have benefit for a whole range of cancers: breast cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer have all been studied and have all demonstrated the health effects of increased brassica intake. Gastrointestinal cancers have also been researched fairly conclusively.
Specific glucosinolates also draw attention to the fight against cancer: sulforaphane has been shown to have general tumour prevention properties. However, mustard greens are fairly low in sulforaphane compared to a number of other brassicas. What they are high in, however, is a compound called allyl isothiocyanate, a compound with possible broad cancer-preventive effects, and some specific research done on the inhibition of bladder cancer. Remember, different brassicas contain differing levels of glucosinolates, so it’s best to get a wide variety of them for the full health benefits. It should be noted, however, that in one study, mustard greens came out near the top in terms of total glucosinolates, second only to Brussel sprouts, so they’re a good place to start!
Mustard seed is a catch-all term for the seeds of a number of different mustard plants. What these seeds share, however, is the warm and spicy flavour that for centuries led them to be the main source of spice on the Indian subcontinent, before the arrival of the chilli plant. A fantastic culinary alternative to add some heat to your dishes, the mustard seed is great in curries and stir-fries, whether it is ground, roasted, or sprouted. With surprising amounts of some essential minerals and the astonishing cancer-fighting powers seemingly common to Brassicas, the mustard seed is a great way to spice up any meal.
Nutritionally, the mustard seed is surprisingly nutrient dense considering the quantities one might realistically eat it in. One tablespoon of mustard seed is 6.3g, and contains 32 calories. Those 32 calories, however, add up to a surprising amount of essential nutrients. One tablespoon contains 23% of your Daily Value (DV) of selenium, 5% DV of magnesium and 3% DV of iron. These essential minerals are important for the maintenance of an incredible number of processes in the body, and, in a link to the next paragraph, selenium deficiency has been associated with cancer risk, making
Beyond the nutritional benefits, there is always the astonishing results that suggest that increased consumption of foods from the Brassica family reduces your risk of cancer. Studies on cruciferous vegetables have shown that increased intake of brassicas seems to have benefit for a whole range of cancers: breast cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer have all been studied and have all demonstrated the health effects of increased brassica intake. Gastrointestinal cancers have also been researched fairly conclusively.
In addition, two specific compounds that have been researched thoroughly, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol have additional anti-cancer benefits. This review paper notes that sulforaphane has been shown to have general tumour prevention properties. Indole-3-carbinol is also linked to a number of beneficial effects. It is, however, important to bear in mind that different brassicas contain differing levels of glucosinolates, so it’s best to get a wide variety of them for the full health benefits.
Perhaps tied only with quinoa for the title of the healthiest grain, oats are a fantastic way to get in your complex carbohydrates, important for energy throughout the day.
Not only that, but oats have a huge variety of health benefits including lowering cholesterol, boosting immunity, and lowering your risk of fatal cardiovascular disease.
Nutritionally, oats are a very healthy way of getting your complex carbohydrates. 100g of oats contains 389 calories (your breakfast oats will vary depending on preparation and so on). But for those 389 calories, you get 44% of your daily value of dietary fibre, essential for good digestion, and a surprising 34% DV of protein, which will help with satiety and weight loss.
In addition, oats are high in two essential minerals with some fantastic benefits for your health. 100g contains 44% DV of magnesium, which is great for cardiovascular health (you’ll be reading much more about oats and cardiovascular benefits below), and 26% DV of iron, essential for warding off tiredness and maintaining mental performance.
Oats also have a huge range of health benefits. Like mushrooms, they are high in compounds called beta-glucans, a soluble fibre with huge benefits for cardiovascular health and the immune system, in addition to possible broad anti-cancer benefits.
Secondly, beta-glucans are great for the immune system. As this review notes, beta-glucans stimulate the immune system, decreasing your likelihood of contracting certain diseases. An increased resistance to biological agents can only be a good thing for your long term health.
In addition, it is not just beta-glucans in general, but oat beta-glucans specifically, that have an extremely strong scientific backing for their efficacy.
For example, this review is a good example of the broad benefits of oat beta-glucans: ‘intake is beneficial in the prevention, treatment, and control of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases … [and] can stimulate immune functions … which will improve resistance to cancer and infectious and parasitic diseases’.
Beyond even these fantastic benefits for your health, oats have a number of unique benefits. They have unique antioxidants called avenanthramides that have a number of proven advantages: they combat the development of atherosclerosis, a major risk factor for a number of deadly cardiovascular diseases.
We may even know the mechanisms by which avenanthramides exert their health benefits. In addition, these substances may have potential benefits when it comes to preventing colon cancer, although more research is likely needed.
Finally, oats have been studied independently of their individual compounds and found to have even more health benefits to those listed above.
One study found that having whole grain cereals for breakfast significantly decreased the risk of heart failure (we didn’t say oats were great to have for breakfast for nothing!).
Oats have also been linked to a reduced risk of childhood asthma, post-menopausal breast cancer and type 2 diabetes, to name a few. In addition, unsurprisingly in light of their cardiovascular benefits, eating oats has been linked to a reduction in mortality for those suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Okra (also known as ladies’ fingers or gumbo) is a flowering plant used extensively in Indian, African and Caribbean cuisine, to name a few. Delicious roasted, fried or even pickled, okra is a fantastic addition to dishes like curries and stir fries.
It is a very nutrient-dense food with a distinctive mucilaginous (slimy) texture that can be removed with cooking or kept, depending on your preference. With a solid nutritional profile, and real potential when it comes to the management of diabetes and your digestive health, okra are certainly worthy of a place on this list.
Okra are a low calorie vegetable. 100g of okra contains just 33 calories. This relative lack of energy value doesn’t come at the expense of vitamins and minerals however: 100g of okra contains 38% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, 14% DV of vitamin A, 10 % DV of vitamin B6, 14% DV of magnesium, and 12% DV of dietary fibre.
To deal with the vitamins first, vitamins A C and B6 are essential for the health of your eyes, heart and immune system respectively, among a plethora of other important roles in the body. Magnesium, a mineral many are deficient in, is an important part of cardiovascular health, and dietary fibre is essential for digestive health.
Okra also has two main researched health advantages: it has benefits for the management of diabetes and associated conditions, and also has digestive benefits.
It has been shown to have potential when it comes to the management of diabetes. This is because studies on rats with induced diabetes have shown that okra can help to lower both blood sugar and fat levels, essential for the management of the disease. Research also points to potential therapeutic benefits for managing diabetic neuropathy, a complication of diabetes.
Okra also has excellent benefits when it comes to improving your digestive health. To begin with, it has been proven to have considerable anti-adhesive properties against helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) adhesion. H. pylori is a bacteria found in the stomach that may contribute to the formation of ulcers and eventually stomach cancer.
When we say that okra has an anti-adhesive effect, we mean, in essence, that they remove the adhesive between the bacteria and the stomach tissue, preventing the culture from spreading. Also, the okra’s mucilaginous properties benefit digestive health in a more day to day sense.
Olives are without doubt one of the healthiest (and most researched) foods on the planet. The vast amount of research done into olive oil (get extra virgin, it does make a difference) has shown a wide array of health benefits (including lengthening your life!). However, the whole food has some fantastic benefits for your health on top of that, ranging from being a powerful cancer fighter to stopping many risk factors for heart disease.
Although often olives are neglected in favour of olive oil (widely recognised as the ‘healthiest oil’ widely available), you really don’t want to exclude the whole food from your diet if you want to reap the full benefits of the olive, as there are a couple of nutritional surprises in there!
Firstly, 100g of olives contains 18% of your Daily Value (DV) of iron, an essential mineral that you don’t want to be deficient in (if you want to avoid tiredness, pale skin and other signs of anaemia). Also, with 12% DV of dietary fibre, 8% DV vitamin A, and 8% calcium, olives will help to ensure your digestive, eye and bone health stay in shape. But a word of warning: olives are very high in salt (100g contains 30% of your DV), so if you are guilty of having a high sodium diet, it’s probably best to stick to olive oil.
Aside from the nutrition, however, the olive is really valuable for its uniquely beneficial effects to a wide variety of aspects of our health. One compound in particular, oleuropein, has an astonishing variety of health benefits. This review paper points out that oleuropein has proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-microbial and anti-viral capabilities, in addition to helping prevent atherosclerosis, protect the cardiovascular system from toxic chemotherapy drugs, and help the treatment of heart disease and possibly even weight loss. Research even suggests that oleuropein may lessen the effects of fatty liver disease (common in obese people), and possibly prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.
That’s a lot to take in, so let’s recap: a compound unique to olives can not only help prevent infection from bacteria and microbes, prevent cancer, and prevent heart disease (all huge killers in the developed world), it also helps prevent inflammation, free radical damage, and possibly Alzheimer’s. But even that list doesn’t cover the many benefits of olives: the triterpenes found in their skin have been found to fight breast cancer, in addition to antioxidant benefits. In fact, not only do olives have well documented antioxidant effects, they also have been shown to increase glutiathone levels, and important antioxidant in the body.
So, olives are fantastic for your health. But what about olive oil? Well, of course you miss out on some of the nutritional benefits, because what is left is essentially fat. But it is the healthy fats in olive oil (and olives) which we really need to talk about! The primary fat is something called oleic acid (a kind of monounsaturated fat), and it is extremely good for you as fats go. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, in addition to being a potent anti-inflammatory. It also has been shown to have a beneficial effect on genes that lead to cancer, especially breast cancer.
But why do we know about all these benefits? Well, the reason that olive oil is so well researched has to do with the ‘Mediterranean Diet’, or the eating habits of some countries that lay around the Mediterranean Sea. The diet became famous because of the amazingly low instances of heart disease in these countries compared to the rest of the developed world; and it has been proven to have astounding effects on longevity, with olive oil coming in for specific praise as a key part of the diet. If proof that eating olive oil will make you live longer won’t persuadeyou to eat it, then I don’t know what will!
Onions are one of most ubiquitous vegetables, and, luckily, may also be one of the healthiest. Easy to eat in bulk, and the basis of a number of delicious dishes, the onion makes a fantastic complement to a diet focused on a healthy lifestyle.
With a solid nutritional profile and extremely high levels of quercetin (more on that below), the onion is a fantastic introduction to the allium vegetables and a real benefit to your health.
Nutritionally, onions are simply never going to match something like, say, spinach. But considering how sweet they are when cooked and the large quantities it’s possible to eat them in comfortably, onions are by no means a bad choice for those looking to round out a healthy and nutritious diet.
The USDA database entry states that one large raw onion (150g), contains 18% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, 10% DV of dietary fibre, 10% DV of vitamin B6, and 6% DV of potassium, really quite significant for a very sweet vegetable that contains only 60 calories.
All of these nutrients are beneficial for avoiding deficiency and improving health. Both vitamin C and potassium have links with increased cardiovascular health, and B6 is important for haemoglobin production, essential for a functioning cardiovascular system. Moreover, vitamin C is essential for things like iron absorption (an essential mineral), and dietary fibre is an important part of a healthy digestive system. What all these isolated examples show is that eating onions is great for your health, provided your diet contains a number of other vegetable sources.
Onion has been linked with far more health benefits than bringing people up to nutritional par, however. This rather broad review notes the anti-bacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of onions and garlic, which is certainly significant.
It is perhaps most interesting to note that that onion has a particularly high concentration of a flavonoid called quercetin.
Why is this important? Well, high concentrations of quercetin are uncommon outside things like tea and wine (which aren’t so good on the nutritional front). More significantly, quercetin has been linked to a reduction of the risk of cardiovascular disease (the top killer in the developed world).
Quercetin has been shown to lower blood pressure, in addition to reducing platelet aggregation, a major contributing factor to atherosclerosis, the condition in which plaques build up on the inside wall of the arteries and restrict blood flow.
Finally, as an allium, onion has a strong association with a lower risk of cancer, specifically, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and oesophageal cancer. With onions being associated with a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, your long term health may really benefit from eating them regularly.
Oranges are a sweet tasting fruit produced mainly in Brazil and the US (Florida and California especially), and are actually derived from hybridisation between the pomelo and mandarin plants. In addition to great levels of vitamin C (with a sweet tasting bonus to go with it), oranges have a number of researched benefits, from antioxidant capacity to digestive and cancer fighting benefits. Oranges are a healthy addition to any diet, and the cardiovascular benefits in particular will help hugely with longevity and health.
Nutritionally, oranges are well known for one thing: vitamin C! And indeed that’s really the headline here: an average fruit (131g) contains 116% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, and provides all that nutrition for just 62 calories; very low considering how sweet oranges are. With vitamin C being essential for the health of everything from cardiovascular health to connective tissue, it’s important to avoid deficiency. Beyond this, oranges are high in dietary fibre (12% DV in one fruit), which will help with digestion.
On top of being a sweet tasting way to avoid vitamin deficiencies, oranges have a number of researched health benefits.
To begin with, oranges are a fantastic antioxidant. Now, for those of you who know a little about vitamin C, this may not surprise you, as vitamin C has some fantastic antioxidant benefits. What you may not know, however, is that oranges have much better antioxidant potential than vitamin C alone. This study investigated the antioxidant potential of orange juice versus equivalent amounts of vitamin C, and found the orange juice to be far better. Antioxidants are important to protect from free radical damage, which may cause cell death and DNA damage, so oranges are a useful tool for long-term health.
Oranges have a wide array of health benefits beyond their antioxidant capacities, however. Oranges also have been associated with reduced risk of contracting H. Pylori, a common infection that may eventually lead to gastric problems and even stomach cancer. In addition, oranges contain the carotenoid cryptoxanthin, a compound associated with a lower risk of lung cancer, among other things.
Finally, compounds in orange peel have been found to have the fantastic benefit of lowering cholesterol, which is fantastic for the health of your cardiovascular system. With cardiovascular disease being such a big killer, the antioxidant and cholesterol lowering potential of oranges might serve you well in the long run.
Oregano is an herb commonly used in Italian and Mexican cuisine, and is probably most commonly used as a pizza topping, especially in the US. A fragrant and warming herb, oregano is not only available year round, and very versatile in the culinary sense, it also has some significant health benefits. In addition to respectable amounts of essential minerals, oregano also benefits from potent anti-bacterial and anti-fungal capacity, as well as having possible benefits for cardiovascular disease, colon cancer and even easing the effects of the common cold. All reason enough to try adding oregano to any dish.
Oregano is a fantastic source of a number of essential minerals. While a tablespoon of oregano contains just 13 calories, it also contains an impressive amount of iron; 11% of your Daily Value (DV). Not bad for a pizza topping! In addition, a tablespoon of oregano will provide you with 9% DV calcium and 4% DV magnesium. Why is this important? Well, iron deficiency is common, especially in women, and can lead to a number of issues, most commonly tiredness and paleness. Calcium is essential for bone health and magnesium is great for the cardiovascular system, meaning just a tablespoon of oregano packs a real nutritional punch!
Nutritionally, oregano may be great, but it is a herb, and you’re not going to get your daily nutrients just by making your food more flavoursome! Thankfully, oregano has a whole bunch of health benefits on top of its nutritional value. First off, oregano is great for preventing infection: it is proven to fight the pathogen listeria, and has been proven to be anti-fungal. It may even be a valuable weapon against the hospital ‘superbug’ MRSA: one researcher involved in preliminary studies said ‘We have done a few preliminary tests and have found that the essential oil from the oregano kills MRSA at a dilution 1 to 1,000’ (see here).
Aside from preventing infection, oregano is also fantastic for our more long term health, with potential for the prevention of atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits on the insides of the arteries), and proven benefits against colon cancer. The essential oil in spray form may even have some benefits in relieving upper respiratory tract infections (colds and flu being common examples). Why oregano has such a positive effect on these diseases is not understood, but some of oregano’s health benefits may be due to the presence of carnosol, a compound with proven anti-cancer effects, or simply the proven antioxidant benefits of oregano. Regardless of the mechanism, the fact that oregano has such a large body of research into its health benefits is proof enough that we should all be eating it.
Oysters are a bit of a surprising health food. These little molluscs are renowned as a tasty seafood delicacy, and are also fantastic in environmental terms. They also carry none of the ethical grey areas you might experience if you are, say, a shrimp, cod or caviar lover), and yet despite being delicious and having little environmental impact, oysters are also fantastic for your health! Eating oysters boosts libido, promotes weight loss, and may even provide some ethically minded people with some much needed B12.
(For those who are vegetarian/ vegan for ethical reasons, it should be noted that oysters have no central nervous system, and thus can be eaten without causing any of the suffering associated with the meat industry. Famous philosopher Peter Singer even said they could be eaten ethically in his book ‘Animal Liberation’. With there being no natural vegan sources of B-12, oysters are a really interesting alternative to supplements!)
Nutritionally, oysters are a wonder when it comes to two nutrients: vitamin B-12 and zinc. According to the USDA database, 100g of farmed oysters (about 7 medium oysters) contains 270% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin B-12 and 253% DV of zinc. That’s a huge amount! In addition, zinc is fantastic for the immune system (among other things), and B-12 is great for cognitive performance. Most important here, however, is the fact that both zinc and B-12 are easy to be deficient in, especially for those who lack meat in their diets. For those who want optimum zinc levels, without the ethical implications of eating meat, oysters are a great choice.
Oysters have even more health benefits than this. In addition to having 32% DV iron, rounding out the impressive amount of minerals contained in oysters, oysters are also fantastic for something else: weight loss. Oysters are a great weight loss food for three reasons: they’re mostly water, they’re low calorie, and they’re very high in protein! With just 59 calories in 100g and 5g of protein, oysters provide 5% of your DV of protein for around 3% DV of calories. The high protein and water content both increase satiety (the feeling of fullness), for only a few calories.
The final benefit we should discuss is oysters’ reputed aphrodisiac powers. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that oysters have unique libido-boosting powers. What oysters do have,however, is lots of zinc, which has been proven to increase libido and sexual performance, especially in men. So pack in those oysters!
There is one word of warning attached to all of this, however. Eating raw oysters is a fairly common practice in a number of places, but there is a lot of risk associated with this. Oysters absorb a lot of the minerals from near where they grow, but they also absorb any pollutants and other problematic substances where they live, so only buy from trusted sources. In addition, risks like those exposed by this article, which showed that three quarters of oysters grown in the UK contain the ‘winter vomiting bug’ norovirus should serve to make you careful about sourcing raw oysters.
Papaya is a fruit native to the Americas, usually eaten raw to savour its sweet tasting flavour. Although both the seeds and leaves are edible (you can use them as replacements for black pepper and spinach, respectively), the fruit is what is commonly eaten, and can be eaten either raw or cooked in a number of dishes: salads, curries and stir fries, for example. With a healthy dose of vitamin C and potent wound healing and anti-inflammatory activities, the papaya fruit is a novel way to introduce some health into your day.
Nutritionally, papaya is mostly rich in that extremely important vitamin, vitamin C. In fact, while 100g (less than even a small papaya fruit) contains just 43 calories, it also contains 101% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C! With vitamin C being so essential for a number of processes and involved in areas from connective tissue to cardiovascular health, and deficiency being so bad for you (scurvy is the worst-case scenario!), it’s important to hit your DV.
Papaya also contains a few other important vitamins and minerals, with that mere 43 calories also providing you with 19% DV vitamin A, 6% DV dietary fibre, and 5% DV magnesium. These are all essential for a healthy body in more ways than we can list here, but suffice to say that your eyes, heart and digestion will all benefit from a little papaya.
Aside from the nutrient richness that papaya benefits from, there are a couple of other health benefits to be considered. An interesting aspect of papaya is its surprising benefits when it comes to healing wounds: it has been shown to help heal wounds in diabetic rats (diabetes prevents wounds healing properly for reasons unknown), and also its strong antibacterial effects, which combined may make papaya something that will, in future, be recommended to apply to the skin to help heal minor wounds. This is supported by research that shows that papaya’s antibacterial effects may help with the treatment of chronic skin ulcers. Although further research needs to be done, that’s certainly an interesting benefit.
Another intriguing benefit of papaya to emerge is its anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic activities, which could have real benefits for those who suffer from the many diseases caused by chronic inflammation (arthritis being one). In addition, choline, which papaya is high in, has been shown to combat inflammation in asthma patients, further adding to papaya’s status as a potent anti-inflammatory. With the power to combat inflammation and heal wounds, papaya is certainly both an interesting prospect for research and a tasty addition to your diet.
Parsley is a fragrant and subtle herb used in a huge range of dishes, but is especially prevalent in things like pesto, garnishes and glazes. A green leafy vegetable (or herb, whichever you prefer), parsley packs a serious nutritional punch to accompany some potent anti-cancer properties coming from a range of beneficial compounds.
A plant that benefits from cancer-fighting compounds and culinary versatility, parsley offers a simple way to add some health benefit to any meal you may choose.
Parsley is something of a nutritional powerhouse if you eat it in the required amounts. A cup of chopped parsley (60g) contains 1230% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, a pretty staggering amount, and an important amount too, as vitamin K is essential for functions like blood clotting and bone formation.
Beyond this, a cup of chopped parsley contains 133% DV of vitamin C, and 101% DV of vitamin A, which is great for both connective tissue and eye health. All in all, eating parsley in large amounts can only do you good.
In addition to all the nutrients, parsley is a source of a number of compounds with a wide variety of effects and mechanisms, which overall contribute to a strong cancer-fighting effect.
Firstly, luteolin (a compound also found in celery) has antioxidant properties, in addition to inhibiting the inflammatory response in inflammatory bowel disease. But it doesn’t stop there: a compound called myristicin has been shown to stop the progression of cancer, in addition to inhibiting the growth of tumours. And another compound, myricetin, has been shown to inhibit the growth of brain tumours.
Finally, there is one last significant compound that parsley is very rich in: apigenin. As one of the most concentrated sources of this compound, parsley is an excellent way to get this into your diet.
Why is this important? Well, although research is still far from complete, this review stated that apigenin ‘has been shown to possess remarkable anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties’, and this review notes the great anti-cancer properties.
Parsnips, a root vegetable closely related to carrots, are a sweet yet robust vegetable, often roasted, but also delicious mashed, in soups, or even in cake. A staple of roast dinners, the parsnip offers a number of nutritional benefits, including high levels of potassium and magnesium (great for cardiovascular health), high levels of kaempferol (which protects from cancer and damage to blood vessels, and falcarinol (a potent antioxidant).
With a diverse list of health benefits, and in light of how delicious a well-cooked parsnip can be, it could be an important step on the road to a healthy lifestyle.
Parsnips have a lot of nutritional benefits, especially for a vegetable that so completely lacks the trademark bitterness of vegetables like Brussel sprouts or broccoli rabe. 100g of raw parsnips contains 28% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C.
That same 100g also contains 19% DV of dietary fibre, essential for good digestion, 10% DV of potassium, an extremely important mineral for cardiovascular health, and 7% DV of magnesium, essential for athletic performance. Many people are deficient in potassium and magnesium, making parsnips one very tasty option for getting these essential minerals in your diet.
The two compounds that really add a boost to parsnip’s claim on health food status are falcarinol (also found in carrots), and kaempferol (found in leek).
Firstly, falcarinol has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer, in addition to antibacterial and antifungal activities. When coupled with high levels of dietary fibre, this means that parsnips may have real benefits for your digestive system.
When we consider that parsnips are also high in potassium and magnesium, we see that they are really beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Finally, the fact that both falcarinol and kaempferol have cancer-fighting properties is just one more reason to enjoy the sweet taste of parsnips.
The passion fruit is a species of passion flower native to South America. The fruit is not only juicy, sweet, and full of seeds, it is also incredibly versatile. Eaten on its own, juiced, or used to make passion fruit oil, the passion fruit is most commonly added to other fruit juices for flavour, but is also used in desserts, cocktails, and fruit salads. With a lot of nutritional benefit and a potent compound called piceatannol, the passion fruit is a healthy and unique fruit to work in to your diet.
Nutritionally, the passion fruit is a bit of a dark horse, when you consider how sweet-tasting the juice is (let’s face it, most things with simple sugars don’t do us much good). Although 100g of passion fruit will set you back around 97 calories, that’s more than made up for by the 50% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C you get for that, in addition to 40% DV of dietary fibre, 25% DV of vitamin A, and 9% DV of potassium. All that nutrition will ensure a lot of benefit to your cardiovascular and digestive systems, with the vitamin A helping you to maintain your eyesight long into your life. With the delicious taste of passion fruit, what better way to take in your nutrients?
Passion fruit is also a source of many surprising health benefits, mainly due to a compound called piceatannol, also found in things like red wine and grapes. Piceatannol is significant because it appears to have a wide variety of positive effects on cardiovascular disease, including preventing high cholesterol, atherosclerosis and arrhythmia. It also seems to have an antioxidant effect.
In addition, a substance called scirpusin B has been found to have a strong vasorelaxant effect (which leads to increased blood flow and thus a healthier cardiovascular system). As it turns out, this compound is actually a dimer of piceatannol, meaning it is a compound consisting of two identical molecules linked together (in this case two molecules of piceatannol). With piceatannol having such a panoply of benefits for cardiovascular disease, and that being such a common killer in the West, the passion fruit may just be a good decision long-term.
The peach is a fruit native to China, and is in fact the same species as the nectarine, the only difference being that there is the lack of the characteristic peach ‘fuzz’ on the skin of the nectarine. Fantastic in a fruit salad or on its own when raw, or with meat or a light salad when grilled, the peach is a surprisingly diverse food with a variety of essential nutrients (albeit in small quantities), and some potential benefits for breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. With a fragrant and sweet taste on top of a lot of health benefits, the peach is a great health food.
Nutritionally, the peach is far from a powerhouse, but nonetheless is low calorie and a decent source of vitamin C. A large peach (150g) is only 59 calories, not bad considering the amount of fruit, and so it could be used as a slightly sweeter treat for those looking to lose weight. Aside from the fact that peach is low-calorie, it also boasts a decent amount of nutrients: a large peach will provide you with 16% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 9% DV of vitamin A, and 8% DV of fibre, ensuring that peaches will help with a healthy heart, vision into your later years and avoiding digestive troubles.
Beyond the nutritional side of things, the little research done on peach has been somewhat promising. Research has mainly been done in conjunction with plums (as they are both stone fruits), and the research has shown some promising signs when it comes to breast cancer. Polyphenols from plums and peaches are in the process of being isolated to explore possible drug options, but for now, eating peaches can’t help for prevention.
Not only that, but peaches and plums have been shown to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol), the oxidation of which leads to free radical damage to the entire cardiovascular system, especially heart and arteries, which can lead to all kinds of cardiovascular disease, in addition to related risk factors like atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits on the inside of the walls of the arteries).
It’s probably worth pointing out that, when it comes to peaches, there is some evidence that it’s worth buying organic. A study on the amount of polyphenols (the compounds associated with the breast cancer research) showed an improvement in organic versus non-organic methods of production, so it’s really worth buying organic if you can afford it.
The peanut is a plant probably first domesticated in Paraguay, which is now a worldwide source of a huge range of products. Not technically a nut, but a legume, the peanut is a fantastically versatile food that can be eaten raw, roasted or boiled, made into peanut butter, peanut oil and peanut flour, and found in a huge variety of culinary traditions. With a stunning nutritional profile and some surprising weight loss and disease prevention benefits, the peanut is a genuine health food that you should really add to your diet if possible.
Nutritionally, peanuts are a fantastic source of both macronutrients and micronutrients. While high in calories – 100g will cost you 567 calories – the peanut is very high in protein and healthy fats. 100g of peanut contains 26g of protein, over half of your Daily Value (DV), and also contains a lot of fat. Don’t worry about saturated fats though: peanuts contain 24g of monounsaturated and 16g of polyunsaturated fats for every 7 grams of saturated fat. With both good plant-based sources of protein and healthy fatshard to come by in many western diets, the peanut is a very nutritionally balanced food.
On top of that, peanuts also have an impressive amount of essential minerals: 100g provides 42% DV of Magnesium, 32% DV of fibre, 25% DV of iron and 20% DV of potassium. Dietary fibre is essential for good digestive health, and the essential minerals just mentioned not only perform a range of functions in the body; they help you avoid everything from present day poor athletic and cognitive performance to cardiovascular diseases later in life. Not only that, but iron, potassium and magnesium deficiencies are all very common.
In addition to being a fantastically balanced source of nutrition, peanuts are also the source of ongoing research into its many health benefits. The first of these might surprise you: peanuts have been proven to help with weight loss: studies have shown that weight loss regimens are improved by the addition of tree nuts into the diet in two ways; greater compliance with the diet and greater weight loss total. This is quite surprising, as peanuts are extremely calorie dense and high in fats. However, the evidence is there, so for those of you looking to lose some weight, eating nuts as healthy snack may be a positive step.
Beyond the benefits associated with weight loss, peanuts are also great at combating some of the most common killers in the developed world. To begin with, peanuts contain a compound called beta-sitosterol, which protects against colon, prostate and breast cancer, and in relatively high amounts. Not only this, but studies focusing on nuts more generally have shown that tree nuts can help protect against cardiovascular disease; and that nuts even lower your risk of gallstone disease. With all these being such common causes of death, the peanut is something you might really benefit from including in your diet.
Pears are a sweet and juicy fruit, with over 3000 varieties grown worldwide, and over 23.5 million metric tons produced in 2012. With a wide variety of culinary uses, from being a staple of many desserts to being great pickled, poached or even simply stuck in a salad, the pear is an easy food to incorporate into your diet. And with pear being a rich source of a number of phytochemicals that help it to fight cancer and inflammation, and reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, this is a delicious way of getting some real health benefits from a meal.
Pears are not fantastic nutritionally, but nonetheless they do give us some support when it comes to our heart and our gut. 100g of pear contains 102 calories, but it also contains 24% of your Daily Value (DV) of dietary fibre, 12% DV of vitamin C, and 5% DV of potassium. A diet high in dietary fibre is excellent for digestion, and vitamin C and potassium will do your heart no end of good.
However, the strength of pears when it comes to nutrition is its richness of phytochemicals (non-essential but beneficial nutrients). Pears (especially the skins of pears, which you should always eat) are rich in a number of beneficial nutrients like flavonols (such as quercetin and kaempferol) and flavanols (such as catechin and epicatchetin). Not only does this nutrient richness have proven antioxidant effects, what is really significant is the specific risks you avoid. One study done on flavonoid intake showed a significantly reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US men and women, a significant impact from just eating fruit!
Further studies have shown other benefits of the nutrient richness that the pear benefits from: one study in Mexico City showed that intake of polyphenols (of which pear was one of the primary sources, the researchers noted), led to a reduced risk of gastric cancer, and a large-scale study has conclusively proven a link between fruit intake and lung cancer. All the more reason to keep eating those pears!
The pea is a common vegetable (although it’s actually a fruit in the botanical sense) that is ubiquitous in the west in the form of frozen peas. Generally eaten boiled or steamed, in order to sweeten the taste and unlock the nutrients available, the pea is fantastic in soups, salads, and a host of other savoury dishes. Plus, with incredibly high nutrient density and a whole host of health benefits, yet to be researched fully, including cancer fighting and cholesterol lowering properties, the pea is another great green vegetable to add to your meals.
Peas, like many green vegetables, are incredibly nutrient dense and a great way to avoid a range of deficiencies. While 100g of peas is a mere 81 calories, it contains a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals: 66% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 20% DV of dietary fibre, 15% DV of vitamin A, 10% DV of vitamin B6, 8% DV of iron, and 8% DV of magnesium. On top of that, 100g of peas contains 10% of your DV of protein at only 4% DV of calories.
What does all that mean? Well, to begin with, being a low-calorie and protein dense food makes peas a great weight loss food, because protein increases the feeling of fullness; and also makes them a great way to keep a balanced macronutrient profile. Beyond that, the large amounts of vitamin C will help with cardiovascular health, in addition to helping iron absorption. The other nutrients help to ensure good digestion, eye health, heart health, athletic performance, and prevent tiredness and poor cognition. Nutrient deficiencies are a serious business, and it’s significant how much the humble garden pea can help.
On top of all that, the garden pea benefits from being rich in phytonutrients (non-essential but beneficial nutrients) with a wide variety of health effects.
A review of the health benefits of peas pointed out all the ways the research is going: peas contain polyphenolics ‘which may have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic activity’, saponins ‘which may exhibit hypocholesterolaemic [cholesterol lowering] and anticarcinogenic activity’, and oligosaccharides ‘which may exert beneficial probiotic effects in the large intestine’. That’s anti-cancer, antioxidant, cholesterol lowering and digestive effects, all from one food!
Beyond this, there is evidence that saponins from peas specifically may help the immune system, decrease fat, lower cancer risk, and lower blood sugar. With all these health benefits, it’s no wonder the research can’t keep track!
Pecans are a nut (technically a fruit) most commonly grown in the U.S., which is responsible for almost all pecan production worldwide. Perhaps best known for pecan pie, the pecan is not only great with desserts, it is also great to eat on its own, as part of bean burgers, roasts of all kinds, or even just caramelised. While you can eat pecans in a variety of ways, what is best about them is almost certainly their combination of nutrient density and cholesterol lowering effects. The pecan is high in healthy fats, essential minerals and long-termhealth benefits.
Nutritionally, pecans are a pretty common nut: high calorie, but with a lot of nutrients to back that up. 100g of pecans contains 690 calories, but for those calories you get a lot of protein and healthy fats: 9g of protein, 6g of saturated fat, 41g of monounsaturated fat and 22g of polyunsaturated fat. That’s a lot of good fats and not much saturated fat! Pecans are a great source of healthy fats, and especially great for diets low in protein and high in saturated fat.
Beyond this, 100g pecans contain 40% of your Daily Value (DV) of dietary fibre, 30% DV of magnesium, 13% DV of iron, 11% DV of potassium, and 10% DV of B6. What does all that mean? Well, it means avoiding deficiencies that could reduce your athletic and cognitive abilities, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, leave you feeling tired or pale, and cause digestive problems. That’s a good list of things to avoid!
Beyond this, pecans also benefit from having some fantastic cholesterol lowering, cancer-fighting and cardiovascular benefits. A study into the cholesterol lowering properties of pecans and a diet high in monounsaturated fats showed that healthy men and women benefit from a diet enriched by pecans directly, with a significant improvement in cholesterol levels.
Beyond that, pecans have been shown to have a number of benefits when studied with other nuts: a study showed that frequent nut consumption has a positive effect on the proliferation of cancer and on free radical damage. In addition, nuts can help protect against cardiovascular disease; and even lower your risk of gallstone disease. That’s a lot of benefits!
Persimmons are the fruits of a number of different (though related) species of tree, and as such have quite a variety of culinary uses and nutritional values. Common species include the ‘American’ persimmon and the ‘Japanese’ persimmon, and these differing species also have a variety of different cultivars, so there’s a lot of variety in taste. As such, persimmons can be found in a wide variety of culinary traditions, from being used to make persimmon pudding and fruit pies in the U.S. Northwest, to punch and persimmon vinegar in Korea. And with a solid nutritional profile and a whole host of cancer-fighting benefits, the persimmon is a fantastic fruit to add to your diet.
Nutritionally, persimmons vary by species and variety, but on the whole are low calorie, with fairly high levels of essential nutrients, and a high sugar value (watch out for that!). American persimmons are very high in vitamin C: 100g of persimmon (roughly 4 fruits), contains 110% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, for just 127 calories. American persimmons also contain 13% DV of iron and 8% of potassium.
Japanese persimmons differ slightly, being higher in vitamin A: one fruit (168g) contains 118 calories, 54% DV of vitamin A, 24% DV of vitamin A, 21% DV of vitamin C, 10% DV of vitamin B6. All are essential nutrients, deficiencies in which can lead to a variety of common health issues (everything from tiredness to cardiovascular disease), so pack in those persimmons!
Beyond the variety of nutritional benefits you can get from the variety of different kinds of persimmon, persimmons also contain compounds with proven health benefits: specifically, strong anti-cancer effects. The first of these important compounds is called betulinic acid. Betulinic acid has been proven to be toxic to tumour cells, but not to other human cells. Specifically, betulinic acid has been found to be toxic to melanoma (a tumour of melanin-forming cells, often skin cancer), neuroectodermal tumours (tumours of the nervous system), and malignant brain tumours.
This may be explained by betulinic acid having ‘apoptotic’ effect (‘apoptosis’ is essentially induced cell suicide): the ability of betulinic acid to cause apoptosis in tumours has been proven with leukaemia, with melanoma, and with neuroectodermal tumours. What all of this means is that betulinic acid is fantastic at fighting a number of different varieties of cancer, and may even eventually help with cancer treatments in the future.
The other important compounds are catechin and gallogatechin, two phytonutrients which persimmons are high in. These compounds are actually found in green tea as well, and are the source of many of the claims of green tea’s health benefits. What is significant about these two compounds is that they have proven health benefits: gallocatechins have proven antioxidant potential, and catechins have been investigated for helping with weight loss.
With free radical damage (which antioxidants prevent) leading to DNA damage and cell death, resulting in all kinds of health risks from possible cancer risks to cardiovascular disease; and obesity being such a huge problem in the developed world, introducing these compounds into your diet in whatever way you can is certainly going to do good things.
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines (yes, they come from pinecones!), and a highly nutritious luxury food. While they are certainly expensive (because it’s very time intensive to harvest them), pine nuts make up for it by being delicious! Commonly eaten toasted, roasted or raw, pine nuts are fantastic in pesto, pasta and a number of traditional cakes and desserts. Pine nuts can also be made into pine nut oil, which has been the source of a lot of scientific research into appetite, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. With concrete health benefits and a rounded nutritional profile, pine nuts are a fantastic addition to a healthy diet.
Nutritionally, pine nuts are like many other nuts and seeds: high calorie, but with high levels of protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients. 100g of pine nuts (yes, we know that’s a lot of pine nuts!) contain 673 calories, which is a lot. But for those calories you get high levels of healthy fats: 34g of polyunsaturated fats and 19g of monounsaturated fats for every 4.9g of saturated fat.
On top of that, 100g of pine nuts contains 14g of protein, over a quarter of your Daily Value (DV). This means that pine nuts (along with many other nuts and seeds) are a great way to balance out a problem prevalent in many western diets: too many simple carbohydrates and saturated fats.
Beyond that, pine nuts benefit from being high in essential minerals: 100g contains 62% DV of magnesium, 30% DV of iron and 17% DV of potassium. Deficiency in all of these is common, so this is important. Iron deficiency anaemia can lead to tiredness and paleness initially, and more severe symptoms later, and insufficient levels of magnesium and potassium have been linked to poor cardiovascular health, so avoiding these deficiencies is a big step toward a healthier lifestyle.
In addition to the great nutrient profile of pine nuts, there are also a number of well-documented health benefits of pine nuts to do with appetite, cholesterol and blood pressure; specifically, research done with Korean pine nut oil.
One study showed that pine nut oil had marked effects of appetite suppression and weight loss. Another showed that pine nut oil had positive effects on lowering LDL cholesterol (known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol), and a final study showed that pine nut oil lowered blood pressure, in addition to reducing platelet aggregation (a major risk factor for atherosclerosis). With obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis being some of the primary risk factors for some of the biggest killers in the developed world (strokes and cardiovascular disease), these are some fantastic benefits.
Pineapples are a sweet tasting tropical fruit with a distinctive and exotic appearance and taste. Eaten fresh or cooked, as a juice or as a burger topping, the pineapple has a wide variety of uses and a wide variety of culinary applications. Being grown all over the world, pineapple has been adopted into a number of different culinary traditions, aside from its adoption as a topping for pizzas and hamburgers! Low calorie, high in vitamin C, and with potent and unique benefits for digestion, inflammation, and weight gain, the pineapple is a fantastic health food.
Nutritionally, pineapple’s main benefit is its astonishingly high amounts of vitamin C: 100g of pineapple contains 50 calories, but also contains 79% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C (for comparison, that’s almost exactly the same as 100g of orange: 47 calories and 88% DV, a food marketed entirely on its vitamin C content). Moreover, pineapple contains quite high levels of B vitamins, with 100g containing 5% DV of both B6 and B1 (Thiamin).
However, as with all high sugar fruits, tread carefully with pineapple if your diet is already high in simple sugars. Pineapple is great for you, a diet too high in sugar is not (and if you need some vitamin C with no sugar, you could always try kale …).
Having said that word of warning when it comes to sugar, pineapple may have some legitimate benefits when it comes to weight loss because of its vitamin B1 content. Being high in vitamin B1 is actually something of a rarity, and the benefits surrounding weight loss are actually quite interesting, especially for those with type 2 diabetes.
Beyond this, the really interesting thing about pineapple is the presence of an enzyme unique to pineapple: bromelain. Bromelain is used as an anti-inflammatory after surgery, meaning it’s a potent tool in the fight against inflammation (which can lead to a number of diseases, reduced ability to heal from injuries, and so on). Beyond that, this review states the benefits for modulating tumour growth, blood clotting, and inflammation.
While the research done has been performed at higher doses than you would get from eating pineapple, it is certainly possible that dietary pineapple may have some impact on the problems listed above. But while we wait for the research, remember that pineapple is delicious, has great vitamin C content, and is that rarest of things: a sugary food that may help with weight loss.
The pistachio nut (botanically a seed, and a close relative of the cashew) is a food widely consumed as a salted snack. But the pistachio is both more versatile and a lot healthier without the salt! A component of a number of traditional desserts, such as Neapolitan ice cream, Turkish delight and baklava; the pistachio is also a great health food. Perhaps one of the healthiest nuts there is, the pistachio combines an excellent nutritional profile with a host of benefits for cholesterol, weight loss and eye health, among other things. Let’s put it this way: for those of us who are health-conscious, pistachios are wasted on ice cream and bar snacks.
Nutritionally, pistachios are a well-balanced, though high calorie food, with a high amount of healthy fats, protein and essential nutrients. 100g of pistachios contain 562 calories, but for those calories you get a high amount of healthy fats: 24g of monounsaturated and 14g of polyunsaturated fat for every 6g of saturated fat. In addition, for just over a quarter of your Daily Value (DV) of calories, you get 40% DV of protein, meaning pistachios are a very well-balanced food in terms of macronutrients.
Beyond this, the pistachio nut has an impressive amount of essential micronutrients. 100g not only contains impressive amounts of protein and healthy fats, it also contains 85% DV of B6, 40% DV of fibre, 30% DV of magnesium, 29% DV of potassium and 21% DV of iron. These essential vitamins and minerals are great for everything from digestive to heart health, and avoiding deficiencies will ward off everything from tiredness and poor athletic performance to impaired cognition, so pistachios are really a winner here!
Perhaps the most intriguing benefits of pistachios, however, are its seemingly beneficial effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disease: specifically high cholesterol and obesity. As we see with many nuts and seeds, it seems odd to be talking about high fat, high calorie foods making us thinner.
However, pistachios have proven benefits for lowering cholesterol: as this review notes, of the 5 studies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) done on pistachios and cholesterol, 4 out of the 5 showed a significant reduction in total cholesterol (all showed some reduction), 2 out of 5 showed a significant reduction in LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol (all showed some reduction), and all 5 showed a significant reduction in the LDL (bad) to HDL (good) cholesterol ratio.
Further, pistachios have some proven weight loss benefits. One study, in which obese people on a 12 week weight loss program were given either pretzels or pistachios (with both being the same amount of calories), found that, while both groups lost weight, those eating the pistachios lost more weight and had a much reduced BMI than those eating the pretzels, proving pistachios great for weight loss. With high cholesterol and obesity being major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, pistachios may really look after you in the long term.
Finally, pistachios have one last benefit: very high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids which have some remarkable benefits for long-term eye health. Pistachios contain the highest amount of lutein and zeaxanthin per 100g of any nut. This is important because lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to protect against two of the most common eye disorders, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Plums are a sweet and juicy fruit with a wide range of culinary uses. Not actually a single species, the term ‘plum’ refers to a number of slightly different fruiting plants. Regardless of the slight differences, nearly all plums are great to eat fresh off of the tree, dried (in which case they are known as prunes), or even pickled.
Versatile enough to be used in sweet and savoury dishes (it does equally well with a crumble or with crispy duck), the plum is an interesting fruit with a wide variety of culinary application.
But of course, we are really interested in the health benefits of these fruits. Plums may not be fantastic in a purely nutritional sense, but with a wide range of antioxidant compounds present in them, and some mild cardiovascular and digestive effects, they are an excellent choice for anyone who is health conscious with a bit of a sweet tooth.
Nutritionally, plums have some limited benefits for the cardiovascular system, but they’re certainly no kale. 100g contains 46 calories, and for those relatively few calories you receive 15% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, and 4% DV of potassium.
In addition, 100g of plum contains 5% DV of dietary fibre, which is important for digestion. In fact, a sugar which plums are high in, sorbitol, has a mild laxative effect, one of the reasons prunes are considered good for digestion. Prune juice has been shown to have a mild laxative effect, which is important for those suffering from constipation, or more serious gastrointestinal symptoms.
In terms of health benefits, plums have one real standout benefit: they are extremely high in antioxidants. The antioxidant activity of prunes and plums is well documented, but why is it significant? Well, antioxidants prevent damage by free radicals, which often damage DNA (leading to mutations and cancer), and cells (leading to cell death and tissue damage).
New constituent antioxidants are being discovered, and analysed, all the time, but it is the presence of two unique phytonutrients with antioxidant properties called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid, in high concentrations, that give plums their place on this list.
These antioxidants neutralise a particular free radical called a superoxide anion radical, which is especially damaging to our bodies.
The pomegranate tree is a fruit tree probably originally cultivated in modern day Iran; but now grown as a commercial crop throughout parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and consumed on almost every continent. With a distinctive, tart, sweet-and-sour taste, the pomegranate is available in raw form or juiced, and even the peel can be used in order to make a variety of dishes, from juice blends to cakes. With a vast amount of research into its potent health promoting properties and phytonutrient content, the pomegranate is a fantastic health food.
Essential vitamins and minerals are not pomegranate’s strong point, but the pomegranate does contain a decent amount of vitamin C and dietary fibre. One pomegranate (282g) contains 48% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, and 44% DV of fibre. Vitamin C is usefulfor pretty much everything from gum health to iron absorption, and fibre is excellent for the digestive tract. In addition, the 19% DV of potassium is an extra bonus to your cardiovascular health.
The real strength of the pomegranate fruit, however, lies not in the decent amount of dietary fibre present, but in the potent antioxidant, cardiovascular, cancer-fighting, neurological and anti-microbial effects. An experiment on oxidative stress in elderly people showed antioxidant and anti-aging effects on those elderly people who drank pomegranate juice twice a day for a month. That’s a quick effect!
In addition, pomegranate is widely regard as a heart healthy food: there is certainly proof that it lowers systolic blood pressure, in addition to preventing atherosclerosis, and protecting the cardiovascular system, as this review notes. Beyond this, pomegranate is a renowned cancer fighter, preventing the proliferation of cancer, metastasis (movement from one part of the body to the other) and inducing apoptosis (cell suicide) in a number of different cells in vitro, such as breast and colon cancer.
On top of that, there are some other possible avenues of exploration. Research done on the possible benefits to Alzheimer’s disease demonstrated that (in experimental models of Alzheimer’s in rats), pomegranate delayed the onset of the disease and improved cognition. Finally, pomegranate appears to have a broad anti-microbial effect, as this review summarises.
The potato is a tuber that is a staple food source across the world. Perhaps made most famous due to the Irish potato famine, the potato is now a widely produced staple crop, with only maize, rice, and wheat being produced in larger quantities worldwide. The potato is not usually considered a health food, and it’s easy to see why: we most often consume it in the form of French fries, and even when we don’t, mashed or baked potato is often covered in butter and cream. However, take away the frying and the saturated fat, and the potato is a great carbohydrate source: high in certain essential nutrients, and with potential benefits for cardiovascular disease.
Nutritionally, the potato is a fantastic low calorie source of 3 essential nutrients: vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium. 1 medium potato (213g), contains just 163 kcal, but for that you get 70% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 30% DV of vitamin B6, and 25% DV of potassium. Making sure you avoid being deficient in these will help to ensure cardiovascular health, iron absorption and cognitive function, so potato is a real help here. In addition, a medium potato contains 8% DV of fibre, making it excellent for digestion.
Beyond this, however, the potato has a number of more long-term health benefits, thanks in part to the presence of something called kukoamines. Kukoamines are compounds previously only found in the bark of a plant called Lycium chinense; but recent research has revealed the presence of kukoamines in potatoes.
Kukoamines have been associated with lowering blood pressure, in addition to protecting the brain from free radical damage. With high blood pressure being such an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease and strokes, and neurological disorders being so prevalent, potato may be a surprising route to long term health.
In addition, potatoes have been shown to have remarkable antioxidant potential. In the study just referenced, the potato showed better antioxidant potential than onion, carrot and peppers. Not only that, but potato peel has been shown to contain quercetin, a flavonoid proven to lower blood pressure, in addition to reducing platelet aggregation, a major contributing factor to atherosclerosis. Quercetin may also have some athletic performance benefits. All in all, the potato certainly has a lot of benefits for the health of your heart.
A prune is a catch-all term for a dried plum. While this may seem to be a confusing choice for an article on some of the healthiest foods the world has to offer, it should be noted that there are many cultivars grown specifically for drying, and there are benefits to digestion that are seemingly unique to prunes. Not only that, but prunes exhibit an interesting amount of diversity when it comes to how they are cooked: in compotes, tagines, and fruit pies, or simply covered in chocolate! With some great nutritional, antioxidant, and digestive benefits, the prune is an interesting addition to a healthy diet.
Nutritionally, prunes are certainly far off something like kale, but they do provide decent amounts of certain key nutrients. 100g contains 28% of your Daily Value (DV) of dietary fibre, an important component in digestive health (more on that below), in addition to 20% DV of potassium, 15% DV of vitamin A, and 10% DV of both B6 and magnesium. With vitamin A being essential for the health of the eye, and potassium, magnesium and B6 all being relatively common deficiencies with implications for cardiovascular health, a little goes a long way when it comes to nutrition.
In addition to this, plums do have a couple of verified health benefits. Firstly, they are excellent for digestion (in fact, the connotations of prunes with relieving constipation became so strong they are now marketed as ‘dried plums’ in order to appear more upmarket than a glorified laxative). A sugar which prunes are high in, sorbitol, has a mild laxative effect, and prune juice has been shown to have a mild laxative effect, which is important for those suffering from constipation, or more serious gastrointestinal symptoms.
Beyond this, the real headline is the antioxidant activity of prunes: important for preventing damage by free radicals, which often damage DNA (leading to mutations and cancer), and cells (leading to cell death and tissue damage). The presence of neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid, in high concentrations, in plums and prunes, is also an interesting benefit, as these antioxidants have been found to neutralise a ‘superoxide anion radical’, an especially damaging free radical, giving prunes a wide base of antioxidant effects.
If the only time you’ve bought a pumpkin is to carve one for Halloween, you may have been throwing away a really nutrient-rich vegetable. Not only is the flesh a fantastic source of beta-carotene (essential for eye health), but the seeds of the pumpkin are a nutritional treasure trove that may even have some use for the management of diabetes.
The flesh of the pumpkin is a great basis for anything from soups and stews to pies, and roasted pumpkin seeds are a fantastic addition to a whole host of dishes, making it an easy vegetable to incorporate into a balanced diet.
Pumpkin flesh is extremely high in beta-carotene. According to the USDA database, 100g of pumpkin provides a huge 170% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin A equivalents. This is the reason that pumpkin has such a bright orange colour (carrots are another food high in beta-carotene). 100g of pumpkin also provides 15% DV of vitamin C, and a significant 9% DV of potassium, and has just 26 calories (just over 1.5% DV!).
Pumpkin seeds are also something of a nutritional powerhouse. 100g of dried pumpkin seeds (not an amount you’ll be likely to eat in one go), contains 559 calories, about 28% DV.
But for this, you get 60% DV of protein, which is good for increasing feelings of satiety and for weight loss generally. Not only this, but that 100g contains 21g of polyunsaturated fat and 16g of monounsaturated fat (considered good fats, because it is harder to get them in the western diet), and only 9g of saturated fat (considered bad fats).
100g also contains 148% DV of magnesium and 48% DV iron, significant amounts of these essential nutrients.
Pumpkin also shines when it comes to the concrete benefits these nutrients (and others), have on your health. The high levels of beta-carotene in its flesh may lower your risk of getting certain cancers, specifically prostate cancer and colon cancer. Vitamin A (which beta-carotene is a precursor to), is also essential for eye health.
Pumpkin seeds also have some distinctive and important health benefits, in particular the treatment of diabetes. Pumpkin and flax seed mixture has been shown to manage some of the effects of diabetes such as high fat levels, and also has been shown to be beneficial in managing diabetic nephropathy, a complication of diabetes.
These benefits may be due to the antioxidant effects of pumpkin seeds, which also means that pumpkin seeds have a broad DNA and cell protective role.
So next Halloween, make sure not to throw away the pumpkin seeds; eat them instead!
The pumpkin is a cultivar of the squash plant, most commonly seen in the US and UK around Halloween for decorative purposes. However, as we saw in the pumpkin article, this plant is far more than simply a decoration. The pumpkin seeds that pumpkin contains not only taste fantastic roasted, they are a great topping to any number of dishes, from savoury soups and salads to sweeter granola. With a mighty nutritional punch, a lot of antioxidant benefits, and possible health applications for treating diabetes and helping sleep, pumpkin seeds are not a food you can miss out on.
As we saw with pumpkin, pumpkin seeds are a nutritional powerhouse. 100g of dried pumpkin seeds contains 559 calories, 60% of your Daily Value (DV) of protein, 21g of polyunsaturated fat and 16g of monounsaturated fat (‘good’ fats), and only 9g of saturated fat (‘bad’ fat). Like many nuts and seeds, there is a trade-off between high amounts of calories and a fantastic nutritional profile that helps you balance the negative effects of a diet high in sugar and saturated fat.
In addition, pumpkin seeds contain significant amounts of essential nutrients. 100g contains 148% DV of magnesium, 52% of zinc, 48% DV of iron, and 23% DV of potassium. With these essential nutrients being so vital for everything from cardiovascular to sexual health, and deficiencies being one of the primary reasons behind feelings of tiredness and lack of motivation, pumpkin seeds are one great way to get back on track with your life.
There are two main health benefits aside from the nutritional element that pumpkin seeds bring to the table. First, pumpkin seeds have a list of proven antioxidant effects, which means that they protect on a broad scale from cell and DNA damage. One study that demonstrated the antioxidant and anti-arthritic potential of pumpkins makes clear the point that being a potent antioxidant can lead to a lot of concrete health benefits!
Pumpkin seeds also may have some value as a treatment for diabetes. Firstly, pumpkin and flax seed mixture manages some of the effects of diabetes such as high fat levels. Beyond that, however, pumpkin seeds have been shown to help with treating some of the complications of diabetes: diabetic nephropathy and benign prostatic hyperplasia, making pumpkin seeds an interesting option for those with the disease or with the risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes (obesity and so on). Finally, pumpkin seeds have one last interesting benefit: they are high in tryptophan, which can be converted by the body into melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’, ensuring a restful night’s sleep when eaten a few hours before bed.
Purslane is considered by many to be nothing more than a weed, as it is very widespread and easy to grow. But if by a weed you mean something you shouldn’t be eating, well, nothing could be further from the truth.
With a distinctive, slightly salty taste, purslane is great for everything from a light garnish to a heavy stew. The real headline here, however, is it’s astonishing list of health benefits: cardiovascular, neurological, hepatoprotective, anti-oxidant, anti-tumour and anti-viral.
Purslane is an extremely nutrient-dense leaf vegetable. 100g contains just 20 calories. For those 20 calories, you get 35% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, 26% DV of vitamin A, 17% DV of magnesium, and 14% DV of potassium.
Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other green leafy vegetable. Considering this is mainly found in fish, purslane is an excellent choice for anyone looking to benefit from the heart and brain boosting benefits offered by omega 3 fatty acids.
In terms of health, purslane has an amazing variety of health benefits, all of which are backed up by a solid body of research. It helps to preserve cognition from environmental factors, protects your liver from toxic compounds, reduces our risk of type 2 diabetes and treats some of the complications, and has anti-viral, antioxidant and anti-tumour benefits (see this review). Purslane is a true health food!
Firstly, it has substantial neuroprotective effects, in that it protects your brain from all kinds of environmental damage. Studies have been done both on damage done via oxygen starvation and through various kinds of toxic compounds.
This is immensely important because it shows that purslane may have the potential to protect your brain from damage as you age and come into contact with multiple environmental toxins. In addition, the fact that purslane contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids means it is a real brain food.
Secondly, it has hepatoprotective (liver protecting) effects, which is immensely important considering one of the liver’s primary roles is to keep the body free of toxic substances through a variety of mechanisms (bile production etc.).
Both the neuroprotective and hepatoprotective effects may be due to the proven antioxidant effects of purslane, although this is speculation. The antioxidant properties of purslane are important because it demonstrates the capacity to combat DNA damage and cell death.
Purslane has even had pronounced anti-tumour effects in certain experiments, making it one of the most promising avenues of nutritional research.
Finally, purslane is also proven to have some influence when it comes to preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes. In fact, it has positive effects when it comes to managing one of the complications of diabetes, diabetic nephropathy. Additionally, it has even been shown to have anti-viral effects, surely making this one of the best foods that most people aren’t eating!
Quinoa is without a doubt one of the healthiest grains there is. Although technically a pseudocereal (and so not a grain in the strict sense), quinoa is nonetheless one of the best ‘whole grains’ there is in terms of versatility and, well, just being a nutritional powerhouse.
It is not only of the most nutrient-dense grains there is, it is also gluten-free, non-GMO and generally grown organically. It is nutrient dense, easy to grow and very easy to prepare, which is why NASA were looking into growing it in outer space! A ‘superfood’ so nutritious that we’re taking it into space has to be a good addition to your diet.
So, why all the excitement? Well, quinoa is quite simply an incredibly balanced grain in terms of both macro and micronutrients. 100g of uncooked quinoa contains 368 calories, but those calories pay off.
Firstly, that 100g of quinoa contains 28% of your daily value (DV) of protein, and more importantly, it is a ‘complete’ protein (it has all the amino acids in relatively high amounts), so you don’t have to pair it with other foods to get the benefits.
In addition, quinoa is relatively high in fat for a grain, containing 9% DV, but significantly most of this is polyunsaturated fat, a fat many diets in the developed world are severely lacking in because of the huge amount of saturated fats in our diets.
Quinoa is even high in micronutrients, and what’s more, they’re vitamins and minerals that many people’s diets lack. 100g of quinoa contains a huge 48% DV of magnesium, 28% DV of fibre, 25% of iron, and 25% of B6. Magnesium is essential for our cardiovascular health, and yet many of us are deficient. Similarly, many people are iron deficient (women are especially at risk), and this can lead to poor cognitive function and tiredness. B6 is another micronutrient essential for cognitive function, and is also important in immunity. Finally, dietary fibre is essential for good digestion. Overall, quinoa is fantastic when it comes to providing vitamins and minerals that many diets are lacking in.
Beyond quinoa’s stunning nutritional profile, however, there are other benefits. It has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are important to prevent damage caused by particles called free radicals, which can lead to DNA damage (possibly leading to mutations and cancer), and cell death (causing possible tissue damage).
Quinoa is very high in antioxidants. It also has anti-inflammatory effects, mainly found in the saponins present in it’s outer shell of (often removed because of their bitter taste but potentially useful scientifically).
Radicchio (also known as Italian chicory), is a leaf vegetable, and a cultivar of the common chicory plant. Relatively easy to grow, this salad green has a slightly bitter, peppery taste when raw, and a mellower flavour when cooked (it is commonly roasted or grilled). Fantastic raw in a more adventurous salad or simply stirred into risottos, this Mediterranean vegetable is a different choice for those who need more leafy vegetables in their diet, but perhaps are bored of broccoli. Low calorie, nutritious and with great antioxidant potential, radicchio is a great leaf to add to any diet.
Like most things leafy, radicchio is very low in calories. In addition, however, radicchio also has decent amounts of some essential nutrients. 100g of radicchio will cost you just 23 calories: making it a fantastic snack for those looking to restrict their calories. And with 13% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 8% DV of potassium, and 5% DV of B6, radicchio boasts an impressive boost to your cardiovascular system. Avoiding common deficiencies like these is vital, but it is actually in the less common vitamins, K and E, that radicchio shines. With over 200% DV of vitamin K and around 15% DV of vitamin E, radicchio’s nutrient density is one more reason to keep exploring the world of leafy greens.
Aside from the nutrient density, radicchio does have one or two interesting health benefits up its sleeve. First, it has very high levels of antioxidant activity, with the authors of that paper speculating that this may be due to anthocyanins in the leaf. In addition, radicchio contains two very interesting compounds: lactucin and lactopiricin. What is interesting about the benefits of these two compounds is twofold: first, they are antimalarial. While it must be admitted that that’s probably not an immediate concern for a lot of our readers, they also have some researched analgesic and sedative properties. If nothing else, this goes to show what a long way we have to go in understanding the nutritional benefits of our foods.
Radishes are a root vegetable and a member of the brassica family, native to Europe. Most commonly used as a salad vegetable, the humble radish is a quick growing and spicy vegetable that is low in calories and high in benefits for your body.
Much like its family member, horseradish, radishes are low in calories, great for dieting, high in vitamin C, and contain a number of extremely potent anti-cancer compounds.
The nutritional breakdown of radishes is fairly simple: the only standout statistics are the fact that 100g gets you 29% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C for a mere 16 calories (USDA database). As we know, vitamin C is great for us, and a necessary component of our cardiovascular health, our absorption of iron and so on.
The only other standout benefit of the radish is the fact that, for less than 1% of your DV of calories, radishes provide you with 6 % DV of your daily fibre. Couple that with the fact that 16 calories is a whole 100g of food, and that’s a recipe for being satiated without piling on the pounds.
Digestive health is also a significant benefit of the high levels of dietary fibre. Fibre lowers cholesterol (see Brussel sprouts), and is an essential part of a working gut. In addition, the sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables may stop excess growth of Heliobacter pylori, a bacteria that can lead to stomach cancer.
The real benefits of radishes, however, lie in their cancer-protective compounds. As we have seen, the brassicas are high glucosinalates, some of which break down into sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol.
These compouds have been tested for tumour prevention, breast cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer, and protection from chemotherapy drugs, and have shown positive results (see ‘Bok Choy’).
As with horseradish, the most interesting part of the radish is the presence of allylisothyocyanate, a compound rich in anti-cancer and anti-microbial effects. The anti-cancer effects of the compound have been proven only to a point in the literature: positive effects on cultured cancer cells and in animal tests.
However, if these hopes are correct, the fact the compound is extremely available for oral consumption, coupled with its strong protective potential against cancer cells, would be one more reason to eat radishes.
Raisins are dried grapes. Although in some parts of the world the distinction is made between raisins, currants and sultanas, that’s really just semantics for our purposes: working out how they can benefit our health. Raisins are grown all over the world, with grape producing regions scattered all over the globe (think where your last bottle of wine might have come from and you’ll see how many grape producing regions there are worldwide). Generally eaten raw, the raisin is also suitable for baking and brewing. With a sweet taste, a decent nutritional profile and some fascinating implications for our long term health, raisins are one of the best options for those who love to snack.
Nutritionally, the raisin certainly is certainly nutrient dense on a per gram basis; unfortunately, this comes at the cost of being pretty calorie-dense too. 100g contains 299 calories, and 14% of your Daily Value (DV) of dietary fibre, 21% DV of potassium, 10% DV of both iron and B6, and 8% DV of magnesium. While that certainly is a decent amount of calories, only those looking to lose weight should shy away from the raisin. With fibre being important for digestion, and the essential minerals listed being common deficiencies, the raisin is a great food to keep on snacking to.
Beyond the nutritional stuff, the raisin has three main areas of researched benefits to bring to the table: antioxidant benefits, cancer prevention, and diabetes treatment. Human tests have shown that raisins do have the capacity to modulate antioxidant potential. This has a huge range of health benefits, as the damage done by free radicals to almost every system in the body has been linked from everything from cardiovascular disease to cancer. In addition, there is some evidence that raisins have colon cancer prevention properties.
Finally, raisins have been associated with major health improvements is diabetics when raisins were added to the diet of diabetics. And despite the high sugar content of raisins, diabetics need not worry, as raisins possess an extremely low glycemic index.
Raspberries is a term to describe the edible fruit of a number of species in the rose family. A fantastic summer fruit, raspberries are somewhat expensive because they are difficult to pick, but pack enough of a punch in terms of flavour to make up for it. Eaten fresh, pureed, juiced or dried; in ice cream, fruit pies, salads, soufflés or snacks, the raspberry is a succulent and sweet addition to any dish, with a delicate flavour of its own. The raspberry is not only sweet tasting and nutritious, it also has positive effects on obesity, cancer, and antioxidant effects, so get picking!
Nutritionally, raspberries benefit from being fantastically low calorie, given their sweetness. 100g will give you 53 calories, but for that you get 24% of your Daily Value (DV) of dietary fibre, plus 43% DV of vitamin C, and 5% DV of both vitamin B6 and magnesium. Fibre is essential for the maintenance of a healthy digestive system, and vitamin C and magnesium will really assist you in maintaining your cardiovascular health (more on that below), so raspberries are a great low calorie bargain to strike!
In terms of health benefits, they are really twofold: the reduction of obesity and blood sugar levels, and the cancer fighting benefits linked to the great antioxidant potential of raspberries. Two compounds in raspberries have an anti-obesity effect: raspberry ketone (also known as rheosmin), has been proven to prevent and improve both obesity and fatty liver disease.
Although the mechanism is still being speculated upon, this is a huge deal considering the health problems plaguing Western society: all the more impressive for a food high in simple sugars! The other important compound is called tiliroside, which has been shown to ameliorate the effects of obesity, such as high blood sugar, blood fats, and blood insulin, and hopefully help to prevent diabetes
Beyond this, there is a great deal of research into the antioxidant and cancer fighting potential of raspberries. They contain a huge amount of antioxidants, which may go some way to explaining the broad spectrum anti-cancer properties attribute to them, in particular the inhibition of tumour development. Specific cancers that raspberries have a proven track record which include esophageol cancer and cervical cancer, demonstrating that they have a broad range of health applications that are yet to be researched.
Rosemary is a fragrant and woody herb native to the Mediterranean. Often grown as a decorative plant, the essential oil is widely used in products such as incense, shampoos, and cleaning products. And of course, the whole leaf, fresh or dried, can be used to flavour a range of dishes, ranging from a simple Italian-style tomato sauce to a complex casserole dish. As rosemary is almost exclusively used as a flavouring in very small amounts it, in essence, has no nutritional value as far as essential vitamins and minerals go. However, rosemary has a huge number of health benefits ranging from an increase in cognitive ability to anti-cancer effects.
To deal with the essential oil first, there are a number of fantastic benefits, backed by research, attributed to the mere smell of rosemary essential oil. Astonishingly, exposure appears to correlate with an increase in cognitive performance. In addition to that study, another found that both cognition and mood were positively affected by the scent of rosemary oil, and finally, that neuroprotective may not be all that shocking considering what we know about the essential oil, but what is surprising is that in animal models of Alzheimer’s carnosic acid was also found to be a highly effective preventative measure. On top of all this, carnosic acid has an anti-proliferative effect on cancer, and one study assessed the anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour benefits of the compound. That’s a fantastic list of benefits for just one compound isolated from rosemary!
Interestingly, rosemary is also a benefit when used with other foods. A study done on rosemary and beef showed a reduction in something called heterocyclic amines when beef was cooked with rosemary. Heterocyclic amines are mutagenic compounds that form when meat is cooked at a high heat, posing a cancer risk, but when cooked with rosemary, the dangerous compounds were reduced. Finally, rosemary has been shown to preserve the shelf life of omega-3 fish oils, making it a perfect complement to cook with fish.
The rutabaga (known as the swede in most parts of the world) is a member of the brassica family probably originating from either Scandinavia or Russia. Renowned for its bitter taste (softened with cooking!), the rutabaga is great boiled, baked or roasted.
Used in a variety of national dishes like the Finnish swede casserole or the English Sunday roast, rutabaga boasts surprisingly high nutritional content and the cancer-fighting properties unique to brassicas.
Nutritionally, the rutabaga is a bit of a surprise. The headline is the very high levels of vitamin C: 100g (really not very much swede) provides 30% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for the creation of connective tissue, iron absorption, cardiovascular health and a host of other processes (see Broccoli).
The rutabaga is also very high in dietary fibre, which is important for the digestive tract. Fiber is important to the health of the colon, and lowering cholesterol (by binding with bile acids; see Brussel sprouts).
In addition, the sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables may stop excess growth of Heliobacter pylori, a bacteria that can lead to a multitude of gastric problems, potentially even stomach cancer.
Finally, the rutabaga packs a surprising amount of potassium, with 8% DV per 100g. It is often hard for people on Western diets to make the recommended amounts of potassium, so really every little helps. Potassium is significant in a number of processes in the body, from muscle contraction to proper heart function, and deficiency can lead to high blood pressure and a host of cardiovascular disease.
Beyond this, rutabaga does have some health value. Firstly, as with most brassicas, it contains powerful anti-cancer compounds.
Secondly, rutabaga’s fat-free status, low calorie count and high amount of fibre make it an ideal candidate for a great weight-loss food.
Sage is a small shrub native to the Mediterranean, now used as a garden plant and an herb. Used in a number of European culinary traditions, it is probably most prominent in traditionally British dishes like sage and onion stuffing, casseroles and Lincolnshire sausages. Either eaten as a leaf or used as an essential oil, the sage leaf has a long history of being recommended as a panacea. While that’s certainly not the case, sage contains a few essential nutrients in high amounts, in addition to having possible beneficial effects for diseases as diverse as cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
Nutritionally, sage is surprisingly nutrient dense, although admittedly you’re not going to cure any vitamin deficiencies with something you may eat by the teaspoon. One tablespoon of dried sage contains a surprising 40% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin K, in addition to 5% DV of B6 and 3% DV of iron; and all that for only 6 calories! With vitamin K being essential for blood clotting and bone health, and B6 and iron being common deficiencies that can cause tiredness, anaemia and poor cognition, sage packs a small but notable punch in helping to fight important nutrient deficiencies.
The real benefits of sage, however, lie not in the relatively small amount of essential nutrients present, but in the numerous long-term health benefits that are being researched. To begin with, sage has proven antioxidant potential, as it contains compounds called polyphenols (among many others with antioxidant potential) that have been shown to prevent damage by free radicals. With free radical damage being attributed to a number of diseases from Alzheimer’s to macular degeneration, antioxidant activity is a great catch-all health benefit.
Beyond this, sage has some fantastic benefits for specific diseases long-term. To begin with, sage contains compounds that inhibit tumour growth. As this review notes (p.495S), sage contains both cineole and perillyl alchohol, both compounds of a class called terpenoids, both with proven tumour inhibiting effects. Beyond this, sage may have some benefits for the treatment of arthritis and for bone health, as one study demonstrated a substantial decrease in bone resorption (breakdown) when rats were given powdered sage, rosemary and thyme.
Finally, sage’s most interesting potential benefit lies in its possible benefits for helping to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and its benefits for cognitive function in general. One study with 190 rats showed significant improvements in memory retention when given sage leaf extract, and one human study in Alzheimer’s patients over 4 months showed significant improvements in the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease when given sage extract. Anything that can help increase your memory potential and help ward off symptoms of Alzheimer’s is surely a plus!
Salmon is the common name for a number of species of fish, renowned as a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Due to high demand, many salmon are now intensively farmed, and there are even proposals in place to used genetically modified salmon in the large-scale fish farms. Despite this commercial pressure, or perhaps because of it, wild caught salmon is a delicacy. The salmon is native to the Atlantic and pacific tributaries, and is fantastic smoked, grilled or poached, and goes well with everything from light spring vegetables like asparagus to rice noodles and risottos. A fantastic nutritional profile, coupled with the high amounts of omega-3s for which it is renowned, make salmon a fantastic health food.
Nutritionally, salmon is essentially very high in protein and essential fats, making it an exceptionally balanced base to a meal. 100g of raw Atlantic salmon contains 208 calories, but for that you get a huge amount of protein (40% of your DV – Daily Value), in addition to large amounts of B6 (53% DV), B12 (30% DV), and potassium (10% DV). With lean protein sources being so important for weight loss, B6 and B12 being so important for everything from blood to brain function, and potassium essential for heart health, the salmon is a fantastic health food.
The main draw of salmon, however, is its huge amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. 55% DV of omega 3 fatty acids are contained in 100g of salmon, but what is actually most significant is the high ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 (the body can only absorb so much omega, so ratio is important). In fact, the only other sources of omega 3 that come close to salmon are walnut and flaxseed: and both of those are ALA (alpha linoleic acid), not EPA or DHA, the fats in salmon. ALA must be converted into EPA and DHA, and some of it is lost in conversion, so in real terms, salmon has the most omega-3s.
Omega 3 has a whole host of benefits. For example, omega 3 has been shown to lower blood pressure, help prevent breast cancer, and even delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration. It has even been shown to prevent the shortening of telomeres, associated with age-related diseases and early mortality. Finally, omega 3 has been shown to be instrumental in preventing or delaying neurodegenerative diseases. There is even suggestion that diets with a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio run the risk of an increased risk of depression and inflammatory disorders.
Scallions (also known as spring onions), are a member of the allium family, along with garlic and onion. Essentially an onion harvested before it begins to develop the bulb, scallions are a distinctive vegetable in their own right, with a slightly spicy flavour.
Scallions are often found in stir fries, soups and garnishes, but are far more than a side dish when it comes to their nutritional benefits. With pronounced cardiovascular effects, cancer-fighting properties and high levels of essential minerals, scallions are a flavoursome way to help with longevity and health.
Nutritionally, scallions are a great source of a number of essential minerals. 100g of raw scallions contains 8% of your daily value (DV) of iron, 7% DV of potassium, and 7% DV of calcium. These are all minerals it is easy to be deficient in, especially if your diet lacks dark leafy greens. In addition, 100g contains 31% DV of vitamin C, 19% DV of vitamin A, and 10% DV of dietary fibre.
Scallions have even more nutritional clout than this, however. The high levels of the flavonoid quercetin present in them give it a distinct benefit when it comes to your cardiovascular health: besides possible athletic performance benefits, quercetin has been shown to lower blood pressure, in addition to reducing platelet aggregation, a major contributing factor to atherosclerosis.
The cardiovascular benefits don’t stop there though: potassium has been linked with a decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, as has vitamin C.
Scallions have further assorted health benefits. As an allium, they have been linked with a lower cancer risk, specifically, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and oesophageal cancer. These cancers are associated with health of the digestive system, another thing scallions assist with, due to their fairly high levels of dietary fibre.
Finally, deficiencies in vitamin A and iron can lead to some serious health risks, particularly the long-term health of the eye and the problems of tiredness and focus associated with anaemia.
Hopefully, the encounters you have had with sesame seeds won’t just be when they are sprinkled over a burger bun; if that is the case, you really don’t know what you’re missing! Not only are they absolutely delicious, but they are packed full of nutrients that will give your body a welcome health boost.
Help Prevent Diabetes And Lower Cholesterol. In 2010, Sankar et al investigated the effects of sesame seed oil on the health of sixty type 2 diabetic participants. The results of the study showed that consuming 35g of the oil a day, in combination with the diabetic medication glibenclamide, reduced glucose levels by 36% and overall blood sugar levels by 43%.
Interestingly, the findings also showed that the type 2 diabetic participants had a 33.8% decrease in the levels of “bad” cholesterol in their system, they also showed an increase in “good” cholesterol by up to 17%.
Lower Blood Pressure And Promote Healthy Skin. According to a study published in 2011, daily consumption of black sesame seed flour can have significant effects on blood pressure. Thirty volunteers were divided into two groups and some were given a capsule containing the black sesame flour, the others received a placebo; they consumed the capsules daily for four weeks.
The results showed that systolic blood pressure had lowered in the group that had taken the black sesame seed capsules, but not in the placebo group. The team also found that levels of vitamin E – which is an antioxidant that is important for healthy skin – were increased as well.
Prevents Breast Cancer. It has recently been discovered that a component in sesame seeds, called sesamin, is effective at preventing cell growth in breast cancer cells. It does this by increasing the level of apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death and is an important process in multi-cellular organisms because it keeps the growth of cells in balance by preventing unnecessary cell growth – something which happens when cancer cell growth is triggered.
Protects DNA From Radiation Damage. Sesame seeds contain another antioxidant called sesamol which has recently been proven to help protect cellular DNA from damage caused by ionising radiation – which is found in things like x-rays. The research team blasted mouse cells with gamma radiation to see what effect the sesamol had and the results showed that it had a significant impact on protecting the cells from gamma radiation-induced damage.
Relieves Arthritic Symptoms. In 2013, a study was conducted in Iran with the aim of seeing how consuming 40g of sesame seeds a day, for two months, would affect the signs and symptoms of knee osteoarthritis infifty volunteers. The volunteers were divided in half, one group received nothing and the other group received sesame seeds. The findings showed that those who had eaten sesame seeds experienced significant improvements in the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis in the knees.
Shrimps (often known as prawns in some cases) are a common type of seafood eaten all over the world. Delicious, baked, boiled, barbecued, fried or grilled, the shrimp is used across the world as a seafood staple (probably due to its very high levels of protein), and as such is very easy to incorporate into your diet: whether you like Japanese, Thai, or Brazilian cuisine, the shrimp is often used. Shrimp not only has a great nutritional profile, but varied and unique benefits for fighting cardiovascular disease, and some other health issues.
The headline nutritional benefit of shrimp is, quite frankly, the astonishing amounts of protein available. 100g of cooked shrimp contains 99 calories, and 24g of protein: less than 5% of your Daily Value (DV) of calories, but 48% of your DV of protein. In addition to that, the shrimp has a number of essential minerals in decent amounts: 9% DV of magnesium, 7% DV of calcium, and 7% DV of potassium; fantastic for athletic, cardiovascular and bone health. However, that 100g also contains 63% DV of cholesterol, which may be a serious concern for some.
However, that 63% figure, while worrying, is actually a little misleading. While it is true that shrimp are high in cholesterol, they have been shown to decrease the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol (‘bad’ to ‘good’ cholesterol, and decrease the amount of triglycerides in the blood. Both of these problems are serious indicators of potential heart problems in themselves, and also one of the main reasons to reduce your dietary cholesterol. While it’s probably not a good idea to eat shrimp if you have a history of recent heart problems or obesity, for most there’s no issue.
In addition, shrimp are fantastic in terms of seafood because they avoid a central problem in seafood: high mercury levels. Mercury levels are dangerous in high doses, especially for young children, and while it is uncertain what harm low-level mercury contamination in fish does, it’s probably not good for you. Shrimp are low in mercury and high in omega-3s
Finally, shrimp is a unique source of an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory carotenoid called astaxanthin. Astaxanthin has been shown to have positive antioxidant effects in animal studies, addressing imbalances that were in this case induced by diabetes. Further, they have been shown to help with treating diabetic nephropathy a kidney disease caused by a complication of diabetes, and even may have some benefits for the prevention of colon cancer.
The mighty spinach has long been renowned as a health food: it gave Popeye his strength, and has been a staple of part of what is considered a healthy diet for a while now.
There is one main reason for this: the astounding nutrient density of spinach. Although in recent years it may have been replaced by kale as the ‘healthiest’ of the leafy greens, spinach has its own distinct benefits and its own distinct taste.
Many of you will know spinach as a staple of salads, but with a mild flavour and little of the bitterness associated with other healthy green vegetables, it is wasted as mere salad dressing. With fantastic nutrient density and potent anti-cancer benefits, spinach is a great food to add to any healthy diet.
It is one of the few foods that may realistically have a claim on being the most nutrient dense. 100g contains just 23 calories, but for those few calories spinach packs a huge micronutrient punch. 100g contains 460% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, 187% DV of vitamin A, 46% DV of vitamin C, 19% DV of magnesium, and 15% DV of iron.
This is an enormous amount of nutrition for just 23 calories! And, of course, that’s great for your health. Vitamin K is essential to blood clotting and bone health, vitamin A for eye health, vitamin C and magnesium for your cardiovascular system, and iron to prevent drowsiness.
Iron deficiency is fairly common, so the iron present in spinach is significant, and as an added plus, vitamin C assists in iron absorption, ensuring that all those nutrients directly benefit your health.
In addition to its astonishing richness of nutrients, spinach also has some profound health benefits. Firstly, it has perhaps the highest concentration of chlorophyll of any food; all green leafy vegetables have a significant amount of chlorophyll, and will benefit your health, but spinach is the best of the bunch.
In fact, spinach is so high in chlorophyll that it’s green colour masks the distinct orange colour of beta-carotene, found in large amounts in spinach.
But why is chlorophyll important? Well, in broad terms, it has a number of anti-cancer properties. To begin with, it may protect from a number of ‘genotoxic’ compounds (substances that damage the genetic information of a cell and may lead to mutations, and possibly cancer), meaning it protects from cancer-causing compounds.
Also, chlorophyll has a strong effect on tumour cell growth, and may be a powerful compound when it comes to cancer prevention. Studies on specific cancers are far from complete, but there is a suggestion that chlorophyll may reduce the risk of liver cancer.
In addition, studies on spinach have shown a reduced risk of breast cancer, although that study was examining the effects of vitamin A.
It has been touted as the superfood that everyone should be eating thanks to the high level of nutrients that spirulina is supposed to contain; so we’ve tracked down the science behind the claims to shed some light on this.
Boosts Vitamin A Levels. Vitamin A is necessary for good eye health, a properly functioning immune system and healthy skin. A team of researchers in China decided to investigate if spirulina had any effect on the levels of vitamin A stored by 218 primary school-aged children. They found that spirulina did significantly increase the levels of vitamin A in the groups of children who received it and the more spirulina they ingested, the higher their levels of vitamin A.
Anti-inflammatory Properties And Prevents Tumour Growth. One of the big claims relating to spirulina is its ability to inhibit tumour growth and a recent study has examined whether or not this is true. The research was carried out on mice, but the results are promising – it seems that dietary spirulina does have an effect on the growth of tumours caused by UVB radiation. It is thought that this is due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of the spirulina.
Another recent study confirmed that algae, like spirulina, did offer a natural source of anti-inflammatories.
Positive Effects On Cholesterol. In 2013, a team of scientists carried out research in to the hypolipidaemic effects of spirulina i.e. the ability to lower lipoproteins in the blood. Low-density lipoprotein is the “bad” cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein is the “good” cholesterol. Fifty-two test participants consumed 1g of spirulina a day for twelve weeks. The findings showed that “bad” cholesterol had been reduced by 10% and overall cholesterol levels had dropped by 8.9%.
Relieves Allergy Symptoms. Medication can barely cope with the consequences of allergens that live in the air and find their way into our nasal passages, upsetting the natural order of things; but it seems that spirulina may hold the answer! In 2008, a study was published that had examined the effectiveness of a number of natural products on relieving allergy symptoms.
The results showed that of all those tested, spirulina was the most effective at providing relief from symptoms such as congestion, sneezing and itching compared to the use of a placebo.
Improve Anaemia And Boost The Immune System. Health problems like anaemia and a poorly functioning immune system are generally the domain of the older generation, but they are problems that younger people should be aware of too. A study was published in 2011 that highlighted the effectiveness of spirulina in helping to combat these issues. It seems that regular ingestion of spirulina can help improve anaemia and its related symptoms, as well as give a much needed boost to the immune system.
Help Manage Diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that is quickly gaining momentum and affecting millions of people every year. Much is being done to help counteract the effects of diabetes and, in 2001, a study looked at the role spirulina could play in managing complications, namely blood sugar levels, in type 2 diabetic patients. The results found that spirulina was indeed effective at controlling blood sugar and keeping it in balance.
Winter squash, a broad term for many varieties of the gourd family (such as butternut squash), is a hearty and robust vegetable, perfect for dishes such as stews and casseroles.
A good source of complex carbohydrates, in addition to a fairly good nutritional profile, winter squash benefits from the presence of cucurbitacins that give it anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. A warming and comforting winter treat, winter squashes are great for ensuring you get the benefits of fresh, healthy vegetables all year round.
It has some nutritional benefits; 100g of raw winter squash contains 15% of your daily value of vitamin C, 12% DV of vitamin B6, 9% DV of vitamin A, and 7% DV of potassium. 100g of winter squash is not a vast amount by any means, and that 100g contains a mere 34 calories.
Deficiencies in these essential nutrients could lead to poor wound healing and tissue formation, poor immune response, poor long term eye health and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, so it’s important to make sure that you get the required amounts. Winter squash is a low-calorie and satisfying way of avoiding these deficiencies.
Winter squash is a potent anti-inflammatory, a potential defence against cancer, and may help to regulate blood sugar levels. Many of these health benefits come down to compounds found exclusively in gourd vegetables called cucurbitacins.
With proven anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting benefits, cucurbitacins are a powerful tool in the fight for your health. The anti-inflammatory benefits are significant, as the inflammatory response, while essential, can lead to a number of diseases if there is too much inflammation. Some of these, like rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis, are extremely serious, so anti-inflammatory foods are great for keeping your body in balance.
Also, the anti-cancer benefits of cucurbitacins should not be overlooked, specifically with regards to pancreatic cancer and lung cancer. It goes without saying that any food that reduces your risk of serious illness is a powerful tool for your health!
Winter squash also has one other major potential health benefit, and that is blood sugar regulation, which is of course especially important for anyone with diabetes.
A sweet and succulent summer fruit, the strawberry is one of the few examples where it is possible to honestly say that eating an extremely healthy diet can taste better than one high in sugars, salts, and saturated fats. Strawberries are an essential (and delicious) part of any diet that it is lacking in fresh fruit.
While strawberries taste great on their own, they can be eating as part of almost any dessert, or perhaps with some nuts as a healthy snack. Regardless of how you eat them, they are notable for their exceptional vitamin C levels, and the advantages they provide for your long term cardiovascular (and whole body) health.
Strawberries are extremely high in vitamin C: the USDA database entry states that 100g of strawberries contains just 33 calories, but a staggering 97% of your daily value of vitamin C, and 4% DV of potassium.
The high levels of vitamin C, and small amount of potassium are great for the strawberry’s reputation as a food that really benefits the cardiovascular system, but aside from this the main nutritional benefit of strawberries is simply their high levels of fresh water.
In addition to high levels of vitamin C, strawberries are great for the cardiovascular system in a multitude of other ways. Atherosclerosis is a disease characterised by the build-up of plaque on the walls of the arteries, and it can lead to strokes and heart attacks. Strawberries are excellent at managing a number of the risk factors of atherosclerosis, in particular high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal levels of fat in the bloodstream, and inflammation.
On a more direct level, strawberries are excellent at managing the risk factors of cardiovascular disease in people who are already obese, and thus already at a very high risk of cardiovascular diseases. That study found that simply giving overweight people freeze dried strawberries lowered fat levels in the blood, and reduced the markers of inflammation; quite an achievement!
Finally, strawberries also have potent anti-cancer properties, likely because of their long list of antioxidant phytonutrients: there are a couple of anthocyanins present (compounds such as those in the purple sweet potatoes that give foods their bright colours), but also a whole list of antioxidant flavonols, including kaempferol and quercetin.
The anti-cancer properties of strawberries are yet to be fully researched, but we do know, for example, that strawberries do prevent the proliferation of cancer in a number of cases. Specific examples studied include cervical and breast cancer.
Their flowers are big, bright and cheery and their seeds are delicious roasted, now sunflowers have been scientifically proven to be good for your health – at least, their seeds have. They are a good source of healthy fats and minerals that also serve as a brilliant snack or addition to many recipes.
Can Prevent Diseases From Getting Worse. Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are factors that encourage degenerative diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and chronic renal disease to develop complications and worsen over time. Much research has been conducted to determine how these AGEs can be slowed down or stopped altogether and a study, published in 2012, seems to have found a promising answer.
The researchers looked at four edible sprouts and found that sunflower seed sprouts were the most effective at inhibiting the activity of AGEs by up to 83.3% – a higher percentage than that of the leading antiglycative drug aminoguanidine, which has an inhibitory effect of 80.9%.
Packed Full Of Disease Fighting Antioxidants. We all know that antioxidants are good for maintaining a strong, healthy body – they seek out and destroy damaging free radicals, thus helping to prevent cell damage which can evolve into serious diseases like cancer; but we have to maintain a healthy diet in order to keep our levels of antioxidants topped up.
In 2009, research examined the antioxidant capacity of striped sunflower seeds and found that their antioxidant capacity accounts for up to 65% of the overall seed. The researchers have concluded that regular consumption of sunflower seeds could easily prevent the development of diseases like cancer.
Reduce Cholesterol Levels Caused By Diabetes. In 2012, a team of researchers conducted a trial in which they supplemented the diets of twenty-two postmenopausal women, suffering with type 2 diabetes, with either almonds or sunflower kernels/seeds. The women consumed 30g a day for three weeks, stopped for four weeks and then continued for a further three weeks.
The results showed that for both almonds and sunflower kernels the women experienced a drastic reduction in their overall cholesterol levels, as well as their “bad” cholesterol levels.
The sweet potato is a starchy, sweet tasting source of complex carbohydrates and a common root vegetable. While they are fantastic on their own roasted or mashed, sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into a wide variety of dishes: in fact, they are a staple part of some African cuisines and are also common across Southeast Asia.
The benefits of sweet potato include possibly unparalleled levels of beta-carotene, blood sugar regulation, and a powerful antioxidant benefit.
Nutritionally, the sweet potato is only really exceptional when it comes to beta-carotene, the carotenoid that gives it its orange colour, although it also has decent amounts of vitamin B6. 100g of sweet potato has 86 calories, but a huge 283% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin A equivalent, most of which is in the form of beta-carotene.
Not only is vitamin A great for eye health, but beta-carotene itself has been linked to a lower risk of getting certain cancers, specifically prostate cancer and colon cancer. In addition, sweet potato contains 12% DV of dietary fibre, 10% of vitamin B6, and 9% DV of potassium; micronutrients essential for digestive, immune and cardiovascular health, respectively.
Sweet potatoes have a lot to offer in terms of other advantages to your long-term health. Firstly, they may have benefits for the regulation of blood sugar (and, by extension, diabetes management). It is significant that, not only are sweet potatoes lower on the glycemic index than most starchy foods (the glycemic index is an indicator of how much a certain food will affect someone’s blood glucose), but that they also have benefits for the maintenance of blood sugar, making this an especially good source of carbohydrates for those with type 2 diabetes or the associated risk factors of type 2 diabetes (obesity, poor diet and so on).
While all sweet potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates, there is one variety of sweet potato now being studied for some astonishing health benefits.
The purple-fleshed sweet potato is being studied for its antioxidant properties, and its possible benefits for protecting the brain and the liver from environmental damage.
Firstly, the purple sweet potato has been proven to counteract some of the free radical damaged caused by a high cholesterol diet because of its strong antioxidant properties.
Secondly, it has been shown to protect the brain from environmental damage, and third, there is strong evidence that it may protect the liver from a number of (1, 2, 3) toxic compounds; meaning that purple sweet potato has strong protective effects on your body.
Swiss chard (also known simply as chard), is a leafy green vegetable belonging to the same family as spinach and beetroot. While that’s quite some company to keep in a nutritional sense, Swiss chard more than rises to the challenge with an astounding nutritional profile and possible health applications for diabetes.
Swiss chard is a fantastic salad vegetable, but is also great sautéed or baked, and can really take the culinary place of similar foods like spinach, collard greens, and so on. With an impressive line-up of micronutrients and phytonutrients, it has fantastic benefits for cardiovascular health in particular, and also things like preventing free radical damage and reducing inflammation.
Swiss chard is one of the few foods up there with powerhouses like spinach and kale in terms of the amount of nutrients provided per calorie. According to the USDA database, 100g has just 19 calories, less than 1% of your daily value (DV). But 100g of Swiss chard provides 409% DV of vitamin K, 122% DV of vitamin A, and 50% DV of vitamin C.
Like many green leafy vegetables, Swiss chard is high in those three nutrients. But what sets it apart somewhat is the fact that 100g contains 20 % DV of magnesium, and 10% DV of potassium: both minerals with proven long-term and short-term cardiovascular benefits that many people are deficient in. Swiss chard is somewhat overlooked in this regard, but entirely deserves to be considered a ‘health food’ on a par with kale and spinach.
Aside from its standout nutritional profile, Swiss chard has two significant possible health applications. First, it has a wealth of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients with broad health benefit, and second, it may a powerful weapon in the management of diabetes.
Swiss chard has a number of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, like beta carotene (associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers), lutein and zeaxanthin (important for eye health), quercetin and kaempferol (which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties – see onion and leek).
Secondly, Swiss chard has great potential when it comes to the management of type-2 diabetes. Three studies done on rats with induced diabetes demonstrate three of the mechanisms by which it operates.
First, Swiss chard helped to lower the blood sugar of the rats, an essential part of diabetes management and also important for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Second, Swiss chard has been shown to have a protective effect on the liver, important for ensuring toxins are removed from the body.
Finally, it has been demonstrated Swiss chard has a protective effect on the kidneys.
Tangerines are part of the citrus family and are specifically related to fruits like satsumas and clementines, they are also rich in a flavonoid called nobiletin which is thought to have a number of scientifically proven health benefits.
Helps Prevent Blood Clots And Fat Build Up. Atherosclerosis occurs when the arteries become clogged up with fatty substances known as plaque. This leads to hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which in turn can cause blood clots to form and result in cardiovascular problems, stroke and restricted blood flow.
In 2005, a study was published that looked at how different flavonoids from citrus fruits impacted the ability of plaque to form in the arteries; the scientists also looked at the effects on LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol concentrations in the blood.
The findings showed that nobiletin significantly affected the ability of plaque to form on the walls of the arteries, thus preventing blood clots from forming. It was also found that nobiletin was able to reduce the concentrations of cholesterol in the blood.
Reduce Risk Of Premature Birth
Premature births are often the result of infections which activate inflammation, which then results in a cascade of issues that ultimately lead to premature contractions and then birth. It has recently been discovered that nobiletin may have a significant impact on the overall health of mothers during pregnancy, as well as helping to reduce the risk of complications during birth, largely thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Help Repair Damage Caused By Some Anti-Cancer Drugs. In this study, scientists examined how nobiletin would affect the damage caused to the kidneys of rats that had been injected with the anti-cancer drug cisplatin. They found that nobiletin had a positive effect and helped to prevent damage to the kidney cells; it is thought that this is because nobiletin possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-apoptotic effects. Research on human subjects needs to be done to further investigate this, but the initial findings are promising.
Could Help Fight Ovarian Cancer. The purpose of a recent study was to determine the effect, if any, of nobiletin on the growth of ovarian cancer cells; this is an important field because ovarian cancer is still very difficult to manage and prevention is almost impossible. The team conducting the research discovered, however, that nobiletin may well have anti-angiogenic properties – this means that it can prevent the flow of blood and oxygen to cancer cells, in turn killing them off – and further research needs to be done to thoroughly investigate this.
Help Fight Obesity And Improve Insulin Resistance. A study of obese mice examined how treatment with nobiletin would affect their weight, insulin resistance and any related issues. Some of the mice received no nobiletin, whilst the others were divided into groups that received either 10mg/kg or 100mg/kg.
Results showed that the mice that received nobiletin not only lost weight, but they experienced a reduction in triglycerides and glucose in the blood; in fact glucose tolerance was greatly improved. The conclusion drawn is that nobiletin has a positive effect when it comes to fighting obesity and improving insulin resistance.
This strong-smelling, woody herb may seem a little alien to many people, often lounging around in the back of the cupboard because we’re not quite sure what to do with it. Thyme, however, is an awesome, often undervalued herb that not only makes food taste great, but has a number of scientifically proven health benefits to boot!
Clear Up Acne. According to research carried out by Kimberley Sanderson at Leeds Metropolitan University, a tincture made from thyme can help to clear up acne far better than prescription creams or facial wash can. A number of tinctures were made using different plants, all of which were found to be effective at killing the bacteria that causes acne, but the most effective by far was the thyme tincture.
Can Help Clear Up Infection. In 2012, a study that had examined the effects of thyme essential oils on a number of bacterial strains. The researchers extracted bacteria from participants who had infections in their mouth, stomach, respiratory and urinary tracts, skin and from the hospital environment in which they were staying.
The team found that thyme essential oil significantly prevented the growth of all the bacterial strains tested, which suggests that thyme is an excellent natural antimicrobial that could be used in place of artificially engineered pharmaceuticals.
Lower Blood Pressure. Six essential oils, including thyme, were examined by researchers to determine their chemical composition, as well as their propensity to reduce hypertensive – blood pressure – activity in rat aortas. It was found that the higher the level of antioxidants the plant oils had, the better their anti-hypertensive abilities. The results showed that the thyme oil was one of the best at reducing hypertensive activity, with bay laurel being the other.
Boost Your Mood. A 2013 study has examined how carvacrol, which is found in thyme essential oil, affects the levels of the feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin in the brains of rats. The results showed that regular consumption of low levels of carvacrol could boost moods and effect a feeling of well-being.
Tilapia refers to nearly one-hundred species of white fish, and is one of the most farmed fish in the world. While this means that cooking tilapia is easy whatever kind of food you like (whether that’s Thai food or fish and chips), tilapia are also subjected to some pretty terrible farming procedures, so try and buy quality where you can. With astonishingly high levels of lean protein, tilapia is an ideal food for those looking to lose weight the healthy way.
Nutritionally, tilapia is most significant for one thing: the huge amount of lean protein available for extremely few calories. 100g of cooked tilapia contains 129 calories, but also provides 52% of your Daily Value (DV) of protein. That’s a huge amount! On top of that, tilapia also contains a number of extremely important nutrients: 37% DV of vitamin D, 31% DV of B12, and 10% DV of potassium. All are completely essential, and adequate intake will help with everything from cognitive ability to bone formation. However, tilapia does also contain a lot of cholesterol (19% DV per 100g cooked), so those with pre-existing heart problems may want to avoid it.
Recently, tilapia has come in for something of a bad press: the main issue being its bad ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Sensationally claimed to worse for you than bacon, the main accusation against tilapia (low amounts of omega 3 to omega 6) is not incorrect, it’s just nonsensical.
As we know, a high omega 6 to 3 ratio increases your risk of depression and inflammatory disorders, but the problem with this is that tilapia includes very little of either of these two fats! Tilapia contains about 2g of fat total per 100g, and only around 300mg of omega 3 and 600-900mg of omega 6, which, frankly, is extremely little. Eating some salmon will get your balance back to healthy levels in no time!
On top of that, while it is important to talk about healthy fats, there is a significant benefit to being a high-protein, low fat food. High amounts of protein increase satiety and may aid weight loss. In addition to helping weight loss, high-protein foods like tilapia are essential for any sporting endeavour where you need to maintain muscle at a low body fat percentage, be that bodybuilding or combat sports.
Tomatoes are perhaps best known as a staple of Italian cuisine and as a base for sauces, but this fruit (considered a vegetable for most culinary uses), is useful not only as a bases for stocks, soups and sauces, but is also excellent in salads, stuffed with quinoa, or even just as part of a fried breakfast.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of a whole range of nutritional benefits, but it is their high antioxidant content and the presence of the cancer-fighting carotenoid lycopene that really sets this food apart.
Nutritionally, tomatoes are fairly solid in terms of per-calorie nutrient density. 1 large tomato (182g) contains 32 calories but for that, you receive 41% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, 30% DV of vitamin A, 12% DV of potassium and 8% DV of fibre.
The vitamin C and the potassium present in tomatoes are both proven to increase your cardiovascular health long-term in the right amounts, and the large amounts of vitamin A are excellent for eye health maintenance. Fibre, of course, is essential for digestion. While fibre appears regularly in large amounts on this list, it is important to remember that a huge number of people have digestive problems simply because their diets lack fibre.
Aside from their nutritional benefits, tomatoes really excel when it comes to two things: their cardiovascular benefits and the presence of the potent cancer-fighting phytochemical lycopene.
Firstly, tomatoes are a fantastic benefit to your long term cardiovascular health. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits mentioned above due to the presence of vitamin C and potassium, tomatoes, as this review notes, fight cardiovascular disease (the biggest killer in the western world) in a number of distinct ways.
These include high levels of antioxidants, the reduction of blood pressure, and the reduction of homocysteine levels (high homocysteine levels are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease).
In addition, tomatoes have been proven to decrease LDL cholesterol (known as ‘bad’ cholesterol), another major risk factor, and platelet aggregation, which may lead to atherosclerosis (the formation of plaque that blocks the arteries).
Secondly, tomatoes are extremely high in lycopene, a carotenoid with a proven effect on your risk of prostate cancer. Studies on lycopene and prostate cancer have repeatedly shown an association between higher levels of lycopene and a lower risk of prostate cancer.
It seems that a reduction in DNA damage may be part of this effect, but regardless, even when compared with other carotenoids the link between eating large amounts of tomatoes and a lower incidence of prostate cancer seems to stick.
Tuna is a staple in many households, often in the canned variety, and it’s not hard to see why – it is versatile, delicious and an excellent source of protein. This yummy fish also boasts some wonderfulbenefits that have been scientifically proven to be beneficial to your health.
Good For Heart Health. The debate over the health benefits of canned tuna has received new evidence to support the idea that canned tuna can be just as healthy as fresh, thanks to this study carried out in Italy that compared the lipid profiles of different types of canned fish. They found that out of all the samples tested, canned bluefin tuna contained the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
This is important because omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important for maintaining good heart health. The researchers concluded that the canned bluefin tuna could play a pivotal role as a dietary inhibitor of cardiovascular disease.
Helps Fight Obesity. Researchers from Pukyong University, in the Republic of Korea, have been studying the role that tuna plays in maintaining a healthy weight. They have recently published their results which has confirmed that tuna contains a peptide that prevents the process that turns certain cells into fat cells. The peptide does this by inhibiting certain proteins from communicating with each other, thus preventing a chain of events that results in fat cells being created.
Prevent The Risk Of Stroke And Brain Abnormalities. In 2011, a study was published that examined how eating a diet rich in fish, including tuna, would affect the risk of experiencing ischemic stroke – which is a stroke caused in the brain thanks to the blockage of an artery in the brain.
The researchers found that those who ate fish at least five times a week had the greatest reduction in the risk of experiencing an ischemic stroke, by as much as 31%, although eating fish just once a week also had a significant impact.
Interestingly, the study also showed that when elderly participants consumed moderate levels of fish each week, they were less likely to show abnormalities on MRI scans. It was noted, however, that fried fish did not contribute to these results, perhaps because frying the fish damages much of the nutrient content.
Turkey is a food generally eaten once a year in the US and UK, at either Thanksgiving or Christmas, which is then promptly forgotten about. But turkey is interesting for more reasons than its annual appearance on some family tables. Turkey is a fantastic lean protein source, being even better than chicken breast in that regard, and is ideal for anyone following high-protein diets for whatever reason (an example would be cutting weight for a sporting competition). In addition, turkey boasts a wide variety of essential nutrients, and unlike both red meat and processed foods (other great protein sources), has no association with serious disease.
100g of raw ground turkey contains 148 calories, and 19.5g of protein. Or, put it another way, 7% of your Daily Value (DV) of calories, for 39% of your DV of protein. To say that turkey is a great protein source is obvious; but what about the rest of the nutrition present? Well, turkey contains 28% DV of vitamin B6, 17% DV of vitamin B12, 16% DV of Zinc, 7% DV of potassium, and 6% DV of magnesium.
With all of these nutrients playing a variety of roles in the body, it is of course extremely important that you get these essential minerals. To give a brief example, zinc is involved in cell division, which means deficiencies can affect the immune system, cardiovascular health, mood, sleep, athletic performance, and fertility. And that’s just one mineral! Any food where you can get high amounts of nutrition for minimal calories is an excellent find.
Interestingly, as with chicken, turkey is often eaten in large quantities because of the association of red meat with health problems. Observational studies show a link between red meat intake and cancer: colorectal and breast cancer, for example.
However, studies on white vs red meat have been far from conclusive, and one study found an association between processed foods and higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but crucially, found no such link with red meat, implying that it is in fact processed food that may really be the thing to avoid. Regardless of viewpoint is true, the take-home message is that organic, unprocessed and lean turkey is a fantastically healthy food.
This bright yellow spice is used in a number of Asian dishes and adds a wonderful slightly gingery flavour. It has also been used for centuries in folk medicine and now we will take a look at the science that proves the effectiveness of this humble spice in the prevention and treatment of a number of ailments.
Prevent Inflammation Of The Endothelium. The endothelium is what lines the inside of blood vessels and circulatory system – if it becomes inflamed anywhere within the circulatory system it can cause a number of cardiovascular related problems including stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure. Research has looked at the effect turmeric has on inflammation of endothelial cells, which are the cells that live inside the endothelium layer.
The findings suggest that turmeric oil may help to reduce the occurrence of endothelial cell inflammation, which in turn will help prevent related diseases such as those mentioned above. The study was conducted on rats, so human trials are necessary to confirm the relevance to human endothelial cells, but the results are promising.
Prevent Heart Attacks. A recent study followed the occurrence of heart attacks in 121 participants, pre and post-bypass surgery, who had either taken capsules containing curcumin – a compound found in turmeric – or a placebo. The volunteers were asked to take the capsules from three days before their surgery right through until five days afterwards. The results showed that the test group who had taken the curcumin capsules only experienced a 13% likelihood of heart attack, compared to the placebo group whose risk increased to 30%
Reverse The Risk Of Developing Full-Blown Type 2 Diabetes. It may seem impossible for a person who is classed as having pre-diabetes to be able to reverse the risk of it developing into full-blown type 2 diabetes, but it is possible thanks to turmeric! In 2012, a group of researchers took 240 volunteers and divided them into two groups. Over a nine month period, one group received a curcumin supplement and the other group received a placebo.
At the end of the trial, 16.4% of the placebo group had developed type 2 diabetes, but no-one in the curcumin group developed the disease; thus supporting the idea that turmeric, which contains curcumin, is effective at reversing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in a pre-diabetic person.
Encourages The Brain To Repair Itself. Turmeric also contains something called aromatic-turmerone which has now been found to encourage the stem cells in the brain to repair themselves, according to a recent study carried out by Hucklenbroich et al. The findings are incredibly exciting and further investigation into how aromatic-turmerone can encourage repair in relation to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s needs to be done.
Turnips are an incredibly versatile food with a lot of goodness to give. A brassica, the turnip is found across Europe, Asia and the world. Because we have both the turnip itself, and the turnip green, the turnip plant is a very versatile plant to cook with, being used in a variety of cultures from the USA to Brazil. The turnip has fantastic benefits for bone, eye, cardiovascular and digestive health, and is a great food to start eating.
When it comes to nutrition, turnips really have the best of both worlds. Not only do we have the root vegetable, but we also have the leaves of the plant to consider (‘turnip greens’). To deal with turnips first, the USDA database states that 100g of the root vegetable contains 35% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C, for just 26 kcal.
Turnip greens have a nutritional breakdown more familiar to the brassica family: 100g of boiled turnip greens contains 314% DV of vitamin K, 45% DV of vitamin C, and 152% DV of vitamin A equivalent.
As seen in the arugula, broccoli and carrot sections respectively, these three nutrients will ensure bone health and blood clotting (K), connective tissue and cardiovascular health (C), and long-term eye maintenance (A).
100g of turnip greens also contains 14% DV of dietary fibre. This is a significant amount of dietary fibre, with a host of benefits: improved colon health, and lowering cholesterol (by binding with bile acids).
Turnip’s positive effects on the digestive tract are furthered by the sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables, which may stop excess growth of Heliobacter pylori, a bacteria that can lead to a multitude of gastric problems, potentially even stomach cancer.
Of course, the brassicas have been confirmed as having positive effects on fighting and preventing a number of cancers.
Finally, turnip greens are very high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids with a great benefit to eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to protect against two of the most common eye disorders, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Between turnip’s benefits for the eyes (lutein, zeaxanthin and Vitamin A), the cardiovascular system (vitamin C and the cholesterol-lowering properties of fibre), digestion (fibre and sulforaphane) and blood and bone health (vitamin K), what excuses have you got not to try out a turnip or two?
Walnuts are a species of tree nut remarkable for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and excellent benefits for cardiovascular disease. Walnuts can be eaten raw, pickled, or even in nut butter form, and can be made into walnut oil. These different forms give it a whole range of application: walnut oil can be used as salad dressing, whole walnuts can be used in baking, and nut butter is useful as a spread. High in omega-3s, protein and essential nutrients, and with excellent benefits for cardiovascular disease, walnuts are fantastic for your health.
Nutritionally, walnut is somewhat typical for a nut, in that is high calorie, but also high in protein, healthy fats and essential nutrients. 100g of walnuts contain 654 calories, but that comes with 30% of your Daily Value (DV) of protein and 28% DV of fibre. On top of that, 100g of walnuts contains 39% DV of magnesium, 25% DV of B6, 16% DV of iron, 12% DV of potassium, and 9% DV of calcium. While the amounts of these minerals actually vary substantially between varieties of walnuts, what is significant is that these essential minerals some in high enough amounts to do some real good.
Beyond this, walnuts are also fantastic nutritionally because of their extremely high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. One list puts walnuts second in terms of amounts of omega 3 per serving (second only to flaxseed). Omega 3s lower blood pressure, help prevent breast cancer, delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration, prevent the shortening of telomeres, associated with age-related diseases and early mortality, and help preventneurodegenerative diseases. Diets with a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio may even run the risk of depression and inflammatory disorders. In addition, the specific form of omega 3 present in walnuts (ALA), has been shown to reduce cholesterol.
Finally, walnuts are fantastic when it comes to fighting off cardiovascular disease (the developed world’s leading cause of mortality). Firstly, the walnut has been proven to reduce some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including decreases in total cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and triglycerides, in addition to improving the ratio of LDL TO HDL cholesterol. On top of that, walnuts have been shown to improve endothelial function (endothelial cells coat the inside of the entire cardiovascular system. Further, walnuts have been shown to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which can lead to tissue damage because of the free radicals. Finally, it has been shown that walnuts improve the LDL to HDL cholesterol levels in those with Type 2 Diabetes.
Watercress is an aquatic plant native to Europe and Asia, and a member of the brassica family. A peppery salad leaf often compared to arugula in a culinary sense, watercress is a tasty addition to far more than just salads; stir fries, soups and egg dishes also go great with this fiery leaf.
Watercress is a ‘typical’ brassica; in that it has large amounts of unique and potent anti-cancer compounds, carotenoids that promote eye health, and a ridiculously high nutritional density.
Watercress is, like many brassicas, rather predictable nutritionally (those of you who have read about broccoli or bok choy will probably know what’s coming); high levels of vitamins K, C, and A predominate here.
100g of watercress contains 238% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, 52% DV of vitamin C, and 20% DV of vitamin A equivalent.
As the arugula, broccoli and carrot sections respectively explain, these three nutrients will ensure bone health and blood clotting (K), connective tissue and cardiovascular health (C), and long-term eye maintenance (A). All of which is a great reason to eat your green vegetables!
In addition, watercress has substantial amounts of calcium (12% DV per 100g), which, together with the effects of vitamin K, make for strong, healthy bones. Watercress also contains 10% DV per 100g of vitamin B6, a vitamin important for a vast range of processes, like creating the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which act in neural pathways and help to regulate mood among other things.
Finally, watercress benefits from two of the main positive effects of brassicas generally: cancer prevention and eye health.
Despite the conventional belief that watermelon is nothing more than water and sugar, you might be surprised to discover that it is actually classed as a nutrient dense food. The longer you leave it to ripen, the richer it becomes in these valuable vitamins and minerals.
Reduces Blood Pressure. Watermelon contains an amino acid and antioxidant called citrulline, which is thought to have some incredibly beneficial effects on the body, particularly the cardiovascular system. Scientists examined how taking a watermelon supplement affected blood pressure in thirteen obese adults. Half of them were given the supplement, the other half received a placebo.
After six weeks, the results showed that the watermelon supplement had decreased aortic blood pressure. This study shows that eating watermelon has a significant impact on reducing blood pressure, particularly in obese adults.
Relieve Post-Workout Muscle Soreness. It is also believed that citrulline can help relieve muscle soreness post-workout. A team of researchers led by Tarazona-Diaz recently discovered that this is indeed the case.
They gave seven athletes 500ml of watermelon juice, either naturally produced, enriched with extra citrulline or a placebo. Obviously the placebo had no effect, but both of the watermelon juices proved to have decreased the level of muscle soreness 24 hours after the workout, plus they also helped to reduce the recovery heart rate time.
Beneficial To Overall Heart Health. A very recent study has looked at how consumption of watermelon affects overall heart health in rats – namely lipid levels in the blood, cholesterol, inflammation and antioxidant capacity. They divided forty rats into four groups, based upon the diet and treatment they were to receive.
The groups that consumed the watermelon-rich diets experienced far lower levels of total cholesterol, as well as “bad” cholesterol and lipids in the blood; oxidative stress, which is damage to cells, was greatly reduced as well. The rats in the watermelon groups also had a greater antioxidant capacity than the placebo groups – this means that the watermelon provides a high level of antioxidants to fight against and remove harmful free radicals in the blood stream.
It is clear that watermelon is beneficial to overall heart health, although studies like this need more human trials to determine exactly how consumption of this juicy fruit affects our heart health.
May Help Prevent Lung Cancer. A study of more than 60,000 Chinese men was carried out recently to determine the effects their diets had on their likelihood of developing lung cancer. The researchers examined this likelihood by using food questionnaires and controlling for certain variables.
They followed the participants for a few years afterwards and found that 359 men had developed lung cancer during the first year, 68.8% of them were smokers. The results of the food questionnaires and the follow-up did find that those who had diets rich in leafy, green vegetables, watermelon and vegetables rich in beta carotene and vitamin A were less likely to develop lung cancer.
Almost everyone enjoys a delicious, creamy yogurt: be it low-fat, fruit yogurt, extravagantly thick and rich Greek yogurt, or something in between, these healthy foods are incredibly nutritious and full of calcium, protein and a number of nutrients that are beneficial to our health.
Help Lose And Maintain A Healthy Weight. The diets and lifestyles of more than 120,000 otherwise healthy and non-obese men and women from the United States were followed for around twenty years, from 1986 to 2006, with the follow-up periods being about four years apart. The purpose of the study was to determine whether or not the adage of “eat less and exercise more” was really as simple as it sounds when losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.
The results showed that crisps, potatoes, sugar-laden drinks, red meat and processed meat were the largest contributing factors to weight gain; fruits, vegetables, nuts, wholegrains and yogurt helped people to lose or maintain a healthy weight. According to the research, yogurt had the greatest impact on weight loss, accounting for around 0.82lb less weight than the other foods.
Can Lower Blood Pressure. This study examined the antihypertensive, or blood pressure reducing, effects of yogurt on hypertensive rats. The rats were divided into groups depending on the diet they would receive, which would be either just skimmed milk; skimmed milk supplemented with freeze-dried, low-fat yogurt; or just freeze-dried, low-fat yogurt.
The results showed that the reduction in blood pressure was greatest in the rats that were fed the diets containing yogurt. For the milk/yogurt diet, systolic blood pressure was reduced by 3.7%, whilst diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 30%; in the yogurt diet, systolic blood pressure was reduced by 2.7% and diastolic blood pressure by 44%! Interestingly, the rats fed diets containing yogurt also experienced less weight gain than those consuming just milk.
Probiotic Yogurt Can Lower Cholesterol. A group of sixty type 2 diabetic men and women were divided into groups that either consumed 300g of a probiotic yogurt or 300g of regular yogurt every day, for six weeks. The results showed that the participants who consumed the probiotic yogurt experienced a reduction of 4.5% in overall cholesterol and 7.4% in “bad” cholesterol, when compared to those who had eaten the regular yogurt.
Can Allow Lactose Digestion In Lactose Intolerant People
Numerous studies have examined how yogurt is digested in the stomach and particularly how lactose is digested. Lactose intolerant people are generally unable to digest the sugar that lactose contains and often experience uncomfortable side effects such as bloating and diarrhea.
A recent review of the different studies into yogurts and lactose digestion has come to the conclusion that bacteria that is found in yogurt somehow protects the lactose, thus allowing it to be more easily digested to a degree that means that lactose intolerant people should not suffer the effects associated with their condition. The review also found that whilst both flavoured and plain yogurts had this lactose digesting effect, plain yogurt provided the greatest level of lactose digestion.
Zucchini, otherwise known as courgette, is a member of the marrow family, ranging in colour from yellow to green and has a tasty, if inoffensive taste. This understated vegetable, known by the scientific name cucurbita pepo, has a surprising range of scientifically proven benefits.
Has Protective Effects Against Diabetes. Diabetes not only affects blood sugar levels in sufferers, it can also cause problems such as increasing blood pressure and the levels of lipids and cholesterol in the blood stream; these in turn can lead to cardiovascular problems. According to a study carried out in 2010, the peel of zucchini offers some incredible protective benefits against the complications associated with diabetes.
Researchers fed the rats one of the following: zucchini peel, cucumber peel or gourd peel; then they induced diabetes in the rats and continued to feed them the peel for five days afterwards. The results showed that all of the peels had a positive effect in drastically reducing the complications associated with the induced diabetes, such as blood glucose, insulin levels, “bad” cholesterol and lipids in the blood, but zucchini peel was the most effective.
Inhibit Cancer Growth And Inflammation. Cucurbits are a family of vegetables in which common foods like zucchini, pumpkin and squash belong. A recent study has examined their propensity to prevent cancers from growing, as well as their anti-inflammatory properties. The research was conducted on colon cancer cells using extracts from bottle gourd, zucchini and Egyptian cucumber.
The results showed that the extracts reduced the viability of the colon cancer cells significantly, thus inhibiting the growth of the cancer. The experiment also revealed that the vegetables excreted interleukin 8, which is important as an anti-inflammatory and therefore proves that zucchini has anti-inflammatory properties.
Could Help Protect Against Neurotoxicity. Neurotoxicity is essentially what causes brain damage thanks to natural or artificial stimuli. A new study has examined how extracts from zucchini might protect the brain from artificially induced neurotoxicity. The experiment was carried out using rats, and further research needs to be done using human participants, but the initial findings are promising.
The rats that received treatment using zucchini peel extract experienced protective qualities and a reduction in the symptoms of brain damage caused by neurotoxicity. It is thought that this protective effect is caused by antioxidants in the zucchini peel.