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.