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 Although in recent years it may have been replaced by kale as the ‘healthiest’ of the leafy greens, spinach has its own distinct benefits and its own distinct taste.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.