Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Super Foods: What They Are and How They Work

Imagine a super food--not a drug--powerful enough to help lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, cancers, anti-inflammatory and as an added bonus--helps improve mood. A.E. Finley YMCA’s Registered Dietician Sarah Schroeder offers some great advice.

I tell my clients to choose foods that work for them and with them. Choose foods you consume them on a regular basis that will help control or lower your risk for heart disease, cancers, osteoporosis, Type II diabetes and hypertension.


Choosing these foods on a regular basis may impact the above health conditions. And unlike any prescription pill, there is no long list of side effects. So it’s a win-win for you and your body!

Here’s my list of Super Foods in no particular order. I have tried to add the benefits or the key super nutrient in each food.

Avocados: High in monounsaturated fats Omega 3’s, high fiber, high in potassium.

Beets: Nature’s multi-vitamin. Beets provide a greater range of nutrients ounce for ounce than virtually any other fruit or vegetable on the planet. High in antioxidants (found in the deep red pigment), beets also help lower blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risks and aid in cleansing the body of harmful chemicals of processed foods, such as nitrates.

Photo Source: About.com
Berries: Forget the high priced acai, we have an abundance of berries right here in our back yard. High in antioxidants, it’s best to eat a variety because one doesn’t contain all you need.
Strawberries - Vitamin K
Raspberries - Vitamin C
Blueberries - Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids high in K and Vitamin C, and high in fiber, also an anti-inflammatory.
Blackberries - Vitamin E

Cabbage and cruciferous veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Cabbage is the best. Cabbage reduces risk of certain cancers including breast, stomach, lung and prostate. Helps reduce heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, Alzheimer’s and protects joints and risk of osteoarthritis. High in Vitamin A, C, and K.

Fish: The best choices are fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids and low in contaminants. Generally these are cold water fish. Salmon, halibut, rainbow trout, herring, sardine, and mackerel. Avoid tilapia (if you have high cholesterol) because it’s very high in Omega 5 fatty acid (the bad oil). Fish lowers blood pressure and reduces inflammation. The oil in fish itself nourishes the brain and can slow the mental decline associated with aging. Packed with Calcium, Vitamin K and Omega 3’s.

Tomatoes: High in lycopene. Regular consumption of tomato products can reduce risk of cancer and heart disease. Cooking enhances the benefits and makes them more easily absorbed.

Spinach: Consider this kryptonite to cancer cells. Spinach is filled with anti-oxidants, equivalent to 2-3 servings of a vegetable and scores high in the USDA measure of foods able to rid the body of free radicals.

Lentils: A near perfect food, when mixed with rice, they form a complete protein. No cholesterol, high in soluble and insoluble fibers that help manage blood sugars, lower cholesterol and aid in digestion. All beans are high in fiber.

Photo Source: EveryJoe.com
Nuts: Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts may be your best choices. These are full of heart-healthy fats which boost good cholesterol. Regular nut consumption actually makes people less likely to gain weight. Pistachio is the lowest in calories of the nut family.

Chia and flax seeds: High in Omega 3’s, reduce inflammation and help fight off effects of aging. Chia seeds are hydrophilic or hold 10 times their water weight. High in antioxidants.

Quinoa (keen-wah):  This grain comes closest to supplying all essential life-sustaining nutrients than any other food on the planet. Very high in fiber, protein and minerals and very low in calories and fat.

Soy: Tofu, soy milk, or edamame. Tofu takes on the flavor of marinades. High in calcium, protein, and low in fat.

Tea: Green or black, tea equals antioxidant power and it’s 0 calories unless it’s sweet tea.

Calcium: Recommended ~1000-1200 mg daily. Your brain and heart receives the first priority of calcium received and then your bones get what is left over. You can never make up for lack of calcium intake for a day prior. You must consume the amount above daily. I will focus on Calcium in one of my future articles since it is such an important mineral that all of us need daily.

Photo Source: sciencedaily.com
Dark chocolate: Packed with antioxidants, lowers blood pressure, 60% or higher cocoa content. Results in lower rates of: obesity, breast cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes and has some weight loss benefits.


Soluble fiber: Keeps cholesterol levels in check, lowers risk of heart disease, blood sugar regulation. Examples: grain and cereal foods, i.e., oatmeal, barley, rice, corn, beets, carrots, avocados, bananas, applesauce, nuts. Think of “gummy” and absorbs water.

Insoluble fiber: Passes through the body very quickly, does not absorb water. Examples: leafy greens, whole grains, celery, seeds and nuts, fruit skins.

Antioxidants: Fight off free radicals that attack the body’s cells that lead to aging and fight heart disease and cancer.


Dark leafy greens
Green or black tea
Whole grains

3x Per Week
Cauliflower and broccoli
Sweet potato
Oily fish

Reduce Intake
Red meat
White starch
Sodas and diet products

About Sarah: Sarah is a Registered Dietitian at the A.E. Finley YMCA. Sarah leads the Y Weigh weight loss class, nutrition seminars for marathon trainers, participates in health fairs and offers private consultations. Her expertise lies in weight loss, women and nutrition, osteoporosis, cholesterol and heart disease and, most importantly, healthy eating for you and your family.

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