In his best-selling book, SuperFoodsRx: 14 Foods That Will Change Your Life, and the follow-up bestseller, SuperFoodsRx: HealthStyle, Dr. Steven Pratt lays out the science behind the SuperFoods and identifies 25 foods plus their “sidekicks” – generally in the same category as the flagship SuperFood and offer a similar nutrient profile. The most important thing for everyone to know is that SuperFoods are easy to find in every local supermarket. They’re worth looking for!
These nutritional powerhouse foods are loaded with nutrients crucial to a healthy, long life. If you can include a variety of them in your diet everyday, they can change your life!
These foods were chosen because they contain high concentrations of crucial nutrients, as well as the fact that many of them are low in calories. Foods containing these nutrients have been proven to help prevent and, in some cases, reverse the well-known effects of aging, including cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers.
Packed with nutrition, the germ or “heart” of the kernel adds essential B-vitamins, iron and zinc. Rich in complex carbohydrates, whole grains add beneficial phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals to your diet.
Oats are low in calories, high in fiber and protein. They’re a rich source of magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, thiamine, and pantothenic acid. In addition to their power to reduce disease and extend your health span, oats are a flagship SuperFood for practical reasons: they’re inexpensive, readily available, and incredibly easy to incorporate into your life. Oatmeal is on virtually every menu of every restaurant serving breakfast in America, and if you only remember to eat a bowl of oats regularly, you’ll be on your way to better health.
Beans & Legumes
Beans, provide a great alternative to meat, as they are a low-fat source of protein. For example, one cup of lentils provides 17 grams of protein with only 0.75 grams of fat. In fact, the American Cancer Society recommended in their 1996 dietary guidelines that Americans should “choose beans as an alternative to meat.”
Aside from being a great source of protein, beans area delicious source of fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate, potassium, magnesium, and many phytonutrients, and should be consumed on a regular basis to promote optimal health. It is recommended that you should eat four ½ cup servings of beans per week.
Nuts & Seeds
Great sources of protein and fiber! Nuts and seeds pack a nutritious punch with heart-healthy monosaturated oils, vitamins, and minerals. The lignans in seeds have been demonstrated to reduce cholesterol levels. Walnuts provide the healthy Omega-3 fats for non-fish eaters. The best part about walnuts is that their shells are natural containers to preserve the nut. You can also get walnuts packaged at the store for a convenient snack.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If you were to make one change in your kitchen—one single simple adjustment—to promote health and gain substantial benefits in countless ways, it would be to use extra virgin olive oil in place of other fats. A wide range of studies has demonstrated that adding olive oil to your regular diet could reduce your risk for breast and colon cancer, lower your blood pressure, and improve your cardiovascular health.
It seems that the heart-healthy effects of olive oil are due to a synergy of health-promoting compounds. The monounsaturated fat in olive oil has various impressive health benefits. In addition to healthy fat, olive oil is a good source of vitamin E. One ounce of extra virgin olive oil contains 17.4 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin E.
Wild salmon is one of the richest, tastiest, readily available sources of marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids. By including wild salmon in your diet two to four times a week you should achieve optimal protection against a multitude of diseases that have been associated with low intakes of these critical fats, including heart disease. Salmon is easy to get in a non-perishable form: canned in water. Costco even sells canned salmon in bulk!
Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, chlorophyll, and essential fatty acids. A good source of dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, good sources of vitamin B and minerals. Spinach, kale, and swiss chard contain beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin that are powerful phytochemicals that promote overall health.
Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate—a great heart-healthy combination of nutrients. Potassium-rich foods play a positive role in cardiovascular health, being especially effective in helping to achieve optimal blood pressure. Niacin is commonly used to lower elevated blood cholesterol levels. The combination of vitamin B6 and folate effectively reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Processed tomatoes are actually of more benefit than fresh tomatoes! Get them canned in a low-sodium variety.
Extremely high in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the SuperFoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids. Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids known to man.
Foods rich in carotenoids have been linked to a host of health-promoting and disease-fighting activities. They have been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers, including those of the lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast, and skin. In the landmark Nurses’ Health Study, women with the highest concentrations of carotenes in their diets had the lowest risk of breast cancer. Carotenoid consumption also decreases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Pumpkin is also a terrific source of fiber. Most people aren’t aware of the fiber content of canned pumpkin because it seems so creamy. Just one cup serving provides 5 grams of fiber—more than you’re getting from most supermarket cereals.
Fruits (Canned in juice, not syrup)
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines, contain flavonoids that are unique to the citrus family. Naringin produced in grapefruits and hesperidin found in oranges are both powerful antioxidants. Pomegranates are rich in powerful, free-radical fighting antioxidants called polyphenols.
Berries contain antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins that reduce free-radicals in the body, which may help to slow the aging process.
Blueberries are great brain food, having a very positive effect on your memory. The healthful benefits of blueberries stem mainly from their incredibly high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are non-vitamin, non-mineral components of food that have significant healthful benefits. There are literally thousands of different types of phytonutrients, and each phytonutrient is unique in both its physical characteristics and its function. Research has shown that phytonutrients help the body cells communicate with each other more efficiently, prevent mutations at the cellular level, prevent the proliferation of cancer cells, and there is still much more that we are learning about the powers of phytonutrients everyday. Blueberries are so rich in phytonutrients that even though they are not filled with the antioxidant vitamins C and E, they still provide as much antioxidant protection to the body as 1,733 IU of vitamin E and more than 1200 milligrams of vitamin C.
Get these little gems dried with no added sugar. Add them to oatmeal, baking, or just eat them with nuts as an excellent snack.
Herbs & Spices
Many herbs and spices are rich in antioxidants and may support healthy digestive function and the nervous system.
Perhaps the most exciting recent discovery concerning cinnamon is its effect on blood glucose levels as well as on triglyceride and cholesterol levels, all of which could benefit people suffering from type II diabetes. A USDA study shows that consuming a half teaspoon of cinnamon per day may significantly lower blood sugar in people with type II diabetes, as well as reduce triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels.
In addition to being a glucose moderator, cinnamon is recognized as an antibacterial. The essential oils in cinnamon are able to stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the common yeast Candida. Cinnamon has also been shown to be effective in fighting the E. coli bacterium.
The power of honey comes from the wide range of compounds present in the rich amber liquid. Honey contains at least 181 known substances, and its antioxidant activity stems from the phenolics, peptides, organic acids, and enzymes. Honey also contains salicylic acid, minerals, alpha-tocopherol, and oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides increase the number of “good” bacteria in the colon, reduce levels of toxic metabolites in the intestine, help prevent constipation, and help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Never give honey to children younger than a year old. About 10 percent of honey contains dormant Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause botulism in infants.
There is solid evidence that tea consumption is associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke. The connection was noticed when the arteries of Chinese-American tea drinkers were compared with the arteries of Caucasian coffee drinkers. The tea drinkers had only two-thirds as much coronary artery damage and only one-third as much cerebral artery damage upon autopsy compared with the coffee drinkers. Another study found that in males, deaths from coronary artery disease were reduced by 40 percent among those who drank one or more cups of tea daily, and another study from Harvard showed that there was a 44 percent lower risk of heart attack in people who drank at least one cup of tea daily.
Tea seems to have a positive effect on your dental health. Drinking tea lowers your risk of developing cavities as well as gum disease. One study found that tea may reduce cavity formation by up to 75 percent. This happens for a number of reasons. The fluoride content of the tea inhibits cavities from developing. Tea also seems to inhibit bacteria from adhering to tooth surfaces, while it also inhibits the rate of acid production of oral bacteria.
Green tea is rich in catechins, which are compounds that have been shown to enhance the immune system and help reduce the risk of heart disease as well as certain cancers.