Superfoods A to Z

Day1 - ACAI

ACAI: 5 super things to know about ACAI

  1. Difficult to pronounced (ah-sigh-EE), but easy to find nowadays, this “superfruit” is a high energy berry that comes from a specific Amazon palm tree. With a taste somewhat reminiscent of berries and chocolate, it’s a good source of fiber, glyconutrients, antioxidants, Vitamin A, amino acids and essential fatty acids.
  2. The fatty acid content in acai resembles that of olive oil. It’s rich in monounsaturated oleic acid which helps Omega-3 fish oils penetrate the cell membrane, making the cell membranes function more efficiently.
  3. Studies are ongoing and haven’t yet proven the superpowers of this superfruit, but it’s believed that acai pulp contains more antioxidants than the pulp of cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry or blueberry. Antioxidants help the body combat free radicals.  Free radicals can promote inflammation, and inflammation is believed to contribute to cancer, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, migraines, fibromyalgia, periodontal disease, thyroiditis, bowel disease, dementia, chronic fatigue, and metabolic syndrome.
  4. Because of its superfruit label, many miracle cure and weight loss companies have tried to capitalize on acai in a supplement form (pills, powder, etc). Be cautious about using any supplement that makes unsubstantiated claims. Eating real foods that are high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids is the best answer, but remember, if you have pollen allergies or are hypersensitive to other berries, acai may not be a good choice for you.
  5. Readily available as a juice or smoothie in the refrigerated fruit section of grocery stores, it’s easy to drink the whole bottle and pack on the calories. Pour yourself a small serving (4 ounces) and put the bottle back in the fridge for the next day.

 

Day2 - BLUEBERRIES

 

BLUEBERRIES: 5 super things to know about BLUEBERRIES

  1. Blueberries are one of Mother Nature’s only natural foods that are truly blue in color. What makes blueberries blue? Flavonoids. Flavonoids are a natural plant pigment which, when consumed, function in the human body as antioxidants. Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. But remember, fresh is best! Heat/cooking, acidity (high pH), and processing can reduce the flavonoid content of food significantly. The good news – freezing blueberries won’t damage the anthocyanin antioxidants found in blueberries.
  2. Berries in general have a low glycemic index (GI), but blueberries are slightly higher in the range of 40-53. For those watching their blood sugar balance, blueberries still have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation as the berries function as a low-GI fruit. Blueberries have a high fiber content (nearly 4grams per cup), and most low-GI foods with a strong fiber content are helpful in regulating blood sugar.
  3. A new area of research with the blueberry is cognitive health. While not yet conclusive, early studies are showing a possible connection between eating blueberries and a possible slowing of degenerative disease associated with aging of the brain, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Blueberries are rich in phytonutrients, and phytonutrients are linked to more effective communication within our brain cells which could improve both balance and coordination.
  4. Several studies have been done to support the connection of eating blueberries and cardiovascular health. Eating 1 to 2 cups per day over the course of three months has been shown to reduce total cholesterol, improve blood fat balance, and lower triglycerides as well as protect LDL cholesterol.
  5. Blueberries are reported to be one of the healthiest foods to eat for good eye health. Vitamin C reduces intraocular pressure, which decreased the potential for developing glaucoma, and one cup of blueberries are packed with 14mg of Vitamin C. A cup of blueberries also contains 0.24mg of zinc, a mineral that helps protect against macular degeneration and night blindness.

 

 Day3 - Cinnamon

CINNAMON: More precious than Gold in ancient times… but is it pyrite?
Cinnamon has been associated with lowering blood sugar, reducing arthritis inflammation, stimulating brain function, improving blood sugars in patients with polycystic ovarian disease, relieving migraine pain, and fighting E. coli bacteria.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, one teaspoon of cinnamon contains iron, manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and over a gram of fiber. 
 
However, what’s most important to know about cinnamon is that all cinnamons are not equal.  There are actually two types of cinnamon:  Ceylon and Cassia.  Ceylon cinnamon is true cinnamon that is harder to find and more expensive than what you’d find labeled in the store simply as “cinnamon.”  Cassia cinnamon is its less-expensive, more available substitute. While they taste very much the same, Cassia cinnamon contains a significantly higher – potentially toxic – amount of coumarin than its Sri Lankan counterpart.  A 2012 German study found that on average, Cassia cinnamon powder had up to 63x more coumarin compared to Ceylon cinnamon powder. 
 
Because cinnamon thins blood, don’t use cinnamon if you have diabetes, liver disease, cancer that’s affected by hormone levels (such as breast cancer), or if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.  If you are getting ready for surgery, avoid cinnamon a few days before your scheduled procedure.
 
Remember, too much of a good thing can be harmful. If you don’t fall in the above category and wish to get the benefits of cinnamon, use Ceylon cinnamon as a food or drink additive and stay away from cinnamon supplements that are now popping up on vitamin aisles.

 

Day4 - DARK CHOC

DARK CHOCOLATE: Welcome to the dark side
When it was discovered that chocolate was good for the heart, women across the world rejoiced!  A 9-year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women who ate one to two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their heart failure risk by as much as a third. A German study concluded that one square of dark chocolate a day lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attack and stroke by 39%. So, what’s the super ingredient in this superfood? 
 
The cocoa bean contains antioxidant flavonoids, insoluble fiber, magnesium and copper. The fiber helps lower cholesterol and may help reduce the rate of colorectal cancer as well as constipation. Magnesium helps sooth the nervous system and relax muscles. Some studies have shown that it raises serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain bringing on a state of euphoria similar to the feeling of being in love. And while still inconclusive, studies are linking cocoa to slowing dementia because of the antioxidants and Vitamins E and B.  The polyphenols found in cocoa have also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity that can lead to diabetes.
 
Does this mean you go to the Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory and swim in the chocolate river? Not hardly.  The important thing to note is that while cocoa itself has positive properties towards health, it’s the added fat and sugars that can cause unwanted results. So how do you pick the right chocolate amongst the sugary, fatty treats that you can get anywhere, anytime? Here are some good rules of thumb:
  • Choose a chocolate with more nonfat cocoa solids because it contains more antioxidants. While the cacao bean itself contains some saturated fat, the form of saturated fat found in cacao (stearic acid) may not elevate blood cholesterol as much as other fatty acids.
  • Choose a Dark Chocolate that has at least 70% cacao and a lower sugar content.
  • Look for chocolates that use cocoa butter and don’t add other types of fat such as milk fat, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or palm oil. 
  • and finally… remember… everything in moderation.

 

 Day5 - EGGS

EGGS: The most complete protein

Eggs are considered to be a complete protein because they contain all 9 essential amino acids – the building blocks for the body. With only 70 calories and 6 grams of high-quality protein, it’s an important source of protein to build lean muscles.

Eggs contain nutrients that are believed to prevent heart disease: B6 and B12 vitamins, riboflavin, folate, and choline.  Additionally, they contain lutein and zeaxanthin which help with eye health, as well as Vitamins A, D, and E, selenium, and iron.

The yolk of an egg has many benefits.  It contains 41iu of Vitamin D, and the American Heart Association says the lutein found in egg yolks also protects against the progress of early heart disease.  But one egg contains 185mg of cholesterol (USDA), and the cholesterol is found only in the yolk.  However, the current dietary guideline limit cholesterol to 300mg per day, thus, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee states eating one whole egg per day does not increase risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in healthy adults. So if you want a 3-egg omelet but don’t want all the cholesterol, what’s the solution?   Eat the yolk but in moderation.  Use one whole egg and add two egg whites.

 

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FLAXSEED:  The Power of Four!
Flaxseed has been linked to reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes as well as reducing inflammation in those suffering from arthritis. That’s a mighty big job for such a small seed.  Flaxseed has four great ingredients that give it its healthy reputation:  essential fatty acids, lignans, flavonoids, and fiber.
 
Most of the fatty acids found in flaxseed are alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), one of three important Omega-3 fatty acids. ALA in flax seeds are converted to docosahexaeonic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega-3s play a part in lowering triglycerides, curbing stiffness and joint pain, lowering levels of depression, improving lung function in asthmatics by lowering inflammation, and improving mental and cognitive skills.
 
Lignans are believed to protect against cancer, prevent heart disease, and alleviate menopause symptoms. In order for lignans to be absorbed by the body, the seed must be ground.  Because lignans are found in the hull of the seed, flaxseed oil does not have these benefits unless specifically added.
 
Flavonoids are important to lower Low-Density Lipoprotein, the “bad” cholesterol.  LDL collects in the walls of blood vessels causing blockages and narrowing of the arteries.  And soluble fiber – which is 28% of the flaxseed – helps lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of cancer, and prevent digestive problems.
 
With its healthy reputation, food manufacturers are putting flaxseed into a myriad of products to boost the “health” benefits. So what is the best way to get your daily dose of flaxseed?  Experts say that simply grinding flaxseed and adding it to yogurt, a smoothie, oatmeal, cereal, even roasted veggies and pasta are a great way to consume it.  Remember, flaxseed oil and pre-ground flaxseed have an expiration date because they can go rancid.

 

 

Day7 - GREEN TEA

GREEN TEA:  For this tea, it’s very easy being Green
The catechin content in green tea is what makes this tea spectacular.  Catechins are antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and aid in healthy cell production.  And since the tea leaves go through very little processing before making it to your cup, the catechins are mostly intact.
 
Green tea is associated with improving blood flow, lowering cholesterol, preventing high blood pressure and congestive heart failure as well as blocking the plaque formation that are linked to Alzheimer’s. 
 
What’s the best way to consume green tea?  Adding it to boiling water will destroy the catechins.  Lower the water temp to about 160 ° instead to preserve those healthy natural chemicals. Adding lemon helps make the Vitamin C easier to absorb.  Finally, watch for fads using green tea in drinks that aren’t truly green tea drinks… get as close to nature as possible to benefit the most from green tea.
 
Which brings up another subject: tea leaves or powder (matcha)?  Either is great!  Matcha by weight contains a significant higher amount of antioxidants than blueberries, and it can be added to smoothies, muffins, and other food items where you’d add a heap of powder.  However, read labels to make sure that the powder is of high quality and doesn’t contain additives or fillers.

 

Day8 - HONEY

HONEY: What’s the Buzz?

What’s all the buzz about with honey? Those little busy bees work very hard to supply us with wholesome nutrients that only honey can provide.

Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. Honey contains varying concentrations of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

How does it work? Honey has properties that raise the levels of disease-fighting antioxidants in the blood helping to boost your body’s natural defenses. The benefits of honey doesn’t stop there—in the raw, its rapid anti-bacteria, anti-viral and anti-fungal healing powers are used for medicinal purposes world-wide and in wound care dressings in healthcare!

And best of all, bees help make the world go ‘round to pollinate fruits and vegetables. There are three types of bees in the hive – Queen, Worker and Drone. On average, a worker bee will make 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Bees must visit approximately 2 million flowers to make 1 lb. of honey and will visit between 50-100 flowers during one nectar collection trip.

A note of caution, though. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that raw honey not be given to infants under one year of age because of the rare possibility of being infected with the bacteria that causes botulism. Once a toddler reaches one year old, their digestive system is mature enough to kill any botulism germs.

Honey’s health benefits are definitely well-worth the buzz!

 

Day9 - INCA BERRY

INCA BERRIES: There’s a New Berry in Town

Inca berries are a small, tangy golden berry from Peru that taste similar to a tart apricot. Typically available dried, they resemble a golden raisin and can be used as such. Their seeds are a little larger and crunchier like that of a dried fig, and since amino acids and fiber are found in the seeds, crunch away!

What makes this berry truly worth its weight in gold is its antioxidant value. Inca berries are rich in polyphenols, which are found in tea and pomegranates. It’s best known for its high amounts of carotene and bioflavonoids.

Surprisingly for a fruit, Inca berries – also known as Pichuberries – are also relatively high in protein (16%). Another benefit of the Inca berry is that it is a good source for potassium, phosphorous, Vitamins A, C, B2 and B6, and fiber. In fact, it has twice the fiber of most dried fruits due to the seeds, and it’s both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps maintain healthy bowel functions and soluble fiber helps reduce cholesterol reabsorption as well as keep you feeling fuller longer. As a dried fruit, their sugar content is about 50%. A proper serving size is about a handful.

 

Day10 - JALAPENO

JALAPENO – This Spicy Pepper can Jump Start your Health

Jalapenos are a good source for complex carbohydrates, vitamin A, folate, beta-carotene, and minerals. One cup of raw jalapenos contains…223mg potassium and 177% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C, but seriously, who is going to eat a whole 8-ounce cup of raw jalapenos? Instead, let’s talk about the chemical compound found in hot peppers: capsaicin.

Capsaicin is believed to reduce inflammation. “Substance P” is a neuropeptide that is found in the brain and spinal cord and is associated with pain and the inflammatory process. Capsaicin found in jalapenos and other chiles has been found to inhibit Substance P so that inflammation is lessened, which is good news for people suffering from migraines, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

It may also help kill bacteria such as H. Pylori, which is associated with stomach pain and ulcers, and bacteria in the sinus cavity that causes congestion. Though inconclusive, some studies suggest that capsaicin may prevent certain cancers, including intestinal, stomach, and colon. A Duke University study found that capsaicin may be key for treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

As a weight-loss product, capsaicin has been found to burn fat because it increases the metabolism and helps the body burn calories and fat while suppressing the appetite. It also increases fat oxidation so the body can turn fat into fuel.

Whether you can eat a whole cup of jalapenos each day or slice up a half a pepper and discard the seeds, spice up your daily diet with a little fresh jalapeno.

 

Day11 - KALE

KALE: The Tale of Kale

Ever heard of Kale? You will now and you’ll love it! It’s a powerhouse food more than 2,000 years old—considered as one of the world’s healthiest foods.

Kale is saturated with rich nutrients and belongs to the same family as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and collards. Just one cup of chopped raw kale provides more than 100% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A & K. It’s also a great source of Calcium. So, it will help keep your eyes and bones healthy and strong all day long. Experts say kale has plenty of phytonutrients, things like quercetin — which helps combat inflammation and prevents arterial plaque formation — and sulforaphane, a cancer-fighting compound.

So, what are you waiting for? Mix it into your salad or substitute those greasy potato chips with a healthier choice—Kale chips! Great taste with so much to offer.

 

Day12 - LEMON

LEMON: Pucker Up!

Those little yellow wedges hanging on the side of your water glass can really pack a punch! Here are some hidden health secrets about lemons.

Lemons are loaded with strong antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-boosting powers containing many substances such as citric acid, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, pectin, and limonene–that promote immunity and fight infection. But wait, there’s more! Lemons are also used as a weight loss aid because lemon juice is a digestive aid and liver cleanser.

Now, that sounds all good and dandy, but, did you know it can help kick those stubborn pimples to the curb and help ease anxiety and fatigue? Yes, it sure can. Do you have canker sores? Just mix the juice of freshly squeezed lemon juice into a glass of warm water a few times a day and rinse it away. Lemon also helps heal fevers, the flu, and colds and over all pain when mixed with a nice hot cup of water with a splash of honey. Just add lemon to water, tea, your skin… anything really! Go ahead and feel the heal!

 

Day13 - MACKEREL

MACKEREL: A Good Fish in the Sea

Comparable to salmon in omega-3 benefits, the mackerel is a great source of Vitamin D. A 3-ounce serving of mackerel provides ninety-seven percent of the daily recommended allowance of Vitamin D. Additionally, it contains Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Choline and Folate.

Because of the level of mercury in King and Spanish mackerels, it’s recommended to select Atlantic Mackerel instead. And while other ocean fish can be on the endangered list, the Atlantic Mackerel is “ocean friendly,” meaning it’s fast growing, can repopulate quickly, is sustainable, and the fishing gear used doesn’t destroy the habitat.

With 990mg of DHA omega-3 and 714mg of EPA, a 5-ounce serving of Atlantic mackerel is an excellent source of essential fatty acids. In fact, that one serving contains about the same amount of omega-3 as you’d find in a supplement. It also contains four times the vitamin B12 of wild salmon, almost as much iron as steak, more potassium than a banana, and three times the selenium than a chicken breast.

Additionally, it is a great source for CoQ10, an essential antioxidant that produces energy and prevent heart disease.

Overall, the health benefits associated with mackerel include lowering triglycerides, reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering LDL while increasing HDL cholesterols, aiding in blood circulation and lowering blood pressure, reducing pain and stiffness associated with arthritis, reducing agents that cause cancer in cells, reducing risk of depression and other mental health illnesses, and strengthening the immune system.

A word of caution though, because of the high oil content in this fish, it has as short shelf life; therefore, eat it the day you buy it. It works well on the grill or in dishes that call for bluefish or tuna as well.

 

Day14 - NOPALES

NOPALES:  Prickly Paddles with a Punch

The prickly pear plant (opuntia ficus-indica) has two different edible sections: the flat, round pad – or paddle – of the cactus (nopal), which can be treated like a vegetable, and the pear, which can be treated like a fruit. Both have prickly needles that need to be trimmed. The pears can be used in fresh smoothies, sauces, and jams… [use the seeds but discard the peel, just to be sure]. We’ll focus on the pads… nopales.

Commonly used as a laxative, anti-inflammatory, hangover cure and a natural treatment for diabetes, nopales are rich sources of dietary fiber, especially non-carbohydrate polysaccharides, such as pectin, mucilage and hemicellulose. Together, these substances help reduce body weight, LDL-cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Rich in insoluble and soluble dietary fibers and mucilaginous content, nopales move food through the digestive track and contribute to regularity, often relieving constipation.

Nopales are very low in calories with just 16 calories in a 100 grams serving. They contain vital phytochemicals, fiber, flavonoids, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that can benefit health – about 13 percent of the daily value for vitamins A and C, about 14 percent of the daily value for calcium, 11 percent of the daily value for magnesium, and 5 percent of the daily value for vitamin B-6.

With a soft but crunchy texture that’s sticky like okra when cooked, the nopal is similar in taste to a slightly tart green bean, asparagus, or green pepper. Use in dishes where you’d normally use those types of vegetables.

 

Day15 - ONION

ONIONS: Don’t Overpeel this Allium

High in vitamin C, onions are a good source of fiber and are low in calories – about 45 calories per serving. Additionally, they are sodium-free, fat-free, and cholesterol-free, and provide a number of other key nutrients. More than just a tasty culinary plant, the onion contains natural sugar, vitamins A, B6, C and E, minerals such as sodium, potassium, iron, and folic acid.

Its polyphenol content is not only higher than its fellow allium vegetables, garlic and leeks, but also higher than tomatoes, carrots, and red bell pepper. Only artichoke heart, parsley, Brussels sprouts, shallot, broccoli, and celery have a higher polyphenol content than onion. And polyphenols are phytonutrients which are essential for keeping your body working properly and preventing disease.

Associated with helping aid against cancers such as colon, stomach, esophogeal and prostate cancer, along with improving sleep, mood, skin and hair, this allium vegetable’s flavonoids are concentrated in the outer layers of the flesh. To get the most out of it, use as much of the outermost layer as possible. A red onion, if overpeeled, can lose about 20% of its quercetin and 75% of its anthocyans.

It’s best eaten in its raw state due to organic sulfur compounds within the onion which are partially destroyed by heat. But raw onions can be difficult for some people to digest. Baking onions in their skins helps keep the goodness inside while minimizing the impact of the sulfur.

 

Day16 - PUMPKIN

PUMPKINS: The Spook-tacular Superfood

Superfoods come in all shapes, colors, carvings and sizes. So we just had to share this spook-tacular superfood that’s powerful enough to not only reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer but also increase your mood!

High in fiber and low in calories, pumpkins pack a punch with disease-fighting nutrients including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. However, it’s the key nutrient called carotenoids that boosts pumpkins to the top of the SuperFoods list. What are the benefits of carotenoids? Studies suggest 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 along with various cancers of the lung, colon, bladder, cervical, and skin. For those seasonal roasted pumpkin seed lovers out there, add a sprinkle of superfood cinnamon and sea salt before roasting. Yum!

 

Here’s a few interesting facts to help put you in the Halloween spirit. Halloween is short for “Hallows’ Eve.” Today, it’s associated with Trick or Treating, costumes, carvings and, of course, the colors black and orange—a symbol of strength and endurance signifying harvest time and autumn. And, did you know the first Jack O’Lanterns were actually made from turnips? Yes, you guessed right, another superfood!

 

Day17a - QUINOA

QUINOA: The Queen of the New Superfoods

Keen on Quinoa? This misunderstood superfood is boiled to the brim with an assortment of nutrients including plenty of protein, potassium and fiber.  And, it’s ready in just 20 minutes!

Pronounced keen-wah, this small, round seed is used as a grain or as a substitute for rice and is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. What makes this food source so trendy is that it’s gluten-free and high in essential amino acids! The protein content per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet, but is less than wild rice and oats—a source of complete protein.

For those looking to increase their iron and Vitamin B-6 intake, this tiny-in-size superfood offers 25% of your daily recommended value along with 49% DRV of Magnesium.  Quinoa also has more than 13x the amount of potassium per serving compared to brown rice measured with one third less calories than rice.

Quinoa has the perfect balance of all nine amino acids essential for human nutrition. This type of complete protein is rarely found in plant foods, though common in meats. Now that’s a superfood!

 

Day18 - RASPBERRIES

RASPBERRIES: The Dazzle of the Razzberry

When eaten as part of a healthy diet, these potent berries may contribute to a decreased risk of cancer, less inflammation, and even assist with weight management.

Because of their structure, raspberries are among the highest fiber-containing foods, with up to 20 percent fiber per total weight. They are also a great source of vitamin C, manganese, B vitamins 1–3, folic acid, magnesium, copper and iron. That’s a lot of punch for such a little fruit!

Earning an A+ for Antioxidants, raspberries contain anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, gallic acid, cyanidins, pelargonidins, catechins, kaempferol and salicylic acid. While raspberries are available in other colors, the red, black or purple varieties are where much of these antioxidant come into play.

Here’s an interesting question: do you know how to tell a black raspberry from a blackberry? Raspberries separate from their white core, and their core remains on the plant. With a blackberry, the core is actually part of the fruit.

Recent raspberry research suggests the potential for raspberries to impact the metabolism and reducing risks of obesity. But before you go on a “raspberry diet,” the jury is still out on those findings.

What we do know is that raspberries have long been attributed for anti-inflammatory benefits from the antioxidants. Lowering oxidative stress and reducing inflammation may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as breast, cervical, colon, esophageal, and prostate.

When you purchase raspberries, purchase them fully ripe to get the most benefit from the fruit. Remember, they have a short shelf life, so eat them as soon as possible. Adding fresh fruits to your diet is a positive step to a healthy lifestyle. So go ahead and enjoy one of the world’s healthiest fruits!

 

Day19 - SWISS CHARD

SWISS CHARD: A Rainbow of Goodness

Another chenopod! Superfood quinoa and Swiss chard are very much related. Swiss chard, like spinach, has many phytonutrients that have health promotional and disease prevention properties. It contains almost as much Vitamin K as collard greens and an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin, vitamin-C, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin-A, and flavonoids anti-oxidants like ß-carotene, α-carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin—just to name a few.

The thick stalks are red, white, yellow, or green. All have a mildly bitter taste. The superfood’s fresh leaves provide about 33% of recommended levels per 100 g. Research studies suggest that regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C help maintain normal connective tissue, prevent iron deficiency, and also help the human body develop resistance against infectious agents by boosting immunity. Swiss chard is one of the excellent vegetable sources for vitamin-K; one cup is 300% of the recommended daily value. Vitamin-K has potential role bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain which is an important role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It is also rich in the B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions. And, of course, Swiss chard is high in essential minerals such as copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.

Why is this specific superfood so healthy? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. A half cup of cooked Swiss chard provides a huge amount of both lutein and zeaxanthin—key components to healthy retinas! Both of these nutrients, which are actually pigments, appear to accumulate in your retinas, where they absorb the type of shortwave light rays that can damage your eyes.

As for the “weight conscious” individuals out there, Swiss chard is very low in and fats, recommended in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs. A diet rich in Swiss chard have also been linked to the prevention of osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, and vitamin-A deficiency. This superfood is believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers. So with all this great superfood information, the only caveat pertains to those prone to kidney stones because it contains oxalates which could prevent calcium from being absorbed properly.

The benefits of a single superfood is amazing!

 

Day20 - TOMATO

TOMATO: A Tiny, Tasty Tonic

These little red rascals tend to slip your mind so easily, unless you’re eating your favorite pizza—thanks to tasty tomatoes! Not to mention, they squirt you if sliced wrong. But don’t worry, that juicy red inside is loaded with lutein, lycopene, potassium, ascorbic acid, fiber, and alpha and beta carotene.

So what do all these nutrients do?  Botanically classified as a fruit (not a veggie), tomatoes have the ability to protect against prostate cancer including digestive tract, cervix, bladder, and lung cancers. Ironically, processed tomatoes play a key role in reducing risks. Studies suggest—sauce and paste—are more effective than raw tomatoes at reducing cancer risk. In the raw tomato, the lycopene is bound into the cell walls and fiber. Processing breaks down these cell walls and frees the lycopene to be absorbed by the body. However, processing does diminish the levels of vitamin C (and other nutrients) found in tomatoes. And, of course, these fruits are considered to be very heart healthy reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease.

 Cut through the mess in one shot:  If you’re looking for an easy, quick way to prep your tomatoes, use two plates! Place tomatoes on a small saucer, pack them tightly, place another saucer of the same size on top, hold steady and start slicing from right to left (or whichever direction you prefer)!

 

Day21 - UNIQ FRUIT

UGLI/UNIQ FRUIT: Uniq, Ugli… A Fruit By Any Other Name

Ugli what? Yes, there’s actually a fruit out there sporting a not-so-pretty name. But it’s definitely what’s inside that counts. After all, with a name like that, how can you ignore all the nutrients that’s in store?

The word “ugli” refers to the fruit’s unsightly appearance, with rough, wrinkled, greenish-yellow rind, wrapped loosely around the orange sweet pulpy citrus inside. When ripe and ready to eat, the light-green surface blemishes turn orange. This succulent superfood is rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and dietary fibers. These nutrients strengthen the immune system, fight cardio vascular disorders and promote healthy gums. Ugli fruit (also called unique fruit) contains rich doses of Vitamin B which promotes oral health and prevents kidney stone formation.

What are some ways you could enjoy an Ugli fruit?

Juicy Smoothie! Blend pieces of peeled ugli fruit with bananas, milk and pineapple or orange juice or try strawberries, bananas and ugli fruit blended together with a few ice cubes for a non-dairy option. Add a handful of spinach to turn it into a nutrient-rich green smoothie. You could also top yogurt with granola or muesli and peeled and sliced ugli fruit.

Throw it on a salad! Peel off the skin and add the juicy wedges to a salad as you would a Clementine.

Salsa Time! Form a simple salsa by mixing ugli fruit with diced tomato, minced garlic and basil. For a spicier salsa to serve alongside chicken or pork, mix ugli fruit with kiwi fruit, jalapeno pepper, cilantro, lime juice and red onion. Make a relish with olives, parsley and ugli fruit and serve with crostini.

 

Day22 - VANILLA

VANILLA BEAN: If Jack had THIS Bean Pod…

If Jack had planted the Vanilla plant and cultivated its pods, the story may have had a different ending. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice, second only to saffron, because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive and the plant is only successfully grown in certain areas.

Available in many forms from the dried bean to extract, the chief component is vanillin. Vanillin is a phytochemical in the class of phenolic acids which also includes cloves, cloves, roast coffee and the Chinese red pine. It’s believed to be a good source of antioxidants and perhaps helpful to protect the skin against ultraviolet B radiation. Antioxidants protect your body from damage from harmful components, such as free radicals and toxins, but there seems to be more antioxidants in the extract form than in just its natural state.

An animal study published in 2011 found that treating with vanillin led to lower overall inflammation, and another recent study found that it helped lower cholesterol in animals who were fed a high fat diet. However, its benefit to humans is still being studied. In any case, it tastes great and smells just as sweet.

Speaking of smell, vanilla is one of the most commonly used fragrances is aromatherapy because it stimulates the brain. It also can mask unpleasant flavors in over-the-counter medicines and supplements.

The three most common types of vanilla are Mexican, Madagascar and Tahitian. Mexican has a nuttier taste, Madagascar is more buttery in flavor, and Tahitian is the most aromatic. And if you were wondering what makes French Vanilla “French”: it’s the addition of egg yolks that brings out a richer vanillin flavor.

 

Day23 - WALNUTS

WALNUTS:  The WOW Factor

Yes, walnuts are, in fact, a superfood. Eating a handful of nuts about five times a week will reduce your chances of getting a heart attack by at least 15 percent and possibly as much as 51 percent!

Even though walnuts are high in calories, the extraordinary health benefits supersede in this superfood. Studies say the main contributor to heart health in nuts, particularly in walnuts, is the omega-3 fatty acids. This particular component of fat works in various ways to help guarantee a healthy heart and circulatory system. Like aspirin, omega-3s “thin” the blood, helping it to flow freely, preventing clots from forming and adhering to the vessel walls. They also act as an anti-inflammatory, preventing the blood vessels from becoming inflamed—a condition that reduces blood flow. Walnuts are also rich in arginine, which is an essential amino acid. Arginine helps to keep the inside of the blood vessels smooth while it also promotes the flexibility of the vessels, thus increasing blood flow, reducing blood pressure, and thereby alleviating hypertension. And, according to researchers, a high dietary intake of vitamins C and E, folic acid, ellagic acid, magnesium, reversatrol (flavonoid found in grape skins) and fiber may lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, migraines and maintaining healthy tooth enamel.

Now, that’s a superfood!

 

 Day24 - Xigua

XIGUA: Yes, We Really Did Find an “X”!

Shee-gwah! No, that’s not a martial arts or fictional superpower comic term. It’s actually a superfood!
“X” is for Xigua– a Mandarin Chinese word for ‘watermelon’ pronounced shee-gwah!

Xiguas are often slightly smaller and much darker than the traditional U.S. green-in-color watermelons. This superfood is drenched with body-quenching nutrients such as vitamins C, B, A and lycopene. Lycopene is good for the heart and important for bone health. Xiquas are also high in citruline (an amino acid), believed to prevent excess fat accumulation in the body and improve blood flow, aiding the heart. The seeds are also loaded with nutrients—a great source of iron, zinc and protein. And, yes, traditional watermelons have very similar nutritional benefits as Xiguas.

Did you know that the riper a Xigua or American watermelon, the more nutritious it becomes? Watermelons, in general, are best stored at room temperatures 50-60 degrees F. Unfortunately, the superfood fruit stops ripening after it’s been picked.

Since it could be difficult to find Xiguas in the U.S., here are a few useful tips to picking out the perfect store-bought watermelon:
– When buying pre-cut, sliced or halved, the flesh should be the deepest color. Seeds should be dark, not white.
– When buying whole, check the weight and surface of the skin. A fully ripened watermelon will be heavy with juice. The top, if fully ripened, will look dull, not shiny. The bottom is the part that was resting on the ground. If fully ripened, it will be creamy yellow in color, not green or white.
– Thumping the large fruit also works (at least according to some). A fully ripened watermelon has a deeper, hollow, bass-like sound.

Fun fact:  The biggest watermelon on record was in 1990 in Tennessee at a whopping 262 lbs! Try sinking your teeth into that! If you do, then you can safely say you have superpowers. Shee-gwah!

 

Day25 - Yogurt

YOGURT: The Yum in Yogurt

Yogurt is a unique food because it is a cultured milk product, made by adding certain good bacteria called probiotics to milk, skim milk, and/or cream to produce a thicker and more textured product. These bacteria are live active cultures that are similar to the ones that already exist in the human digestive tract. They help maintain and restore the delicate balance of the digestive system.

An important source of calcium, protein, vitamins A, riboflavin, phosphorus and potassium, yogurt is a calcium powerhouse and source of high-quality protein.  And just one serving of yogurt contains about as much potassium as a banana (around 400 mg). The calcium in the yogurt is important for women who are at risk for osteoporosis.

Yogurt is easy to find in any store, and now there’s a whole variety from which to choose. Greek yogurt is currently the rage, but on its tail is yogurt from grass-fed cows and even “cream top” yogurts.  So how do you choose a yogurt?  Greek Yogurt is made by straining out the whey leaving a thicker, stick-to-the-spoon type of yogurt. Removing the whey results in a yogurt with 40 percent less sugar, 38 percent less sodium and more than twice the amount of protein than traditional yogurt.

For those wanting to try something new, the cream top yogurts are made with unhomogenized milk which leaves a thin layer of pale yellow cream at the top – the best part in cream top fans’ opinions. This new line of yogurts is ramping up in popularity, so watch your favorite brand to come out with a new line of yogurts.

Remember, all yogurts are not created equal. What makes a big difference is the milk. Milk from grass-fed cows is packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. And now there are yogurt products that are totally dairy-free made with soy “milk” and coconut “milk” as well as an Icelandic yogurt that’s technically a soft cheese and New Zealand style which is more about how the cows are rotationally-grazed and fed.

Yogurt is such a versatile food because it’s a healthier substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise and can be used for breakfast, desserts, savory sauces, dips, and a variety of other recipes.

 

Day26 - Zucchini 

ZUCCHINI: The Zen Zuperfood

Try this lean, green, cancer-fighting machine!

One of the main reasons zucchini is so healthy is due to the amount of antioxidants it contains. With a water content of over 95 percent, this juicy zucchini superfood has more potassium than a banana! Zucchini is a huge source of both vitamin C and vitamin A. Vitamin C, commonly known as “the overall health vitamin”. It’s also a great source of folate and fiber. All of these essential nutrients contribute to a healthy heart by decreasing the risk of stroke, reducing high blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol. This veggie protects against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. Vitamin C has also been proven to help your immune system fight off common colds and flu faster and increase your lifespan. This mighty veggie also holds the ability to decrease the risk of cancer because of its unique combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Zucchini is an extremely versatile food–perfect for an assortment of dishes. One zucchini has only 25 calories (compared to a baked potato, for example, which has 130 calories). Cutting back on carbs? Substitute your pasta with long skinny strands of tasty zucchini! Simply top it off with your favorite sauce and, vualá, a superfood delight!
Craving a midnight snack? Skip the oily potato chips and make oven baked zucchini chips! At only 99 calories per serving, this chip is meant to dip.