MARCH IS NUTRITION MONTH
Eat These Five Disease-Fighting Foods to be Healthier, Have More
Energy and Stay Young, says Leading Canadian Dietitian
February 21, 2012 – Move over apples. Recent studies find that eating five other particular foods a day may keep the doctor away as well.
According to leading Canadian dietitian and best-selling author Liz Pearson, consuming 100 percent whole grains, berries, dark leafy greens, nuts, and even chocolate, daily will not only increase your energy levels, but can also decrease your chances of contracting such diseases as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and in some cases, may even slow down the aging process.
“If you can find a way to include these five disease-fighting foods in your diet each day, you’ll start feeling the physical difference within as early as a couple of weeks,” says Pearson, co-author of Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health and author of Broccoli, Love and Dark Chocolate, to be released in Spring 2013, who is calling on all Canadians to begin eating what she calls this “superstar” fare now. Here’s a rundown on each:
100 percent whole grains
Not all whole grains are created equal, emphasizes Pearson. “If a food item doesn’t say 100 percent whole grain on the package, then it’s not, and you should find one that does,” she advises, explaining that even products that say “made with whole grain” often contain more refined grains – such as white flour – than whole grains, which significantly lowers the health benefits and may even be harmful to one’s health.
“Whole grains – such as 100 percent whole grain pasta like Catelli® Healthy Harvest®, bread, and cereal – offer many more vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants than refined grains,” Pearson explains, adding that studies confirm kids, teens and adults who eat 100 percent whole grains are more likely to have a healthy body weight and less abdominal fat.
What’s more, eating 100 percent whole grains can lower the risk of various diseases, she says, citing a study conducted in January by the Seattle, Washington-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which shows a diet rich in whole grains significantly reduces inflammation linked to heart disease and cancer and increases hormones that protect against cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Go for six to eight 100 percent whole grain servings daily, says Pearson. That’s the equivalent of half a cup of pasta, one slice of bread or one cup of cereal per serving. For creative ways to use whole grains in recipes, visit http://www.wholegrainpasta.ca .
If foods received awards, this group would win for best brain health, according to Pearson. Based on a study from the Boston, Massachusetts-based Agricultural Research Service Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, berries are the brain’s natural housekeeper. “When you eat berries, they activate a mechanism that cleans up a toxic debris that can cause memory loss and other mental declines that come with age,” she says.
Referring to berries as “antioxidant megastars,” Pearson explains that – whether fresh, frozen or dried – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and the like are ultimate anti-aging foods.
“They can slow down the aging process and even turn back the clock,” she says, explaining that not only do berries help preserve thinking skills and memory, but they also help maintain balance and coordination as a person ages, defend against Alzheimer’s and cancer, and boost one’s immunity.
Aim for one half to one cup of berries daily, Pearson advises. Add them to cereal or salads, mix them with yogurt or whip them into smoothies.
Dark Leafy Greens
It’s time to start going for the gold, says Pearson – “green gold” that is. Dark leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, watercress, Swiss Chard, and arugula are called such because they contain a goldmine of vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that fight disease, including heart disease and cancer.
“They are the most nutrient dense food you can eat, containing more nutrition per calorie than any other food,” Pearson says. “In fact, without a daily dose of dark leafy greens, it’s almost impossible to get enough vitamin K, which is key for strong bones and clean arteries.”
Eye health is another benefit, she emphasizes, citing a Finish study that links high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin – key nutrients found in dark leafy greens – with a decreased likelihood of developing cataracts. Other studies connect greens to a lower risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of adult blindness.
Eat at least one cup of dark leafy greens every day, Pearson suggests. Enjoy them in salads and add them to soups, pasta dishes, stir-frys, and eggs.
Nuts are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre and plant compounds that protect the heart. “If you eat nuts regularly, not only are you less likely to have a heart attack or stroke but if you do have one, you’re much less likely to die from it,” says Pearson.
In a recent study at the University of Barcelona in Spain, researchers found a link between eating nuts and higher levels of serotonin, a substance that helps improve heart health. Nuts are also linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, macular degeneration, gallstones, and cancer.
While almonds are the most nutrient-dense nut and walnuts take the top spot for antioxidants and heart-healthy omega-3 fats, all nuts offer significant health benefits, Pearson says.
Limit intake to about a quarter of a cup – or two tablespoons of peanut or almond butter – daily since nuts are high in calories. Toss them into salads, pasta dishes or cereal or enjoy them on their own.
Always leave room for chocolate, advises Pearson. Not only does it satisfy a sweet tooth, but chocolate – particularly dark chocolate – is healthy when consumed in moderation.
High in cocoa flavanols, chocolate has been scientifically proven to help support healthy circulation, she explains. Researchers from the University of Cambridge in England, who analyzed seven studies involving more than 100,000 participants, linked eating chocolate to as much as a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and 29 percent reduction in stroke,” Pearson says.
Limit daily intake to about a half to one ounce – two to four squares – of dark chocolate, preferably containing at least 60 to 70 percent cocoa. For variety, use chocolate in 100 percent whole grain muffins or pancakes, and in trail mix.
“Don’t underestimate the energy value of eating these five superfoods as well,” says Pearson “Not only will their regular consumption help you to be healthier in the long run, but you’ll start feeling the benefits in terms of increased energy within a matter of weeks.”
Visit http://www.lizpearson.com for more information, tips and recipes.