My favourite superfoods by Dr Johanna Ward

My favourite superfoods by Dr Johanna Ward
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Broccoli:

Broccoli is one of the healthiest greens you can eat. It belongs to the cruciferous family and contains an abundance of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants, not to mention the incredible sulforaphane.

Dr Johanna Ward
Dr Johanna Ward

Sulforaphane is mainly found in cruciferous vegetables. Sulforaphane supports liver detoxification and has been shown to reduce the size and number of breast cancer cells in mice, blocking tumour growth. It also helps fight infection by reducing levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which all drive inflammation. Numerous studies have shown that regular broccoli intake is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.

Sulforaphane is created by a chemical reaction that only happens when you chop or chew broccoli.

Kale:

Kale is probably one of the most beneficial greens so try and get it into as many of your dishes as possible. It can taste a bit like grass(!) so try to conceal it in smoothies and salads. Kale is an immune-boosting superfood with significant antioxidant power.

Spinach:

Spinach is a super all-rounder when it comes to nutrient delivery. It is packed with vitamins A, C and the much-forgotten vitamin K. It also has abundant manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, folate and potassium. It’s loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients and is particularly effective at fighting free radical damage.

Bell peppers:

Bell peppers are rich in quercetin, flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin c and ferulic acid - all antioxidants and phytonutrients that work to combat renegade free radicals and reduce inflammation. Bell peppers contain over 30 different phytonutrients so their nutrient capacity is simply phenomenal.

Sweet Potato:

Sweet potatoes are an antioxidant and nutrient packed superfood grown all over the world. They are loaded with fibre, antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals which makes them great for combatting renegade free radicals that otherwise could damage your DNA.

Legumes:

Legumes are a type of plant based food that come from the family Leguminosae. They are full of natural goodness including zinc, iron, folate, potassium and fibre and are low calorie sources of healthy fats, protein and fibre. Lentils are a great choice because they are high in fibrous prebiotics and support your microbiome. When sprouted, the antioxidant capacity of lentils doubles.

Acai berries:

Acai’s most powerful health benefits come from its plant compounds, notably the anthocyanins that give it its deep purple colour. Besides being associated with cardiovascular health, acai berries have ten times the antioxidant capacity of grapes and three times that of blueberries. While no one food can act as a magic shield against cancer, some foods are known to stop cancer cells from forming and spreading. Acai is one of them. In test tube and mice studies it has been shown to have significant anti-cancer effects. It has been proven effective against colon cancer, bladder cancer and breast cancer cells. In addition, acai berries are profoundly neuro-protective and help boost memory and cognition. They also protect the brain against age-related degeneration.

In animal studies acai consumption has been shown to help a process called autophagy, where the brain cleans itself of toxins and debris. Acais are known to help support this vital brain function. Acai also contains 19 different amino acids and fatty acids, making them great superfruit for your heart.

Blueberries:

Blueberries are powerful anti-ageing and anti-cancer allies. Try and eat one serving (a half cup) every day because they are rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and anthocyanins (these give blueberries their beautiful blue colour). The key health promoters in blueberries are phytochemicals, phenolic, anthocyanins, myricetins, quercetins and delphinidins. The great thing about blueberries is that they are native to Europe so we can eat them fresh and local and don’t have to ship them halfway around the world, leaving a trail of diesel and carbon.

Chia Seeds:

Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet. ‘Chia’ is derived from the ancient Mayan word for ‘strength’.

Like flaxseeds, they are a superb source of vegetarian omega 3 and are loaded with nutrients, calorie for calorie. They are rich in fibre, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorous and calcium. They contain abundant antioxidants and have a good balance of amino acids (the building blocks of tissue).

Flaxseeds:

Flaxseeds are powerful superfoods. The health benefits of flaxseeds are derived from three main factors - they are high in ALA omega 3, contain high levels of lignans and have high levels of soluble and insoluble fibre.

Flaxseeds are the richest vegetarian source of omega 3 but they also have a multitude of other health benefits including lowering blood pressure, reducing atherosclerosis, protecting against breast and prostate cancer,reducing systemic inflammation, improving blood sugar (glycaemic) control and improving triglyceride profile. That’s a pretty magnificent superfood!

Make sure you eat the whole flaxseed and not just the oil (which only contains part of the seed). The best way to get the benefits is to consume it as ground flaxseed or as ‘flaxmeal’, because if you eat the whole seeds, they can go through the body undigested.

Nuts:

Nuts are literally nutritional powerhouses. Some studies have even shown that regular consumption of a handful of nuts can add up to two years to your life.

Nuts are great because they are a healthy source of fat and are packed with protein. Of all nuts, walnuts seem to have the best health profile and cancer-preventing benefits.

Garlic:

Garlic belongs to the allium family and is closely related to leeks, shallots and onions. Garlic is considered a superfood and features top of the list of anti-cancer foods listed in 2009 Food Chemistry journal.

Garlic’s health benefits are due to its sulfur compounds formed when it is chopped, crushed or chewed. Garlic is particularly helpful in reducing blood pressure, boosting immunity and reducing oxidation.

Mushrooms:

Mushrooms are considered a functional food which means that they play a role in human health beyond just nutrition. They are low in calories and dense in micronutrients including B vitamins, zinc, selenium, copper, phenols and cancer-fighting antioxidants.

Mushrooms are thought to be one of the most researched anti-cancer agents, hence the term ‘medicinal mushrooms’. The shiitake mushroom has been singled out as being the most beneficial mushroom in human health and is thought to play a role in protecting against more than 200 conditions.

Cacao:

Cacao is a true superfood, containing more antioxidants than blueberries, but it has a strong aftertaste that is bitter, a bit like eating coffee beans. The higher the cacao in a dark chocolate, the more bitter the taste. The higher the cacao percentage the healthier it is because there’s less space for additional ingredients like sugar. Dark chocolate containing more than 75% cacao delivers great antioxidant benefits. Just a few pieces will suffice though. The flavanols in cacao can also stimulate the endothelium lining of vessels to produce nitric oxide (NO) which is extremely beneficial for vascular health. In a world where Heart Disease is our Number 1 killer this is of great benefit.

Chlorella:

Chlorella is another great marine superfood. It is sourced from freshwater algae and deserves special mention because it’s loaded with antioxidants and vitamins but is also a uniquely powerful detoxification aid. It is especially active against heavy metals (such as mercury), chemicals and pesticides in the digestive tract which, if left in situ, can intoxicate the blood stream. In short it’s a great detoxifier.

Green Tea:

Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet and should definitely feature in any longevity and anti-cancer diet. Green tea contains the anti-cancer phytonutrients catechins so it’s about 15 times more powerful in antioxidant activity than blueberries are. It is evidenced to reduce heart disease, cancer, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.

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