By Vinita Makhija
Surprisingly, ‘power-packed’ super foods are found in every fridge. Little do we know about the varied nutritional value of these simple ingredients that we take for granted.
While all natural foods are good for you at varying levels, there is the brahminical cadre of super foods that can rev up your health substantially. What are these and how can we use them in our daily diet? Dr Steven Pratt in his book called Superfoods Rx – 14 Foods that can Change your Life, defined this type of food as ‘power-packed’ – food that is dense in nutrients and loaded with antioxidants.
Food like oats, barley, broccoli, spinach, avocados, oranges and yogurt fit into this category. Dr Pratt promises that these vitamin-packed lovelies have superpowers when it comes to keeping us healthy, improving our well-being, and helping us to live longer.
‘Super foods help increase the overall quality of diets,’ says Capers nutritionist, Victoria Pawlowski. ‘You get more nourishment per calorie. All have antioxidants which help combat daily stresses on the body that come from pollution, stress, poor diet. They cause havoc with our cells and antioxidants help to counter that and help prevent aging, cancer and heart disease.’
Closer home, Vijaya Venkat, founder of The Health Awareness Centre in Mumbai, says all super foods must possess five properties:
o Digestibility: Any food that is easy on your digestive system is preferable. This parameter gives fruits and raw vegetables the edge.
o Acid-alkaline level: The body’s PH balance aims to be 7.432 ideally, and foods that leave an alkaline residue are always preferred.
o Water content: Foods that add to or retain the water content in the body are good for the body as opposed to those that deplete it in the process of digestion.
o Nutrient density: The food should be wholesome and contain at least a few of the needed proteins, minerals and fats.
o Ecologically viability: They should be easy to grow and non-toxic.
On the basis of these definitions here is a list of super foods you would do well to adapt into your daily diet.
They lower cholesterol, fight heart disease, stabilize blood sugar, reduce obesity and cancer risk, and relieve hypertension. They are also rich in B vitamins and potassium. Opt for haricot beans, rajma, chowli, channa and others.
It belongs to the Cruciferaes family which also includes cabbage and cauliflower. It boosts your immune system and reduces the incidence of cataracts, builds bones, fights birth defects and protects against cancer.
These seeds and their oil are the richest source of Omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. They’re heart protective, control cholesterol levels, help prevent some forms of cancer and improve brain function. The seeds are a powerhouse of other nutrients including vitamin E, manganese and plant fiber. They can help in the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma and other allergies. These should be had only in their ground form and not more than 2 tsp a day. Sprinkle them on salad or stir them into a soup.
A nutritional all-star, this one. Sweet potatoes are loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Boil them like you would potatoes, or even make a kheer out of them.
Supply polyunsaturated fats, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, silicon and vitamin E. They’re easily digested and soothing to the digestive tract. Oats help depression and reduce cholesterol – a daily bowl can lower levels by 20 per cent. They also help regulate sugar metabolism so they’re good for diabetics. Oat fiber keeps the bowels regular. They are the best and cheapest of all breakfast cereals.
Soya is good only in its fermented form. It is a vital source of plant hormones called phytoestrogens. These protect against breast and prostate cancer, hormonal imbalances, PMS and menopausal problems including osteoporosis. It is important to note that one must reduce the intake of other proteins while including soya in the diet on a regular basis.
Fruits are packed with antioxidants, and are rich in carotids. Yellow, green, orange and red are the most important colors in foods and antioxidants are basically procured from them. Three servings of fruit of any kind should be consumed daily.
Nuts and Dry Fruits
All nuts are healthy, contrary to popular belief … as long as they aren’t oiled or salted and are taken in small proportions. They are brain-foods, high in protein, and fat.
Walnuts are an excellent source of omega 3.
Almonds are rich in calcium and peanuts reduce cholesterol.
All dry fruits are a natural source of sugar, vitamins, fiber and minerals. Also a rich source of iron and calcium, they are excellent in combating constipation.
Date sauce should be consumed during jaundice.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, protein and vitamin B, is easier to digest than milk, and helps in reducing cholesterol. Also helps during indigestion. We, in India, do not need to be convinced of its nutritive qualities, since it is part of most diets. Yogurt is beneficial in summers when it can keep the system cool. Use it as raita, lassi, salad dressing, kadi, and for yummy dahi wadas!
Carambola or Star Fruit
Remember those star-shaped yellowish-green sour things we used to get outside our schools? Those are star fruits – the raw fruit is astringent to bowels. It helps in excretion of intestinal worms. It stops diarrhea and vomiting. The ripe fruit is said to be a good remedy for bleeding piles, particularly the internal one.
It is reported to have anti-scorbutic properties. It is considered to be one of the best Indian cooling medicines.
Don’t be fooled by its small size, for it has big benefits. The seed contains vitamins A and E, most of the B vitamins and many minerals. Zinc is high, as are calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Sesame seed is an excellent source of calcium for those avoiding cow’s milk. The seed also has high amounts of iron, promotes blood circulation through the little known vitamin T, which plays a role in blood clotting. Sesame is said to lubricate joints and bowels. It also eases irritating cough and cracking joints. Studies prove that sesame reduces blood pressure. Application of sesame oil helps soothe neuralgia, sciatica and arthritis.
Khus-Khus (Poppy Seed)
It acts as a great cleanser for the system. It contains extensive quantities of calcium and phosphorus. It is a calming agent, and a very good food for lactating and pregnant mothers. Ground to a paste with lime juice, it is an effective remedy for dry itch.
It is a complete food as far as nutrients are concerned, rich in carbs, low in glucose, containing vitamin A, minerals, phosphorous, and manganese. Brown rice helps reduce cholesterol and prevents bowel cancer. It also regulates glucose metabolism in people with diabetes.
Include all or some of these into your diet and watch your health move from so-so to super!
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