Top superfoods that help fight disease
An apple a day reduces swelling of all kinds, thanks to quercetin, a flavonoid also found in the skin of red onions. Quercetin reduces the risk of allergies, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and prostate and lung cancers. If given the choice, opt for Red Delicious. They contain the most inflammation-fighting antioxidants.
Alaskan King Crab
High in protein and low in fat, the sweet flesh of the king crab is spiked with zinc—a whopping 7 milligrams per 3.5-ounce serving. “Zinc is an antioxidant, but more important, it helps support healthy bone mass and immune function,” says Bowerman.
The juice from the biblical fruit of many seeds can reduce your risk of most cancers, thanks to polyphenols called ellagitannins, which give the fruit its color. In fact, a recent study at UCLA found that pomegranate juice slows the growth of prostate cancer cells by a factor of six.
This crunchy cruciferous vegetable is more than the filler that goes with shrimp in brown sauce. “Bok choy is rich in bone-building calcium, as well as vitamins A and C, folic acid, iron, beta-carotene, and potassium,” says celebrity trainer Teddy Bass. Potassium keeps your muscles and nerves in check while lowering your blood pressure, and research suggests that beta-carotene can reduce the risk of both lung and bladder cancers, as well as macular degeneration.
Shellfish, in general, is an excellent source of zinc, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, potassium, and selenium. “But the creamy flesh of oysters stands apart for its ability to elevate testosterone levels and protect against prostate cancer,” says Bass.
One cup of broccoli contains a hearty dose of calcium, as well as manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. And that’s in addition to its high concentration of vitamins—including A, C, and K—and the phytonutrient sulforaphane, which studies at Johns Hopkins University suggest has powerful anticancer properties.
Like bananas, this fuzzy fruit is high in bone-protecting potassium. “They’re also rich in vitamin C and lutein, a carotenoid that can help reduce the risk of heart disease,” says Bowerman. “I try to eat at least one or two a week after exercising.” Freeze them for a refreshing energy kick, but don’t peel the skin: It’s edible and packed with nutrients.
The extra-virgin variety is rich in beneficial monounsaturated fats. “Its fatty acids and polyphenols reduce inflammation in cells and joints,” says Grieger. A study in the journal Nature found that it’s as effective as Advil at reducing inflammation. “Have 2 tablespoons a day,” says Bowerman.
“Leeks can support sexual functioning and reduce the risk of prostate cancer,” says Michael Dansinger, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and an obesity researcher at Tufts–New England Medical Center, in Boston. “Chop the green part of a medium leek into thin ribbons and add it to soups, sautés, and salads as often as
possible.” These scallion-like cousins of garlic and onions are also packed with bone-bolstering thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and potassium, and they’re also rich in folic acid, a B vitamin that studies have shown to lower levels of the artery-damaging amino acid homocysteine in the blood.
Lauded for centuries as an aphrodisiac, this fiber-rich plant contains more bone-building magnesium and potassium than any other vegetable. Its leaves are also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols—antioxidants that can cut the risk of stroke—and vitamin C, which helps maintain the immune system. “Eat them as often as you can,” says Bowerman. Ripe ones feel heavy for their size and squeak when squeezed.
“Chilis stimulate the metabolism, act as a natural blood thinner, and help release endorphins,” says Petersen. Plus, they’re a great way to add flavor to food without increasing fat or calorie content. Chilis are also rich in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in the blood and fights infections,
as well as capsaicin, which inhibits neuropeptides (chemicals that cause inflammation). A recent study in the journal Cancer Research found that hot peppers even have anti-prostate-cancer properties. All this from half a chili pepper (or 1 tablespoon of chili flakes) every day.
Contrary to popular belief, ginger—a piquant addition to so many Asian dishes—isn’t a root, it’s a stem, which means it contains living compounds that improve your health. Chief among them is gingerol, a cancer suppressor that studies have shown to be particularly effective against that of the colon. Chop ginger or grind it fresh and add it to soy-marinated fish or chicken as often as you can. The more you can handle, the better.
Known for making desserts sweet and Indian food complex, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that inhibit blood clotting and bacterial growth (including the bad-breath variety). “Studies also suggest that it may help stabilize blood sugar, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes,” says dietitian Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “What’s more, it may help reduce bad cholesterol. Try half a teaspoon a day in yogurt or oatmeal.”
Those who have eggs for breakfast lose 65 percent more weight than those who down a bagel breakfast with the same number of calories, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity. Eat the
yolk, too. Recent studies have proved that the fat in the yellow part is important to keep you satiated, and the benefits of its minerals and nutrients outweigh its cholesterol effect.
Packed with potassium, manganese, and antioxidants, this fruit also helps support proper pH levels in the body, making it more difficult for pathogens to invade, says Petersen. Plus, the fiber in figs can lower insulin and blood-sugar levels, reducing the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Select figs with dark skins (they contain more nutrients) and eat them alone or add them to trail mix.
Nothing beats pure protein when it comes to building muscle. The problem with most store-bought beef, however, is that the majority of cattle are
grain fed, which gives their meat a relatively high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. That, in turn, contributes to inflammation. The fatty acids in grass-fed beef, on the other hand, are skewed toward the omega-3 variety. Such beef also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which studies have shown help reduce belly fat and build lean muscle.
Delicious when added to brown rice, reiki, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms are rich in the antioxidant ergothioneine, which protects cells from abnormal growth and replication. “In short, they reduce the risk of cancer,” says Bowerman, who recommends half a cup once or twice a week. “Cooking them in red wine, which contains resveratrol, magnifies their immunity-boosting power.”
With its potent mix of vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes—in particular, bromelain— pineapple is an all-body anti-inflammation cocktail. It also protects against colon cancer, arthritis, and macular degeneration, says Grieger. (If only the “colada” part of the equation were as healthy.) Have half a cup, two or three times a week.
Fruit or Vegetable Juice?
Raise a glass of the good stuff. In a 2006 the University of South Florida study, people who
drank three or more 4-ounce glasses of fruit or vegetable juice each week were 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank less. The high levels of polyphenols—antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables—may protect brain cells from the damage that may be caused by the disease, says study author Amy Borenstein, Ph.D.
Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that eating about 35 bing cherries a day can lower the risk of tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, and gout, says Bowerman. Studies also suggest that they reduce the risk of chronic diseases and metabolic syndrome.
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