20 Super Foods!...by
all means this list is not all-inclusive.
copyright Max Wettstein, 2006 *not medical
There are many amazing foods out
there that are nutrient dense and very functional. I am attempting to
create a small, beginner's list here of some amazing foods that are also very
accessible and affordable too. I'm sure you may be aware of the most
powerful, magical mushroom in the world, however if you have to spend a week in
the remote Amazon jungle floor searching for it, it won't do this list much
good, will it?! A useful list couldn’t and
shouldn’t contain them all, so what makes me consider a food “Super”? As
far as this list is concerned a food will not be considered super unless it
possesses healing properties above and beyond providing nutrition and energy.
“Healing properties” you ask? Let me give you few examples of some healing
properties I’m referring to and how they are defined:
Neutralizes free-radical molecules in the body, due to oxidative metabolism,
by binding to them. Free-radicals left unchecked can wreak havoc in the body
by pulling electrons from other molecules and speed up the aging process of
- Alkalinizing: If you’ll remember
from my earlier article on pH-balancing, your body’s natural pH is slightly
alkaline, and many of the refined foods, sodas, coffees, and dairy we eat are
very acidic causing the body to leach calcium and other minerals from our
bones and muscles to neutralize the acids. An acidic body has a weakened
immune system and does not function at its ideal.
Some foods lower inflammation and it is now thought that chronic, systemic
inflammation is directly linked to elevated CRP, atherosclerosis, insulin
resistance, arthritis, Lupus, and many other problems.
- Lower LDL-cholesterol and/or raise
HDL-cholesterol: This one really needs no
explaining. Good for the heart and blood vessels.
Some foods naturally accomplish this role in helping the immune system
eliminate harmful pathogens from the body and preventing Candida, (yeast),
Some foods directly battle cancer cells, and bust up tumors.
Can help our immune systems grow accustom to allergens and prevent reactions.
Micronutrients found in plant-foods including phyto-estrogens to block
bad/synthetic estrogens, isoflavones, flavonols, and plant sterols. These
amazing chemicals do things like lower LDL-cholesterol, function as
anti-oxidants, support hormone balance, and combat cancer.
- Improve Insulin sensitivity/glucose
tolerance: Helps cells uptake glucose from the
blood for energy using less insulin.
The other component necessary for
a food to make my ‘super’ list is that it has to be very close to its state
created by Mother Nature. Supplements have a place in the nutrition pyramid for
sure, but Mother Nature delivers vitamins, minerals, and phyto-chemicals in
better form than any supplement. Minimal processing and refining, and in fact
for many of the foods on this list, eating them raw would be best, as heat from
cooking can alter the chemical structure of fragile micro-nutrients and enzymes,
and denature proteins. So without further introductions, here are some super,
healthy foods for you, (many of them which have already had quite a bit of buzz,
so you may be aware of them), in no particular order:
Though garlic is considered more of a seasoning, it possesses some amazing
healing attributes, especially when a clove is eaten raw. The chemicals
Allicin and Phytoncide in it function as a natural anti-biotic,
anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, fighting Candida-yeast and other pathogens. It
also serves as a blood thinner, lowers LDL-cholesterol, lowers triglycerides,
and lowers homocysteine levels. It is also is a good source of B-vitamins.
- Green Tea: Again, not really a
food but a beverage, this tea seems to do it all from boosting energy with
just the right amount of caffeine, to boosting metabolism and fat-burning with
a chemical called EGCG, to fighting cancer cells with Catechins,
packing anti-oxidant power with plenty of Polyphenols, to balancing pH
because it is highly alkaline – 3 cups a day and you’re good to go! Unlike
with coffee, you can’t seem to overdo green tea, so drink up.
- Olive Oil:
From salad dressings, to dipping your bread, flavoring your pasta, to low-heat
cooking, this monounsaturated oil is one of the keys to the legendary
‘Mediterranean Diet’ that is credited with longevity and lower cancer rates.
Olive oil’s key nutrients are oleic acid and plenty of Polyphenols
anti-oxidants. Oleic acid is an Omega fatty acid precursor that is
multi-functional as an anti-inflammatory, protecting joint health, improving
elasticity of arterial walls, and supporting brain health. Look for
‘Extra-Virgin’ and cold-pressed, if you want the most flavor and most
- The Lemon:
This simple, bright smelling citrus fruit is a great way to start off every
morning to alkalinize your body and stimulate your digestive tract. Though
lemon contains 5% citric acid, it has a very alkalinizing effect on the body
primarily due to its mineral ratio content and reaction to stomach acid. It
is also packed with potassium, vitamin C and citrus bioflavonoid
antioxidants. Squeeze half a fresh lemon in a glass of warm water upon
waking. It is also an anti-septic.
Every pilot I’ve flown with at JetBlue loves munching on almonds, and I really
hope we get our almonds snack back, instead of cashews! Raw are best of
course, (and they taste just as good), and unsalted. The almond is one of the
only nuts that are alkaline. At the same time, it is loaded with essential
anti-inflammatory fats that lower LDL-cholesterol and boost HDL-cholesterol,
(the good kind). Almonds also deliver a good dose of protein, vitamin E, and
Zinc to boot, with no sugar of course! Walnuts are a great runner-up.
- Wild Salmon:
(And other cold-water, ocean fish) Wild salmon made the list because it is
probably the most tasty source of the essential fat, Omega-3 fatty acid you
can eat. Wild is way better than farm-raised because farm-raised salmon swim
in very sketchy tanks full of polluted water, and wild has lower PCB and
mercury levels. Farm-raised fish also has more saturated fat, and less Omega
fats. The Omega-3 fatty acid is the best source of DHA and EPA, so important
for brain and heart health.
- The Egg: The
egg is back! Some say it never left. The egg made this list because it is
one of the best sources of complete protein found in Mother Nature. Egg has a
high biological absorption value and is easily digested, supplying all
essential amino acids in proper ratio. One egg provides 7 grams of protein.
Egg also is an excellent source of B-vitamins, Folic acid, vitamin A, choline,
iron, calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. Yes the yolk has a lot of
cholesterol, but it is now known that most of this is good, HDL-cholesterol,
and most of the fat is unsaturated. The yellow-coloring in the yolk also is
loaded with carotene, vitamin D and E. And now the organic farms are
fortifying their chickens with omega fatty acids too. Did I mention the egg
- Flax Seed/Oil:
Flax whether eaten as seeds or oil is loaded with the omegas 3, 6, and 9 in
proper ratio. The lignans and seed hulls they provide are one of the best
sources of dietary fiber both soluble and insoluble, for cardiovascular and
colon health. Use the oil in salad dressings, or blend in your smoothie.
Look for natural yogurt with “live, active cultures”, and no added corn
syrup! Yogurt made the list because it is a great way to ingest friendly,
probiotic bacteria essential for colon health, and to keep yeast in check.
Yogurt also provides calcium and protein, and moderate levels of sugar, as
long as you avoid the corn syrup.
Oatmeal is one of the best complex slow-digesting carbohydrates you can eat
for sustained energy and minimal insulin release, and also provides a good
amount of soluble fiber credited for heart health, by lowering
LDL-cholesterol. Oatmeal can be eaten by itself or blended into smoothies or
other recipes. Granola and other oat-based cereals are better than
wheat-based cereals, especially if you suspect you may have a wheat allergy.
- The Apple:
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” still holds true. Especially when
eaten with the skin. The apple has a very alkalinizing effect, and is packed
with Flavonoids and other phyto-nutrients that function as antioxidants and
anticarcinogenic. You also get a good serving of pectin fiber.
- Honey: It
has to be raw and preferably harvested in your local area. Honey, like
garlic, touts too many benefits to list here, but primarily helps treat
allergies, since locally harvested, raw honey contains small amounts of the
very same pollen, mold, and dust that are most likely causing your allergies.
Slowly you will develop immunity to these contaminants. Honey is also an
alkaline source of sugar that packs more sweetness per calorie than regular
table sugar, (sucrose). Honey does not ferment during digestion, and can be
used to treat gastric and intestinal ulcers. Honey also combats H. Pylori
bacteria responsible for causing most ulcers.
Berries as a whole, are packed with anti-oxidants, but blueberries may top the
list. Blueberries are also a good source of fiber, folic acid; vitamin C, E,
and can help prevent urinary tract infections.
- Avocado: The
avocado tastes so good, and fortunately for us, it is very healthy. Very
alkaline, and very satiating – a great way to fill up by adding slices to
salads, and sandwiches, as guacamole, or just by itself. When you eat avocado
you are primarily eating a monounsaturated fat, like olive oil, that is can be
converted by the body into omega fatty acids, and also ingesting potassium,
vitamins B and E, and lot of fiber. Right off the tree, 100% goodness, and
squeeze some lime on it to prevent discoloring from oxidation.
- Legumes, AKA, beans:
Beans, beans, good for your heart…and everything else! Your favorite bean,
whether black, red, or kidney, is packed with fiber, folic acid, protein, and
vitamin E. Sometimes eating too much leaves a lot of fiber to be fermented in
the colon by friendly bacteria there to finish digestion, yielding some
This favorite holiday spice has proven effective in improving insulin
sensitivity and glucose uptake. So use it in your coffee, on your toast, or
anywhere else, but just make sure it is fresh!
- Dark Chocolate:
In moderate amounts and most importantly it has to be ‘dark’, with at least
70% real cocoa content. This means your favorite Hershey’s or Snickers bar
won’t do the trick. ‘Milk chocolate’ won’t do it. It is the cocoa that has
the health benefits, loaded with flavonols and L-Arginine that improve the
health of your endothelium cells lining your blood vessels, dilating them,
(causing them to release nitric oxide). Also, the fat contained in dark
chocolate, is from cocoa butter and is a functional dietary fat, not harmful
to LDL-cholesterol levels, and may in fact raise HDL levels. Lastly dark
chocolate is lower in sugar than milk chocolate.
- Yams, AKA, Sweet Potatoes:
Excellent source of energy sustaining, slow-digesting, complex, carbohydrate
that won’t spike your insulin levels. Also the orange coloring is loaded with
beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Make sure you eat the skin for added
fiber and potassium.
- Quinoa: An ancient grain that has surged in
popularity lately, mostly because it is a gluten-free alternative for this
latest diet trend. It is also relatively high in complete-protein
content when compared to similar grains and starches, like rice. It
tastes amazing with a complex, satiating texture too. Serve it as
replacement for rice or barley. Sprouted-quinoa unleashes even more
health benefits by unlocking and activating its natural enzymes.
- Coconut/coconut oil:
Coconut oil has been used by some Asian and tropical cultures for literally
thousdands of years for cooking, but for some reason has recently taken off
in popularity in the health-hispter, vegan and fitness-circles - mostly due
to anecdotal claims only, I'm afraid. What I can tell you is, it
tastes and smells great, is a whole-food, is useful for high-heat cooking
due to it's high smoke-point temperature and is mostly saturated fat, which
is normally considered to be avoided by dieticians if one has any
cholesterol issues. However in the unique case of the coconut, it's
saturated fat is a Medium-chain-triglyceride fat, which burns for quick
energy similar to that of a carbohydrate, but with no insulin-release,
(cutting-phase bodybuilders have known about this for years). Also it
seems to increase HDL-cholesterol (the 'good' kind of cholesterol) only,
while leaving the bad, LDL cholesterol levels unchanged - so the net effect
on one's cholesterol is a positive one! It is also a great skin
moisturizer and is said to possess some anti-microbial properties as well.
Bonus!: Check out Chia Seeds:)
stop at twenty otherwise what is the point of making a list? Feel free to add
to it. There are many more foods that deserve super status – just about any
fruit or vegetable! These foods here are all nutrient dense and functional on
many levels. They go way beyond just providing energy. You can gather from
this list that the omega fats are highly regarded in health and nutrition
circles. The Omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, especially, supports brain,
cardiovascular, eye, and joint health, and acts as a general anti-inflammatory.
Try to incorporate several of these foods into your daily diet. It is easier
than you think. You know, we can’t slow time, and we can’t change our genetics,
but we can control what food we eat. Eating super foods like these just might
be your best chance at offsetting the effects of aging; antioxidants for example
stop the aging and oxidative damage caused by free-radicals. Super nutrition is
the best weapon in our anti-aging arsenal, and best of all eating healthy
requires no prescription.
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