Twelve stealthy superfoods

Monday, July 11, 2011
Twelve stealthy superfoods
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With all the health claims about exotic superfoods such as acai and pomegranate, it's easy to overlook ordinary fruits and vegetables that also pack a hefty nutritional punch. Charge up your diet with these foods.

Mangoes
A new US study shows that mango prevents cancer growth in leukaemia and lung, breast and colon cancer cells, at least in test tubes. The researchers say bioactive gallotannins are the compounds responsible for the effect.

Related: Six sneaky weight-loss tips

Green tea
Japanese research suggests that the polyphenols in green tea disable the sulphur compounds in oral bacteria that are responsible for bad breath and cavities, so sip a cup to freshen your breath and protect your pearly whites.

Red grapes
The antioxidant resveratrol, found in red grapes and wine, has been shown to "switch on" a gene responsible for longevity and blood sugar regulation, University of Texas researchers wrote in Endocrinology.

Cherries
Runners should pick cherries, says a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. Researchers found that cherries reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, aiding in the recovery of muscle function.

Lemons
According to scientists at Purdue University in the US, adding a dash of lemon juice to black or green tea increases your body's absorption of the tea's immunity-boosting antioxidants by 80 percent.

Oats
A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology shows that premenopausal women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by a remarkable 41 percent when they switch to a diet rich in wholegrains, such as oats.

Cabbage
Studies show that Korean kimchi — a traditional condiment that is made from fermented cabbage, garlic, vinegar, and chilli — helps to prevent stomach cancer. Pick some up at your local Asian market.

Walnuts
A study published in PLoS Medicine has found that people who regularly ate walnuts had a 19 percent reduction in heart disease risk, thanks to these nuts' high content of heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.

Garlic
If you eat plenty of garlic, you'll have a 28 percent lower rate of colon cancer, the US Cancer Institute says. Garlic counters a particular tumour-promoting prostaglandin, plus its sulphur compounds boost immunity and block carcinogens.

Beans
Not only are beans a great source of dietary fibre. Now research from the Heart Foundation shows Hispanic women, who eat twice as many beans as Caucasian women, also have significantly lower rates of breast cancer. Beans contain high amounts of oestrogen-blocking phytoestrogens, which protect against cancer.

Ginger
You probably know that freshly grated ginger in tea or food can settle an upset stomach. What you may not know is that eating it regularly slashes your chances of getting irritable bowel syndrome by nearly 50 percent, because it helps protect the lining of your stomach, French researchers have found.

Chocolate
A Harvard study has found that people who regularly eat chocolate live nearly three years longer than those who don't indulge. Apart from giving yourself a well-earned treat, chocolate contains phenols that prevent fat from clogging arteries.

Surprising C
The immune-enhancing benefits of vitamin C are already known. Now, according to a study in Nutrition, we can add mood improvement to the list of things vitamin C can help with. In one experiment, acute-care hospital patients experienced significant and rapid improvement in mood almost immediately after taking vitamin C supplements. Not only does vitamin C regulate the hormone serotonin, which affects the mind and emotions, but, according to study author Dr John Hoffer, about one in five acute-care patients have vitamin C levels so low as to be compatible with scurvy.

In pictures: Slimming superfoods

Honey, honey
Researchers at Amsterdam's Academic Medical Centre have finally figured out what natural therapists have known for centuries — that honey kills bacteria and speeds healing of wounds. Researchers writing in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that the primary antibiotic element in medical-grade manuka honey is defensin-1, which is a powerful immune system protein. The honey was found to be effective against antibiotic-resistant staph and bacterial infections; honey's pH (acidity) is another reason why it provides a barrier against invading bacteria.

Coffee lovers, rejoice!
An Italian study published in the Annals of Oncology has shown that drinking coffee is associated with a 36 percent reduction in oral cancer risk. There are two possible reasons for this, the researchers found. One is that coffee contains chemicals with significant antioxidant properties; the other is that it also contains kahweol, chlorogenic acid, and cafestol, compounds that help to reduce the genotoxicity of some carcinogens.

Your say: Do you believe "superfoods" really do all the things they are said to do? Which ones do you eat?

Video: Are red wine and chocolate really good for you?

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