Super Foods.

Here we are speeding along in the brand new year, 2012. What an exciting year this may be. This is the year that we are going to do many of the things we have been wanting to do but haven't got around to doing so far.

What type of goals did you set? Have you kept them so far?! Will you still be keeping them by the time that we reach December?

If we could take a poll, the number one goal set by people around the world would most likely have to do with nutrition.

  • Eat better
  • Learn more about the health benefits of herbs and spices
  • Bring our bodies to their perfect weight

Well, today we are going to talk about some super foods that we can use to help us with our goals. These are foods that are already favorites of almost everyone. They grow in the summer but we can get them all year round frozen, and often fresh.

These super foods can be used in desserts, smoothies, salads, and even main dishes. They are not only low calorie but actually help to balance our blood sugar. They are colorful and delicious. And there are a bunch of kinds of this superfood. They are BERRIES!

Berries are super foods because they are packed with so many good things. Let's start with antioxidants.

Antioxidants are important to our health and berries are packed with them. All berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, loganberries, acai berries and goji berries, for starters. Antioxidants help protect our cells from harm caused by free-radicals....

One of the things that happens when we breathe is that we use oxygen. When we do that we produce free-radicals. The list of damage that can be done by free-radicals is long. It includes such things as:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • macular degeneration
  • arthritis
  • hypertension
  • aging

Having a large number of antioxidants moving around in our bloodstream is like having a search and rescue team available all the time. They not only search out and protect healthy cells, but they also reduce problem causing inflammation.

These super foods are full of Vitamin C and other important vitamins and they are packed with fiber, 4 to 9 grams per cup.

Studies on these Super Foods.

There have been so many studies done which have conclusively shown all the amazing things that berries do. They:

  • support healthy aging
  • are anti-inflammatory (which helps the heart and brain as well as every other part of the body)
  • aid in cancer prevention
  • promote urinary tract health
  • provide protection against stroke
  • support heart health - (in the Journal of Nutrition, results indicate that the berries might actually have the power to cause arterial plaque to regress)
  • vision health
  • Berries help your brain health. Fruit that has deep orange, red or blue pigments contain natural polyphenolic compounds which help the microglia cells in the brain fight against age related memory loss.
  • If this isn't enough, a new area currently being studied is the metabolic syndrome, which includes such things as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

And if you still want more reasons to eat a diet full of berries, here it is - drumroll -

  • new research has found that blueberries may influence the genes which regulate fat-burning and storage. You can see how this would help to reduce fat and to lower cholesterol. If you are also eating a low-fat diet, berries might help lower triglycerides too. They will improve blood sugar levels!

So, this means that if you have sworn off of sweets and are not eating any sugar - including sugar from fruits, you can still, and should, eat berries.

Studies have shown that people who ate sugar-sweetened berries raised their blood sugar less than people who just ate sugar! So just think of the good you will do for yourself if you eat unsweetened berries.

Here's just a tiny bit about a few individual berries.

Blackberries. Blackberries, one of the super foods, contain ellagic acid which prevents sun damage - possibly even restoring the effects of skin that has been damaged before. This is a good thing to remember when summer gets here.

Besides antioxidants and Vitamin C, they contain Vitamin K which promotes absorption of calcium. A cup of blackberries contain a day's worth of manganese.

Blueberries. Blueberries are lutein-rich so help protect our eyes from macular degeneration.

A study done by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging had an amazing report of findings. They report that a diet of blueberries may improve motor skills! Wow!

Also that Blueberries may help reverse the short-term memory loss that comes when you get old - or with Alzheimer's (blue pigment)! Wow!

And studies have shown blueberries to inhibit the growth of aggressive and hard to treat forms of breast cancer! Wow! Wow!

We can go on and on and on with the findings in blueberry studies. It's easy to see why this is one of the super foods.

Raspberries. Raspberries are also packed with Vitamin C, folate, iron, potassium and ellagic acid. One cup supplies a third of daily niacin needs.

Strawberries. Strawberries, another miracle berry, are loaded with potassium that helps keep blood pressure normal. They not only contain folate and vitamin C, but they help prevent arthritis. One serving of about 8 strawberries provides 96 mg of vitamin C - that is 160% of the RDA! Strawberries along with blueberries are even a good source of Vitamin E.

Studies have also found that people who eat a lot of this miracle fruit daily show evidence of reducing the LDL or "bad" cholesterol. Because LDL is worse when oxidized - all those antioxidants help keep that under control.

Cranberries. We must take a minute to mention cranberries, another of the super foods. We all know that they prevent or treat urinary tract infections (their antibacterial properties prevent bacteria from "sticking" to the inside of the bladder and ureters.)

They are rich in antioxidants as well as polyphenols (many polyphenols occur naturally in plants and some, such as the flavonoids and tannins, are beneficial to health) and other phytochemicals (plant-based chemicals). They prevent bacteria from causing food-borne illness in the GI tract and can even help prevent tooth decay.

Cranberries, help prevent cancer and either raise HDL "good" cholesterol or lower LDL "bad".

So eat some berries. They are so delicious you can eat them by the handful either fresh or frozen, or just layer them in a goblet with yogurt and granola for a fast, healthy and pretty dessert.

Berry Smoothie

Here is a delicious recipe I stumbled across for a Berry Smoothie.

1 1/2 cups blueberries or mixed berries
1 Tablespoon almond butter
2 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 cup spinach leaves
1 Tablespoon honey

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Add ice and continue to blend. This drink is loaded with superfood benefits and is delicious.

Elderberries. Now let me tell you about another berry called "elderberry" (sambucas nigra). This is one of those wild growing plants - or herbs - that I have fallen in love with.

Though the whole plant - the blossoms and flowers - are used medicinally as well - we are talking about berries here, so we will just talk about Elderberries.

Elderberries are anti-viral and immune strengthening. Also known as immunomodulating. This means that it will boost your immune system - or it will assist your body in adjusting to whatever level of immunity it needs to help it stay healthy.

These dark blue berries are also full of Vitamin C and iron, and are used not only for strengthening your immune system, but for colds, flu and other lower respiratory viral infections.

Like other berries, they are amazing and also truly one of the super foods. You can learn more about them on my website on my page on cold remedies.

In the meantime, eat lots of berries.

  • Put them in cottage cheese or ricotta cheese or yogurt.
  • Add them to salads or blend them into salad dressing.
  • Make smoothies or use them in your protein shake.
  • Freeze your smoothies and make fruit pops.
  • Make berry syrup for pancakes.
  • Add them to your pancakes.
  • Add dried berries to trail mix.
  • Make freezer jam.

Enjoy winter and losing weight with the help of berries - the super foods.