You go to work, pick up kids, help with homework, cook dinner, clean, work more, sleep (but not enough). What do you do for you? We can’t all get out when we want–take a break from the day, go see a movie, take a walk, read a book. Maybe you get a run in but you have to move—fast—no time to take in the sights today, stop to pet a dog. So, we ask again–what can you do to make yourself feel better, gain more energy, protect your health, take a break? Maybe you could eat. You have to do that anyway, right?
So do it right. Add what doctors and other health professionals call “superfoods” to your diet everyday. It’s not that hard; you don’t have to comb specialty health food stores and groceries to find lots of them. You can hit your local Safeway, Whole Foods, or wherever you normally shop; or you can come into The Brown Bag for breakfast or lunch. For now, we’re going to make this easy for you. Consider this blog post your personal cheat sheet to five easy-to-find superfoods.
Blueberries—They’re packed with anti-oxidants and phytoflavinoids, and they’re also high in potassium and vitamin C. They can lower your risk of heart attack and cancer, AND they’re anti-inflammatory. Try to eat about a ½ cup a day of these little beauties—the darker the better (darker berries have more anti-oxidants). The price of fresh blueberries goes up in the off-season and sometimes they’re a little more difficult to find, so remember this: Frozen are just as good as fresh when it comes to blueberries. And they’re delicious! Eat up!
Tea—Black and green are great, but white is even better. The overall anti-oxidant power of black tea is the same as green tea, but green teas has ECGC which studies have shown can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. A recent study in Japan also found that men who drank green tea regularly had lower cholesterol levels than men who didn’t. To really pack a punch, brew up a cup of white tea, popular in China since the Ming dynasty but just making its way to the US in the last few years. White tea has more polyphenols (the anti-oxidant that fights and kills cancer cells) than any other tea. Studies also show that white tea can help your immune system fight off viruses and infection-causing bacteria, and help prevent plaque, the main cause of dental decay and disease. The down side: Expect to pay a good bit more for this super-tea.
Broccoli—Superfood extraordinaire. So, maybe you have to douse it in cheese or ranch dressing to get your kids to eat it—do it. Broccoli has over fifty percent of the RDA for vitamin C and potassium (vitamin K) per serving and more vitamin A than you’ll get from drinking a cup of milk. As if that wasn’t enough to make you slow down in the veggie aisle, broccoli has been shown to reduce the size of tumors in the body (proven in testing with colon cancers), cut the risk of bladder cancer in high-risk groups, and reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in women. It’s a friendly vegetable, and when it pairs up with other fruits and veggies like carrots and tomatoes, its anti-cancer effects are given a boost. But it’s not finished yet– broccoli just keeps on giving! It contains anti-oxidants and phytonutrients that help eliminate toxins in the body, and it helps to naturally cleanse the colon. When broccoli hits your stomach, its sulphur compounds are released and help to kill the bacteria responsible for causing stomach ulcers. Is that enough to make you say, “Pass the trees, please?” Remember to steam broccoli though—no boiling. It loses more nutrients through boiling (and don’t overcook it).
Tomatoes—They’re not just for summer salads; canned tomatoes are just as great and hold their nutritional, rock-star fruit status as well, if not more, than fresh. You see, the way to get the most out of your tomatoes isn’t by eating them right off the vine. Oh no no. The best way to really milk your tomatoes is to cook them. Cooking tomatoes releases the lycopene and beta-carotene that tomatoes are so famous for. Lycopene is a potent anti-oxidant that neutralizes free radicals which, if left in the body, can cause cancer. It also gives the tomato its lovely, rich, red color. Beta-carotene is also an anti-oxidant, and it helps maintain skin and tissue lining and supports the immune system. Cooking and concentrating tomatoes is an easy way to really pack a lycopene punch, but if you pair tomatoes with an oil, especially a heart-healthy oil such as olive oil, its potency is multiplied. Lycopene and beta-carotene are oil, not water, soluble, so cooking them together prepares them perfectly to be absorbed by the body. One Italian study showed that lycopene absorption was 3 times greater when tomatoes were eaten as tomato sauce or paste than when they are eaten raw.
But we’re not finished yet! Three independent studies show that lycopene may suppress the production of an insulin-like growth hormone called IFG–1. IFG-1 is made in the liver and can stimulate the growth and spread of prostate and breast cancer. Other studies show that lycopene may improve chemical communication between cells, thereby helping to regulate unusual cell growth and maybe even reversing the process by which a tumor becomes malignant. And we haven’t even talked about heart disease, prostate cancer, male fertility and eye disease yet! There are so many health benefits in a little, red tomato. Seems impossible to believe but it’s true. Put a cape on this little health crusader—tomatoes are superfood superstars!
Dark Chocolate—Dark chocolate is maybe the most delicious and indulgent way to help a taste bud help you. Dark chocolate (60% or higher cocoa content—the darker, the better!) is packed with anti-oxidants and polyphenols and can lower blood pressure. Research shows that both dark chocolate and cocoa have more anti-oxidants and flavonols than fruit. Don’t heat it up though—heat destroys all of chocolate’s health-giving attributes. It’s no tomato, but when was the last time someone encouraged you to have dessert? Indulge away
There are so many more superfoods that you can bring into your diet everyday without stress, more errands or offended taste buds. Try some of these on for size: beans, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon (buy wild, not farm-raised, for the greatest health benefits), soy, spinach, tukey, walnuts, and yogurt. The list goes on! At The Brown Bag, we try everday to make your life a little easier by making it tastier, healthier, and less stressful because we offer you healthy breakfast and lunch choices on the fly. Short on time? Run in, grab a bag full of goodness, and go! We hope you’ll follow our lead and support local and organic growers when you’re choosing your food, but for at least two meals a day, you don’t have to worry if you’ve made a responsible choice for your meal—we’ve done that for you. We strive everyday to lower our impact on the earth and bring you honest food made in house and from scratch. Think of us as Super Brown Bag, bringing your favorite superfoods to you everyday. Here’s to your health!