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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Foods With Super-Healing Powers (2)

Watercress



Not only is watercress extremely nutritious, it's about as close as you can get to a calorie-free food. Calorie for calorie, it provides four times the calcium of 2 percent milk. Ounce for ounce, it offers as much vitamin C as an orange and more iron than spinach. It's packed with vitamin A and has lots of vitamin K, along with multiple antioxidant carotenoids and protective phytochemicals.

The nutrients in watercress protect against cancer and macular degeneration, help build the immune system, and support bone health. The iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to your body's tissues for energy. The phytochemicals in watercress battle cancer in three ways: killing cancer cells, blocking carcinogens, and protecting healthy cells from carcinogens. They've also been shown to help prevent lung and esophageal cancer and can help lower your risk for other cancers.

In Chinese medicine, watercress is thought to help reduce tumors, improve night vision, and stimulate bile production (improving digestion and settling intestinal gas). It's used as a remedy for jaundice, urinary difficulty, sore throat, mumps, and bad breath.

How much: Eat watercress daily if you can. In some regions, it's more widely available during the spring and summer, when it's cultivated outdoors. But since it can also be grown hydroponically in greenhouses, you can find it year-round in many grocery stores and at your local farmers market.

Tips: You can cook it, but watercress is better for you when you eat it raw. Tuck it into a sandwich in place of lettuce.
Toss it with your favorite vegetables and eat it in a salad.
Watercress is great in pesto—just replace the basil with watercress—and soups.
Use watercress as a wonderfully detoxifying ingredient in juice or smoothies.


Spinach



You already knew spinach was good for you, but did you know just how good? Spinach protects against eye disease and vision loss; it's good for brain function; it guards against colon, prostate, and breast cancers; it protects against heart disease, stroke, and dementia; it lowers blood pressure; it's anti-inflammatory; and it's great for bone health. Spinach has an amazing array of nutrients, including high amounts of vitamin K, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and iron.

A carotenoid found in spinach not only kills prostate cancer cells, it also prevents them from multiplying. Folate promotes vascular health by lowering homocysteine, an amino acid that, at high levels, raises the risk of dementia and cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. Folate has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers and to help stop uncontrolled cell growth, one of the primary characteristics of all cancers. The vitamin C and beta-carotene in spinach protect against colon cancer in addition to fighting inflammation, making them key components of brain health, particularly in older adults.

Spinach is loaded with vitamin K (one cup of cooked spinach provides 1,111 percent of the recommended daily amount!), which builds strong bones by helping calcium adhere to the bone. Spinach is also rich in lutein, which protects against age-related macular degeneration, and it may help prevent heart attacks by keeping artery walls clear of cholesterol buildup.

How much: Fresh spinach should be a daily staple in your diet. It's available in practically every grocery store, no matter where you live, it's easy to find year-round, and you'd be hard pressed to find a more nutritionally sound, versatile green. So do yourself a healthy favor and aim for a few ounces, raw or lightly steamed, every day.

Tips: Add a handful of fresh spinach to your next fruit smoothie. It'll change the color but not the taste.
Conventionally grown spinach is susceptible to pesticide residue; stick to organic.


Onions



Onions get a bad rap for their effect on the breath, but that's not the only part of the body where they pack a wallop. Onions contain potent cancer-fighting enzymes; onion consumption has been shown to help lower the risk of prostate and esophageal cancers and has also been linked to reduced mortality from coronary heart disease. Research suggests that they may help protect against stomach cancer. Onions contain sulfides that help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as a peptide that may help prevent bone loss by inhibiting the loss of calcium and other bone minerals.

Onions have super antioxidant power. They contain quercetin, a natural antihistamine that reduces airway inflammation and helps relieve symptoms of allergies and hay fever. Onions also boast high levels of vitamin C, which, along with the quercetin, battles cold and flu symptoms. Onions' anti-inflammatory properties help fight the pain and swelling associated with osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis. Onions are also extremely rich in sulfur and they have antibiotic and antiviral properties, making them excellent for people who consume a diet high in protein, fat, or sugar, as they help cleanse the arteries and impede the growth of viruses, yeasts, and other disease-causing agents, which can build up in an imbalanced diet.

How much: For all the health benefits onions provide, it would be ideal to eat one a day. However, if that's not doable for you, add a few onions to your weekly grocery list and try to eat a little bit every day. All varieties are extremely good for you, but shallots and yellow onions lead the pack in antioxidant activity. Raw onions provide the best nutrition, but they're still great for you when they're lightly cooked. And cooking meat at high temperatures (such as on a grill) with onions can help reduce or counteract carcinogens produced by the meat.

Tip: Onions should be stored at room temperature, but if they bother your eyes when you cut them, try refrigerating them for an hour beforehand.


Carrots



Carrots are a great source of the potent antioxidants known as carotenoids. Diets high in carotenoids have been tied to a decreased risk in postmenopausal breast cancer as well as cancers of the bladder, cervix, prostate, colon, larynx, and esophagus. Conversely, diets low in carotenoids have been associated with chronic disease, including heart disease and various cancers. Research suggests that just one carrot per day could reduce your risk of lung cancer by half. Carrots may also reduce your risk of kidney and ovarian cancers. In addition to fighting cancer, the nutrients in carrots inhibit cardiovascular disease, stimulate the immune system, promote colon health, and support ear and eye health.

Carrots contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin C, and an incredible amount of vitamin A. The alpha-carotene in carrots has shown promise in inhibiting tumor growth. Carrots also contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which work together to promote eye health and prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. In Chinese medicine, carrots are used to treat rheumatism, kidney stones, tumors, indigestion, diarrhea, night blindness, ear infections, earaches, deafness, skin lesions, urinary tract infections, coughs, and constipation.

How much: Eat a serving of carrots each day if you can, and enjoy them year-round. Carrots are good for you whether they're raw or lightly cooked; cooking helps break down the tough fiber, making some of the nutrients more easily absorbed. For the best nutrition, go for whole carrots that are firm and fresh-looking. Precut baby carrots are made from whole carrots and, although they're convenient, they tend to lose important nutrients during processing.

Tips: Remove carrot tops before storing them in the fridge, as the tops drain moisture from the roots and will cause the carrots to wilt.
Buy organic; conventionally grown carrots frequently show high pesticide residues.

Links:
Foods With Super-Healing Powers (3)

Foods With Super-Healing Powers (1)

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