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Which Foods Boost the Immune System?

Can certain foods boost the immune system? We look at what to eat to prevent illnesses and stay well

Can foods boost the immune system? If this thought has ever crossed your mind, you’re not alone. When it comes to preventing infections, we roughly know the drill. Wash your hands thoroughly. Sanitize surfaces. Stay home if you’re not feeling well. But many of us remain unsure as to what to eat to prevent our bodies from constantly getting ill.

It’s easy to fall prey to marketing gimmicks deployed by food brands. After all, it’s comforting to think that there is a single superfood or supplement out there that can supercharge our immunity and solve all of our health problems. But in reality, it’s way more complicated than that.

It’s definitely true that certain vitamins can provide a boost to our immune system. But at the same time, our bodies are complex machines with sophisticated needs. Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet may be much more beneficial to our health than popping vitamin supplements. So if you’re interested to know whether foods can actually boost the immune system, keep reading. Here, we’ll discuss what and how to eat in order to keep yourself fit and healthy.

WHICH FOODS BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

Fruits

Fruits are one of the most nutrient-dense food groups. Packed with vitamins, minerals and many different biologically active compounds, they can provide a great boost to your immune defenses. Every type of fruit has something to offer your health and wellbeing. To get the most benefit, make sure to include a whole rainbow of plants in your diet.

Having said this, certain fruits may have stronger immunoprotective properties than others. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and limes, are a perfect example of foods that can boost the immune system. They’re widely known to be one of the best sources of vitamin C, a nutrient routinely used to treat viral and bacterial infections. But that’s not the only compound that makes them so effective. Citrus fruits are also rich in flavonoids, particularly hesperidin. Hesperidin is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and respiratory viruses. According to an article in Frontiers of Immunology, regular consumption of citrus fruit juices can increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells and decrease the levels of inflammatory markers in the body.

Another family of fruit that’s been shown to promote a healthier immune system is berries. Multiple studies have shown that berries contain antioxidant, antimutagenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties.

Vegetables

If you want to boost your immune system, one of the best ways is to include more vegetables in your diet. Similarly to fruits, this food group provides a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They’re also a great source of fiber and prebiotics – compounds that feed the good bacteria living in our gut. And keeping our gut health in check will in turn have a beneficial impact on our immune responses. To maximize your chances of staying free from infection, include many different types of vegetables in your diet.

Red bell and chili peppers are a great source of vitamin C, almost on par with citrus fruits. They also contain an alkaloid called capsaicin. According to a review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, capsaicin possesses strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and as such, has the potential clinical value for pain relief, cancer prevention and weight loss.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, can also contribute to a stronger immune system. They contain high levels of vitamin C and E, as well as compounds called glucosinolates. As described in the Molecules journal, glucosinolates have been shown to be protective against many different types of cancer, including breast, brain, blood, bone, colon, gastric, liver, lung, oral, pancreatic and prostate.

Broccoli is another great example of a food that can boost your immune system. Apart from containing many vitamins, polyphenols and glucosinolates, it’s also a great source of substances called sulforaphane and quercetin. According to a review published in Phytochemistry Reviews, sulforaphane is highly involved in detoxification and neutralization of chemical carcinogens and free radicals. Quercetin also displays powerful antioxidant, anti-allergic and antiviral properties.

Special attention should also be given to green leafy vegetables, such as kale, lettuce and spinach. Spinach is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables. Multiple studies have demonstrated its antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, and cholesterol-lowering abilities. It provides a solid dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including a carotenoid called lutein. As suggested in a review in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, lutein has been shown to stimulate the production of antibodies and fight bacterial infections.

Mushrooms

There’s been a growing interest in the immune-strengthening properties of mushrooms. This food group provides a good deal of selenium and B vitamins, both of which have an important role in our immune health. Furthermore, mushrooms contain a range of highly specific immunomodulatory and anti-cancer proteins, as described in the Journal of Autoimmunity.

Many types of mushrooms are beneficial to our health, but recently the attention has been directed particularly at shiitake mushrooms. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, regular consumption of shiitake significantly improves white blood cell and antibody production in the body.

Fermented foods

Fermented food and drink has a long history. They were among the first processed food products consumed by humans – and for many good reasons. The fermentation process improves the shelf life, safety and flavor of foods like yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi. It also enhances their nutritional properties.

Many fermented foods contain strains of beneficial live bacteria, often referred to as probiotics. Probiotics can stimulate immune system function through enhancing natural killer cell toxicity, regulating the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and increasing white blood cell count, according to a study in the Food Control journal.

Seafood

When it comes to foods that boost the immune system, seafood may not be the first thing to cross your mind. But this food group has a lot to offer. Oily fish, for example, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, tryptophan and polyamines. According to a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, regular fish consumption can lead to better gut health and a reduced risk of developing inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Shellfish – including shrimp, lobsters, oysters, mussels, scallops, clams, crabs, krill and snails – also contain significant quantities of immune-stimulating bioactive peptides, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In fact, oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, which is linked to immune health.

Spices and condiments are great for increasing the flavor of dishes, but that’s not the only thing they’re useful for.

Garlic is a great example of a food that can boost the immune system. According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition, garlic appears to stimulate the production and regulate the functioning of white blood cells, cytokines and immunoglobulins. Regular consumption can contribute to the treatment and prevention of respiratory infections, gastric ulcer, and even cancer.

Garlic

Ginger is another example. According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, ginger has a strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anticancer potential.

What’s more, black pepper may also be able to boost the immune system. Due to its antibacterial properties, it’s long been used as a food preservative. It contains a compound called piperine, which according to a review published in the Phytotherapy Research journal, displays numerous health benefits.

In the last several years, researchers have also been extensively studying the immunomodulatory properties of turmeric. Recent studies have demonstrated that curcumin – the main active ingredient of turmeric – shows antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulatory properties and can reduce the risk of several types of cancers.

HOW TO INTEGRATE IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS INTO A BALANCED DIET

Many foods have the ability to boost the immune system, but how can you make sure you’re including them in your diet?

Firstly, make sure to focus on eating wholefoods and cooking from scratch. Also, try to avoid highly processed foods – items such as packaged bread, microwave meals and breakfast cereals may appear healthy, but they tend to be largely devoid of immune-supporting nutrients. If you feel peckish, try to snack on citrus fruit and berries. When it comes to larger meals, try to add a solid portion of vegetables, mushrooms, fish, shellfish and fermented foods to your plate. Experiment with spices and condiments too.

It’s also good to make sure that your cooking processes don’t destroy immune-boosting nutrients. For example, fruits and vegetables are sensitive to heat, so don’t overcook them. Instead, stick to steaming and gentle processing. According to an article published in Food Science and Biotechnology, prolonged boiling, frying and baking may result in reduced levels of vitamin C, A, D, E and K, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. In fact, broccoli may lose up to 50% or more of its vitamin C when boiled.

If you’re not a fan of the taste of turmeric or mushrooms, consider dietary supplements. Many brands offer good quality extracts made from immune-boosting foods. It’s also relatively easy to top up on probiotics in the form of tablets or capsules – for best results, look for quality products with multiple different bacteria strains. If you are thinking of changing your supplement routine, however, it’s best to consult your doctor first.

OTHER WAYS TO BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Increase your physical activity levels

There’s no doubt that being more active is one of the best things you can do for your physical health and mental wellbeing. It’s also a great way to boost your immune system. According to an article published in the Nutrition journal, exercise intensity and duration are closely linked to the functioning of multiple immune system components.

Researchers from the Sports Medicine journal also pulled together the results of multiple studies and concluded that higher levels of habitual physical activity is associated with a 31% lower risk of contracting an infectious disease and a 37% reduced risk of dying from it.

Prioritize quality sleep

Maintaining good sleep hygiene can make a huge difference to your quality of life. But getting enough sleep is also an important factor in immunity. A good snooze helps to balance the levels of hormones and cytokines that are responsible for regulating the inflammatory responses in the body, as described by a study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Some animal studies have also shown that interactions between immune signaling molecules and brain neurochemicals increase significantly during infection, indicating that we tend to sleep differently when we are sick. Researchers suggested that during infection, these sleep alterations help our body to recover faster.

Keep your stress levels under control

Short bouts of stress can help us to survive dangerous situations. But when that stress becomes chronic, it can have a serious impact on our physical health.

In an article published in the Brain and Behavior journal, researchers speculate that chronic stress severely disrupts immune system signaling and increases the levels of inflammation in the body. There’s also a growing body of evidence to suggest that stress-reducing interventions have a direct impact on our susceptibility to infections. For example, multiple studies have shown that engaging in mindfulness meditation may result in decreased markers of inflammation and improved immune signaling.

By Anna Gora

www.livescience.com


5 Comments

The World’s Most Nutritious Foods

After analysing more than 1,000 raw foods, researchers ranked the ingredients that provide the best balance of your daily nutritional requirements – and they found a few surprises.

Many of us are paying more attention to our diets and how the food we eat can support our health. To help sort out the fact from the fiction, BBC Future is updating some of our most popular nutrition stories from our archive.

Imagine the ideal food. One that contains all the nutrients necessary to meet, but not exceed, our daily nutrient demands. If such a food existed, consuming it, without eating any other, would provide the optimal nutritional balance for our body.

Such a food does not exist. But we can do the next best thing.

The key is to eat a balance of highly nutritional foods, that when consumed together, do not contain too much of any one nutrient, to avoid exceeding daily recommended amounts.

Scientists studied more than 1,000 foods, assigning each a nutritional score. The higher the score, the more likely each food would meet, but not exceed your daily nutritional needs, when eaten in combination with others.

Calculated and ranked by scientists, these are the 100 most nutritious foods:

A short guide to the 100 most nutritious foods

Please note: a few of the foods listed are endangered species, which we would not recommend. We would advise researching the provenance of all ingredients if buying them yourself.

100. SWEET POTATO (v)

86kcal, $0.21, per 100g

A bright orange tuber, sweet potatoes are only distantly related to potatoes. They are rich in beta-carotene.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 49

99. FIGS (v)

249kcal, $0.81, per 100g

Figs have been cultivated since ancient times. Eaten fresh or dried, they are rich in the mineral manganese.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 49

98. GINGER (v)

80kcal, $0.85, per 100g

Ginger contains high levels of antioxidants. In medicine, it is used as a digestive stimulant and to treat colds.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 49

97. PUMPKIN (v)

26kcal, $0.20, per 100g

Pumpkins are rich in yellow and orange pigments. Especially xanthophyll esters and beta-carotene.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

96. BURDOCK ROOT (v)

72kcal, $1.98, per 100g

Used in folk medicine and as a vegetable, studies suggest burdock can aid fat loss and limit inflammation.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

95. BRUSSELS SPROUTS (v)

43kcal, $0.35, per 100g

A type of cabbage. Brussels sprouts originated in Brussels in the 1500s. They are rich in calcium and vitamin C.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

94. BROCCOLI (v)

34kcal, $0.42, per 100g

Broccoli heads consist of immature flower buds and stems. US consumption has risen five-fold in 50 years.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

93. CAULIFLOWER (v)

31kcal, $0.44, per 100g

Unlike broccoli, cauliflower heads are degenerate shoot tips that are frequently white, lacking green chlorophyll.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

92. WATER CHESTNUTS (v)

97kcal, $1.50, per 100g

The water chestnut is not a nut at all, but an aquatic vegetable that grows in mud underwater within marshes.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

91. CANTALOUPE MELONS (v)

34kcal, $0.27, per 100g

One of the foods richest in glutathione, an antioxidant that protects cells from toxins including free radicals.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

90. PRUNES (v)

240kcal, $0.44, per 100g

Dried plums are very rich in health-promoting nutrients such as antioxidants and anthocyanins.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

89. COMMON OCTOPUS

82kcal, $1.50, per 100g

Though nutritious, recent evidence suggests octopus can carry harmful shellfish toxins and allergens.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 50

88. CARROTS (v)

36kcal, $0.40, per 100g

Carrots first appeared in Afghanistan 1,100 years ago. Orange carrots were grown in Europe in the 1500s.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 51

87. WINTER SQUASH (v)

34kcal, $0.24, per 100g

Unlike summer squashes, winter squashes are eaten in the mature fruit stage. The hard rind is usually not eaten.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 51

86. JALAPENO PEPPERS (v)

29kcal, $0.66, per 100g

The same species as other peppers. Carotenoid levels are 35 times higher in red jalapenos that have ripened.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 51

85. RHUBARB (v)

21kcal, $1.47, per 100g

Rhubarb is rich in minerals, vitamins, fibre and natural phytochemicals that have a role in maintaining health.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 51

84. POMEGRANATES (v)

83kcal, $1.31, per 100g

Their red and purple colour is produced by anthocyanins that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 51

83. RED CURRANTS (v)

56kcal, $0.44, per 100g

Red currants are also rich in anthocyanins. White currants are the same species as red, whereas black currants differ.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 51

82. ORANGES (v)

46kcal, $0.37, per 100g

Most citrus fruits grown worldwide are oranges. In many varieties, acidity declines with fruit ripeness.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 51

81. CARP

127kcal, $1.40, per 100g

A high proportion of carp is protein, around 18%. Just under 6% is fat, and the fish contains zero sugar.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 51

80. HUBBARD SQUASH (v)

40kcal, $8.77, per 100g

A variety of the species Cucurbita maxim. Tear-drop shaped, they are often cooked in lieu of pumpkins.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 52

79. KUMQUATS (v)

71kcal, $0.69, per 100g

An unusual citrus fruit, kumquats lack a pith inside and their tender rind is not separate like an orange peel.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 52

78. POMPANO

164kcal, $1.44, per 100g

Often called jacks, Florida pompanos are frequently-caught western Atlantic fish usually weighing under 2kg.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 52

77. PINK SALMON

127kcal, $1.19, per 100g

These fish are rich in long-chain fatty acids, such as omega-3s, that improve blood cholesterol levels.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 52

76. SOUR CHERRIES (v)

50kcal, $0.58, per 100g

Sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) are a different species to sweet cherries (P. avium). Usually processed or frozen.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 53

75. RAINBOW TROUT

141kcal, $3.08, per 100g

Closely related to salmon, rainbow trout are medium-sized Pacific fish also rich in omega-3s.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 53

74. PERCH

91kcal, $1.54, per 100g

Pregnant and lactating women are advised not to eat perch. Though nutritious, it may contain traces of mercury.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 53

73. GREEN BEANS (v)

31kcal, $0.28, per 100g

Green beans, known as string, snap or French beans, are rich in saponins, thought to reduce cholesterol levels.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

72. RED LEAF LETTUCE (v)

16kcal, $1.55, per 100g

Evidence suggests lettuce was cultivated before 4500 BC. It contains almost no fat or sugar and is high in calcium.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

71. LEEKS (v)

61kcal, $1.83, per 100g

Leeks are closely related to onions, shallots, chives and garlic. Their wild ancestor grows around the Mediterranean basin.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

70. CAYENNE PEPPER (v)

318kcal, $22.19, per 100g

Powdered cayenne pepper is produced from a unique cultivar of the pepper species Capsicum annuum.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

69. GREEN KIWIFRUIT (v)

61kcal, $0.22, per 100g

Kiwifruit are native to China. Missionaries took them to New Zealand in the early 1900s, where they were domesticated.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

68. GOLDEN KIWIFRUIT (v)

63kcal, $0.22, per 100g

Kiwifruits are edible berries rich in potassium and magnesium. Some golden kiwifruits have a red centre.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

67. GRAPEFRUIT (v)

32kcal, $0.27, per 100g

Grapefruits (Citrus paradisi) originated in the West Indies as a hybrid of the larger pomelo fruit.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

66. MACKEREL

139kcal, $2.94, per 100g

An oily fish, one serving can provide over 10 times more beneficial fatty acids than a serving of a lean fish such as cod.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

65. SOCKEYE SALMON

131kcal, $3.51, per 100g

Another oily fish, rich in cholesterol-lowering fatty acids. Canned salmon with bones is a source of calcium.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 54

64. ARUGULA (v)

25kcal, $0.48, per 100g

A salad leaf, known as rocket. High levels of glucosinolates protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 55

63. CHIVES (v)

25kcal, $0.22, per 100g

Though low in energy, chives are high in vitamins A and K. The green leaves contain a range of beneficial antioxidants.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 55

62. PAPRIKA (v)

282kcal, $1.54, per 100g

Also extracted from the pepper species Capsicum annuum. A spice rich in ascorbic acid, an antioxidant.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 55

61. RED TOMATOES (v)

18kcal, $0.15, per 100g

A low-energy, nutrient-dense food that are an excellent source of folate, potassium and vitamins A, C and E.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 56

60. GREEN TOMATOES (v)

23kcal, $0.33, per 100g

Fruit that has not yet ripened or turned red. Consumption of tomatoes is associated with a decreased cancer risk.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 56

59. GREEN LETTUCE (v)

15kcal, $1.55, per 100g

The cultivated lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is related to wild lettuce (L. serriola), a common weed in the US.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 56

58. TARO LEAVES (v)

42kcal, $2.19, per 100g

Young taro leaves are relatively high in protein, containing more than the commonly eaten taro root.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 56

57. LIMA BEANS (v)

106kcal, $0.50, per 100g

Also known as butter beans, lima beans are high in carbohydrate, protein and manganese, while low in fat.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 56

56. EEL

184kcal, $2.43, per 100g

A good source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), though the skin mucus of eels can contain harmful marine toxins.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 56

55. BLUEFIN TUNA

144kcal, $2.13, per 100g

A large fish, rich in omega-3s. Pregnant women are advised to limit their intake, due to mercury contamination.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 56

54. COHO SALMON

146kcal, $0.86, per 100g

A Pacific species also known as silver salmon. Relatively high levels of fat, as well as long-chain fatty acids.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 56

53. SUMMER SQUASH (v)

17kcal, $0.22, per 100g

Harvested when immature, while the rind is still tender and edible. Its name refers to its short storage life.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 57

52. NAVY BEANS (v)

337kcal, $0.49, per 100g

Also known as haricot or pea beans. The fibre in navy beans has been correlated with the reduction of colon cancer.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 57

51. PLANTAIN (v)

122kcal, $0.38, per 100g

Banana fruits with a variety of antioxidant, antimicrobial, hypoglycaemic and anti-diabetic properties.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 57

fruit vegetables

50. PODDED PEAS (v)

42kcal, $0.62, per 100g

Peas are an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, minerals and water-soluble vitamins.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 58

49. COWPEAS (v)

44kcal, $0.68, per 100g

Also called black-eyed peas. As with many legumes, high in carbohydrate, containing more protein than cereals.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 58

48. BUTTER LETTUCE (v)

13kcal, $0.39, per 100g

Also known as butterhead lettuce, and including Boston and bib varieties. Few calories. Popular in Europe.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 58

47. RED CHERRIES (v)

50kcal, $0.33, per 100g

A raw, unprocessed and unfrozen variety of sour cherries (Prunus cerasus). Native to Europe and Asia.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 58

46. WALNUTS (v)

619kcal, $3.08, per 100g

Walnuts contain sizeable proportions of a-linolenic acid, the healthy omega-3 fatty acid made by plants.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 58

45. FRESH SPINACH (v)

23kcal, $0.52, per 100g

Contains more minerals and vitamins (especially vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus and iron) than many salad crops. Spinach appears twice in the list (45 and 24) because the way it is prepared affects its nutritional value. Fresh spinach can lose nutritional value if stored at room temperature, and ranks lower than eating spinach that has been frozen, for instance.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 59

44. PARSLEY (v)

36kcal, $0.26, per 100g

A relative of celery, parsley was popular in Greek and Roman times. High levels of a range of beneficial minerals.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 59

43. HERRING

158kcal, $0.65, per 100g

An Atlantic fish, among the top five most caught of all species. Rich in omega-3s, long-chain fatty acids.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 59

42. SEA BASS

97kcal, $1.98, per 100g

A generic name for a number of related medium-sized oily fish species. Popular in the Mediterranean area.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 59

41. CHINESE CABBAGE (v)

13kcal, $0.11, per 100g

Variants of the cabbage species Brassica rapa, often called pak-choi or Chinese mustard. Low calorie.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 60

40. CRESS (v)

32kcal, $4.49, per 100g

The brassica Lepidium sativum, not to be confused with watercress Nasturtium officinale. High in iron.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 60

39. APRICOTS (v)

48kcal, $0.36, per 100g

A ’stone’ fruit relatively high in sugar, phytoestrogens and antioxidants, including the carotenoid beta-carotene.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 60

38. FISH ROE

134kcal, $0.17, per 100g

Fish eggs (roe) contain high levels of vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Caviar often refers to sturgeon roe.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 60

37. WHITEFISH

134kcal, $3.67, per 100g

Species of oily freshwater fish related to salmon. Common in the northern hemisphere. Rich in omega-3s.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 60

36. CORIANDER (v)

23kcal, $7.63, per 100g

A herb rich in carotenoids, used to treat ills including digestive complaints, coughs, chest pains and fever.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 61

35. ROMAINE LETTUCE (v)

17kcal, $1.55, per 100g

Also known as cos lettuce, another variety of Lactuca sativa. The fresher the leaves, the more nutritious they are.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 61

34. MUSTARD LEAVES (v)

27kcal, $0.29, per 100g

One of the oldest recorded spices. Contains sinigrin, a chemical thought to protect against inflammation.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 61

33. ATLANTIC COD

82kcal, $3.18, per 100g

A large white, low fat, protein-rich fish. Cod livers are a source of fish oil rich in fatty acids and vitamin D.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 61

32. WHITING

90kcal, $0.60, per 100g

Various species, but often referring to the North Atlantic fish Merlangius merlangus that is related to cod.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 61

31. KALE (v)

49kcal, $0.62, per 100g

A leafy salad plant, rich in the minerals phosphorous, iron and calcium, and vitamins such as A and C.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 62

30. BROCCOLI RAAB (v)

22kcal, $0.66, per 100g

Not to be confused with broccoli. It has thinner stems and smaller flowers, and is related to turnips.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 62

29. CHILI PEPPERS (v)

324kcal, $1.20, per 100g

The pungent fruits of the Capsicum plant. Rich in capsaicinoid, carotenoid and ascorbic acid antioxidants.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 62

28. CLAMS

86kcal, $1.78, per 100g

Lean, protein-rich shellfish. Often eaten lightly cooked, though care must be taken to avoid food poisoning.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 62

27. COLLARDS (v)

32kcal, $0.74, per 100g

Another salad leaf belonging to the Brassica genus of plants. A headless cabbage closely related to kale.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 63

26. BASIL (v)

23kcal, $2.31, per 100g

A spicy, sweet herb traditionally used to protect the heart. Thought to be an antifungal and antibacterial.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 63

25. CHILI POWDER (v)

282kcal, $5.63, per 100g

A source of phytochemicals such as vitamin C, E and A, as well as phenolic compounds and carotenoids.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 63

24. FROZEN SPINACH (v)

29kcal, $1.35, per 100g

A salad crop especially high in magnesium, folate, vitamin A and the carotenoids beta carotene and zeazanthin. Freezing spinach helps prevent the nutrients within from degrading, which is why frozen spinach ranks higher than fresh spinach (no 45).

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 64

23. DANDELION GREENS (v)

45kcal, $0.27, per 100g

The word dandelion means lion’s tooth. The leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 64

22. PINK GRAPEFRUIT (v)

42kcal, $0.27, per 100g

The red flesh of pink varieties is due to the accumulation of carotenoid and lycopene pigments.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 64

21. SCALLOPS

69kcal, $4.19, per 100g

A shellfish low in fat, high in protein, fatty acids, potassium and sodium.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 64

20. PACIFIC COD

72kcal, $3.18, per 100g

Closely related to Atlantic cod. Its livers are a significant source of fish oil rich in fatty acids and vitamin D.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 64

19. RED CABBAGE (v)

31kcal, $0.12, per 100g

Rich in vitamins. Its wild cabbage ancestor was a seaside plant of European or Mediterranean origin.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 65

18. GREEN ONION (v)

27kcal, $0.51, per 100g

Known as spring onions. High in copper, phosphorous and magnesium. One of the richest sources of vitamin K.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 65

17. ALASKA POLLOCK

92kcal, $3.67, per 100g

Also called walleye pollock, the species Gadus chalcogrammus is usually caught in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. A low fat content of less than 1%.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 65

16. PIKE

88kcal, $3.67, per 100g

A fast freshwater predatory fish. Nutritious but pregnant women must avoid, due to mercury contamination.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 65

15. GREEN PEAS (v)

77kcal, $1.39, per 100g

Individual green peas contain high levels of phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and dietary fibre.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 67

14. TANGERINES (v)

53kcal, $0.29, per 100g

An oblate orange citrus fruit. High in sugar and the carotenoid cryptoxanthin, a precursor to vitamin A.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 67

13. WATERCRESS (v)

11kcal, $3.47, per 100g

Unique among vegetables, it grows in flowing water as a wild plant. Traditionally eaten to treat mineral deficiency.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 68

12. CELERY FLAKES (v)

319kcal, $6.10, per 100g

Celery that is dried and flaked to use as a condiment. An important source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 68

11. DRIED PARSLEY (v)

292kcal, $12.46, per 100g

Parsley that is dried and ground to use as a spice. High in boron, fluoride and calcium for healthy bones and teeth.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 69

10. SNAPPER

100kcal, $3.75, per 100g

A family of mainly marine fish, with red snapper the best known. Nutritious but can carry dangerous toxins.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 69

9. BEET GREENS (v)

22kcal, $0.48, per 100g

The leaves of beetroot vegetables. High in calcium, iron, vitamin K and B group vitamins (especially riboflavin).

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 70

8. PORK FAT

632kcal, $0.95, per 100g

A good source of B vitamins and minerals. Pork fat is more unsaturated and healthier than lamb or beef fat.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 73

7. SWISS CHARD (v)

19kcal, $0.29, per 100g

A very rare dietary source of betalains, phytochemicals thought to have antioxidant and other health properties.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 78

6. PUMPKIN SEEDS (v)

559kcal, $1.60, per 100g

Including the seeds of other squashes. One of the richest plant-based sources of iron and manganese.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 84

5. CHIA SEEDS (v)

486kcal, $1.76, per 100g

Tiny black seeds that contain high amounts of dietary fibre, protein, a-linolenic acid, phenolic acid and vitamins.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 85

4. FLATFISH

70kcal, $1.15, per 100g

Sole and flounder species. Generally free from mercury and a good source of the essential nutrient vitamin B1.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 88

3. OCEAN PERCH

79kcal, $0.82, per 100g

The Atlantic species. A deep-water fish sometimes called rockfish. High in protein, low in saturated fats.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 89

2. CHERIMOYA (v)

75kcal, $1.84, per 100g

Cherimoya fruit is fleshy and sweet with a white pulp. Rich in sugar and vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and potassium.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 96

1. ALMONDS (v)

579kcal, $0.91, per 100g

Rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Promote cardiovascular health and may help with diabetes.

NUTRITIONAL SCORE: 97

SOURCES

Food selection, ranking and cost based on the scientific study “Uncovering the Nutritional Landscape of Food”, published in the journal PLoS ONE.   

Nutritional data based on The United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.

Nutritional insights from The Encyclopaedia of Food and Health (2016), published by Elsevier Science.

Produced for BBC Future by Fact & Story.    This page was originally published as an infographic.

source: BBC.com


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15 Healthy Choices To Help You Be Your Best Self

How Many Of These Healthy Habits Have You Incorporated Into Your Lifestyle?

Take the Stairs
instead of the elevator
 
Find Something Active You Enjoy
and stay active
 
Read Labels
and be on guard for less than healthy ingredients
 
and add more fiber to your diet
 
Minimize Sugar
where possible
 
Minimize Salt
when you can
 
best
 
 
Minimize GMOS
as often as possible
 
Minimize Pesticides
that can be prevalant in many of our foods
 
that can cause problems in your body

Eat Mostly Plants & Fish
to maximize better health
 
Drink Plenty of Water
to stay hydrated

Spice Things Up
for greater health benefits

and not your own worst enemy
 

Get Enough Quality Sleep
for energy, clarity and to help your body heal
 
Cultivate Resiliency
and arm yourself for future challenges
     Pete Szekely


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Three Things to Boost Your Immune Health

Are you trying to get through flu season without catching a cold or getting sick? Make sure to follow these three habits as part of your immune boosting care kit:

1. Eat well

Having a well-balanced antioxidant rich diet is the most effective immune-boosting nutrition strategy. Carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats are great to fill up on immune boosting nutrients like vitamin C, D, iron, zinc and magnesium.

Consider adding at least two to three antioxidant rich foods at each meal. These can be citrus fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and dark coloured vegetables such as spinach or peppers.

The body’s immune cells feed on carbohydrates, and with the natural drop in blood sugar that occurs during exercise, having good pre- and post-training nutrition is key to keeping your immune system fuelled. Aim to have a snack before and after your training. If you’re running for longer than an hour, consider having a gel or sport drink.

2. Love friendly bacteria

Friendly bacteria in your gut or “probiotics” have been shown to have a positive effect on immune health. Before heading to buy a probiotic supplement, try to first increase probiotic intake through the diet.

Many foods are naturally high in probiotics such as yogurt, aged cheeses, Kefir, Kombucha, miso, tempeh and kimchi. Aim to have two to three probiotic rich foods per day to populate your gut friendly bacteria.

3. Spice up your diet

Many herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, mint and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties contributing to a healthy immune system. Aim to include herbs and spices daily, for example add cinnamon to peanut butter toast, smoothie or an oatmeal bowl.

Choose fresh ginger, as it is best consumed uncooked, and grate into soups. Add turmeric to curry stews or make homemade spiced roasted nuts. Try adding fresh mint leaves to your salad or infusing the leaves to make tea.

The list is endless, get creative and spice up your diet.

by Melissa Kazan MSc, RD,  SportMedBC’s registered dietitian and sport nutritionist 
February 4, 2018


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Fighting Salt and Sugar Cravings, With Spicy Food

(CNN) There’s no magic pill that will cure you of your cravings. But there is something that may help the effort, and it’s all-natural.

Research has shown that simply spicing up your diet may help you consume less salt and possibly less sugar, while potentially improving your health even beyond the reduction of salt and sugar.

There is more consistent evidence that spicy food helps curb salt cravings than sugar.

In a study involving more than 600 people from China whose brains were analyzed with PET/CT scans, researchers found that regions stimulated by intake of both salty and spicy foods overlapped. Because of similar activities taking place in this shared space (think of the overlapping parts of a Venn diagram), consuming spicy foods effectively enhanced one’s sensitivity to salt, thereby helping people crave and consume less salt.

“We think that spicy food can trick our brain when tasting salty food. It makes us taste the same (level of) saltiness even when a reduced amount of salt is actually consumed,” said study author Dr. Zhiming Zhu, professor and director of the Department of Hypertension and Endocrinology at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China.

In fact, researchers found that people who regularly enjoy spicy foods consumed 2.5 grams less salt in a day (that’s 1,000 fewer milligrams of sodium) compared with those who typically steer clear of spice. They also had lower blood pressure.

It remains to be seen whether the findings can be replicated in other populations outside China, said Richard David Wainford, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Boston University School of Medicine, in an accompanying editorial. Still, “a lifestyle intervention that adds taste to the diet, in the form of extra spice and flavor, versus reduction of the pleasure given by the salt we add to our food, may have more success as a public health strategy to promote population-level dietary salt reduction,” he added.

Spice may have the potential to curb sugar cravings too, though the evidence is mixed. In one study involving 40 students from Denmark, when chili pepper was added to sweet, sour and bitter meals, participants experienced a greater desire to eat sweet foods compared with meals without chili added.

In another study, also from Denmark, people experienced a decreased desire for salty and spicy foods when they ate tomato soup with cayenne pepper compared with eating the soup without pepper. But their desire for sweet and fatty foods significantly increased when they consumed the spicy soup.

No pain, no weight gain?

Capsaicin is the compound in chili peppers that is responsible for the burning sensation we experience when eating them. The compound has the ability to suppress sweet taste, which could also explain some findings.

But while some may enjoy the heat that capsaicin produces, it may also come with an unintended consequence.

“Capsaicin helps fight pain. Most of the time, you hear about this as a topical cream, but eating chili peppers also has benefits. It may be that when the pain goes away, you’re stimulated to consume more sweet foods,” said Mary-Jon Ludy, an associate professor of clinical nutrition at Bowling Green State University.

In a meta-analysis, involving more than 70 studies, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the McCormick Science Institute, researchers state that the balance of the literature suggests the capsaicin suppresses appetite, though the magnitude of the effects is small. “Purposeful inclusion of these compounds in the diet may aid weight management, albeit modestly,” the study stated.

(Note that the National Institutes of Health is a federal government agency, and the McCormick Science Institute is an independent research organization that is owned and funded by spice product manufacturer McCormick & Co. Inc. The company said it does not influence the science institute’s research priorities.)

The meta-analysis included the Danish study that found increased sugar cravings among those who consumed spicy meals. But it also included a study that found adding spice can actually curb sugar cravings. In that study, when people added half a teaspoon of red pepper to their lunch, they had a decreased desire to eat sugary, fatty and salty foods, and ate about 70 fewer calories at their next meal. The effects were seen only among those who didn’t regularly consume red pepper.

“I think that there’s something in the novelty of the stimulus that would allow you to eat less,” said Ludy, who authored the study and the meta-analysis. “In terms of the work with red pepper, I think that that’s an important piece of the puzzle. If you are adding a spicy meal every couple of weeks, it might be enough to have an effect … but if you have it every day, the effect goes away, because you get used to it.”

A little dash will do ya

To get started with spice, Ludy recommends sprinkling red pepper flakes into eggs in the morning. You can also use spice when making a rub for meat or when seasoning vegetables, soups, pasta or curry dishes.

She also recommends adding red pepper flakes to a meal in anticipation of a tempting dessert. “It may give you that extra piece of security,” she said. Though not specific to sweet taste, cinnamon, ginger and saffron are other pungent spices with appetite suppressive effects, according to Ludy.

However you choose to use spice, it’s wise to start slowly. “Remember that a tiny bit of spice can go a long way!” Ludy said. If the heat is an issue, you can calm your taste buds by pairing hot spices with healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts, according to Ludy. “They help break down the chemical that causes the burn.”

If you’re new to spicy peppers, she recommends starting with milder varieties, such as jalapeno or serrano, which cause less burn than cayenne or habanero. “These peppers still contain some capsaicin but not as much. Although I haven’t researched it directly, my guess is that there would still be appetite effects (perhaps of a lesser magnitude) … but if you can’t tolerate higher quantities of spice, something is better than nothing, right?”

By Lisa Drayer, CNN   Fri November 17, 2017
 

Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, an author and a CNN health and nutrition contributor.

 
source: www.cnn.com


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You Say Turmeric, I Say Curcumin

Either way, we say healthy

Who doesn’t love the flavours and aromas that turmeric imbues our lives with? But we can also thank this delicious spice for some powerful therapeutic properties. Find out what this yellow jewel can do for you.

If you’ve eaten curry, you’ve likely consumed turmeric. Not only does this spice lend its flavour and yellow colour to delicious curry dishes; it’s also played an important role in ancient medical practices like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.

Curcumin, found in supplement form at your natural health store, is the active ingredient of the turmeric plant. Over the last few decades, the extract curcumin has been the subject of wide-ranging scientific research for its medicinal properties.

The colour of health may be yellow

Prized for its yellow hue and medicinal properties for, reportedly, 4,000 years, turmeric’s unique qualities are found in its curcuminoid components. Extracted from the turmeric (Curcumin longa L.) plant, curcumin research has uncovered plenty of reason to turn (to) yellow.

Burns and scalds

While you’re in the kitchen cooking up a batch of your favourite curry, you may have occasion to remember that the curcumin in that turmeric you’ve just added to the pan is also useful in a gel to help heal minor burns and scalds.

Research says:

The effectiveness of curcumin gel on the skin is, according to the author of a recent study, related to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Research subjects who were treated with a topical curcumin gel after suffering minor burns had less pain and inflammation and improved healing with less than expected scarring—even no scarring in some cases.

Arthritis pain

People who suffer from joint pain and swelling from arthritis, either from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, may be able to find some relief with curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation. And it may help them get around much more easily.

Research says:

Clinical studies have shown a positive effect of curcumin on reducing pain and improving physical function and quality of life for osteoarthritis patients through its anti-inflammatory and cartilage-protective qualities. Preliminary evidence suggests that curcumin may also have the same effect for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Cancer

In countries where people eat curcumin at levels of about 100 mg to 200 mg a day over long periods of time, there are low rates of certain types of cancer. Curcumin seems to have a powerful effect on cancer cells. In some cases curcumin has shown the ability to step in and reduce the ability of cancer cells to transform, grow, and spread to other parts of the body.

Research says:

The promising results in laboratory studies have inspired researchers all over the world to continue the search for the exact mechanism by which curcumin could help prevent and even offer therapeutic benefits for certain types of cancer. Researchers, in a recent review of years of curcumin studies, suggest that future studies should take a more holistic approach to account for turmeric’s chemically diverse constituents that may synergistically contribute to its potential benefits.

Ulcerative colitis

There is currently no known cure for ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. One of the goals of treatment is to prevent relapses of its symptoms and promote remission. This is something that curcumin seems to be able to help with.

Research says:

A Cochrane Database systematic review of studies into curcumin’s effectiveness for maintenance of remission in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) in 2014 concluded that curcumin may be a safe and effective adjunctive therapy for maintenance of remission in “quiescent” UC.

Alzheimer’s disease?

Elderly villagers in India, where turmeric is a dietary staple, have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the world; and researchers have been keen to determine if curcumin may play a role in this. They were intrigued because of curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Research says:

Though plenty of studies have focused on exploring this possibility, so far there’s no concrete evidence that curcumin is effective in combatting or preventing Alzheimer’s disease. The research continues, though, since laboratory studies have shown some intriguing and promising possibilities.

October 1, 2017 by alive Editorial
source: www.alive.com


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4 Spices for Your Brain

Scientists used to think that you were born with all the neurons you’d ever have. If you drank alcohol and killed brain cells, well, good luck. Then in 1998 researchers discovered the birth of new neurons in individuals who were near death. Turns out your brain–no matter how old or young–can generate new neurons.

One key to brain growth? Diet. What you eat helps generate healthy neurons with bushels of dendrites (nerve receptors). It also keeps nerve endings firing and allows you to maintain brain flexibility. Even if your memory’s so fried you can’t remember your spouse’s cell phone number, food still provides brain sustenance.

We’ve been in food information overkill ever since scientists discovered that you are what you eat. Contradictory studies analyze every type of food, vitamin, mineral, herb, and combination thereof. Even so, research does reveal old-time wisdom: what you swallow makes you smarter and happier (or slower and more blue).

Turmeric. So, will a little Indian curry help your brain? The chemical curcumin that makes turmeric yellow appears to activate a key antioxidizing enzyme that reduces plaque buildup. It also is an anti-inflammatory that fights some cancers and multiple sclerosis.

Saffron fights depression in humans, as well as improving learning and memory in animals. Saffron twice daily was as effective as Prozac in treating mild to moderate depression, according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Sage, the aptly named herb, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Chinese sage root contains compounds similar to Alzheimer’s disease drugs, and just 50 microliters (.001690 fl oz) of sage oil extract significantly enhanced memory, according to research in Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior. Sage is a great addition to salads, in soups, even on pizza. It tastes and smells better fresh.

Cinnamon. A whiff of cinnamon boosts your brain. Even cinnamon-flavored gum enhances memory, visual-motor speed, recognition, attention, and focus. Cinnamon is a wonder spice: it helps to regulate sugar levels; reduces proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells; reduces clotting of blood platelets; acts as a antimicrobial, which means it helps with yeast infections; contains the trace mineral manganese and is a very good source of dietary fiber, iron, and calcium. Try some apples and cinnamon for a snack–especially for your kids before homework.

Excerpted from A Better Brain at Any Age (Conari Press, 2009) by Sandra Kornblatt.
 
a Care2 favorite by Melissa Breyer
 


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Hot Chili Peppers May Extend Life

Eating hot chili peppers may extend your life, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for an average of nearly 19 years and found that hot red chili pepper consumption was associated with a 13 percent lower risk of death, CBS News reported.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Since this was an observational study, it offers no proof of a cause and effect relationship, but does add to the growing body of evidence that spicy foods may have health benefits that can help people live longer, according to the University of Vermont researchers.

Previous studies have suggested that a spice component called capsaicin may have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and anti-cancer benefits. The authors of this new study say capsaicin may also act as an antimicrobial, CBS News reported.

chili-pepper

The University of Vermont team called for further research to investigate the benefits of other spices and the effects of certain chili pepper subtypes.

“Such evidence may lead to new insights into the relationships between diet and health, updated dietary recommendations, and the development of new therapies,” they wrote.

But spicy dishes aren’t suitable for everyone, particularly those with gastrointestinal problems.

“For those who are affected by digestive disorders such as a stomach ulcer, I would be cautious about eating spicy foods,” Lu Qi, Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told CBS News.

Qi was lead author of a 2015 study that found regular consumption of spicy food is associated with a lower risk of death.

 

Jan. 18, 2017       WebMD News from HealthDay
 
source: www.webmd.com


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Nutritional Strategies to Ease Anxiety

According the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. That’s 40 million adults—18% of the population—who struggle with anxiety. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, with about half of those with depression also experiencing anxiety.

Specific therapies and medications can help relieve the burden of anxiety, yet only about a third of people suffering from this condition seek treatment. In my practice, part of what I discuss when explaining treatment options is the important role of diet in helping to manage anxiety.

In addition to healthy guidelines such as eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine, there are many other dietary considerations that can help relieve anxiety. For example, complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling.

A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is a healthier option than eating a lot of simple carbohydrates found in processed foods. When you eat is also important. Don’t skip meals. Doing so may result in drops in blood sugar that cause you to feel jittery, which may worsen underlying anxiety.

The gut-brain axis is also very important, since a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut. Research is examining the potential of probiotics for treating both anxiety and depression.

Foods that can help quell anxiety

You might be surprised to learn that specific foods have been shown to reduce anxiety.

  • In mice, diets low in magnesium were found to increase anxiety-related behaviors. Foods naturally rich in magnesium may therefore help a person to feel calmer. Examples include leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety.
  • Other foods, including fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acid. A study completed on medical students in 2011 was one of the first to show that omega-3s may help reduce anxiety. (This study used supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids). Prior to the study, omega-3 fatty acids had been linked to improving depression only.
  • A recent study in the journal Psychiatry Research suggested a link between probiotic foods and a lowering of social anxiety. Eating probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir was linked with fewer symptoms.
  • Asparagus, known widely to be a healthy vegetable. Based on research, the Chinese government approved the use of an asparagus extract as a natural functional food and beverage ingredient due to its anti-anxiety properties.
  • Foods rich in B vitamins such as avocado and almonds

These “feel good” foods spur the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. They are a safe and easy first step in managing anxiety.

Walnuts

Are antioxidants anti-anxiety?

Anxiety is thought to be correlated with a lowered total antioxidant state. It stands to reason, therefore, that enhancing your diet with foods rich in antioxidants may help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorders. A 2010 study reviewed the antioxidant content of 3,100 foods, spices, herbs, beverages, and supplements. Foods designated as high in antioxidants by the USDA include:

  • Beans: Dried small red, Pinto, black, red kidney
  • Fruits: Apples (Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious), prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums
  • Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
  • Spices with both antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties include turmeric (containing the active ingredient curcumin) and ginger.

Achieving better mental health through diet

Be sure to talk to your doctor if your anxiety symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks. But even if your doctor recommends medication or therapy for anxiety, it is still worth asking whether you might also have some success by adjusting your diet. While nutritional psychiatry is not a substitute for other treatments, the relationship between food, mood, and anxiety is garnering more and more attention. There is a growing body of evidence, and more research is needed to fully understand the role of nutritional psychiatry, or as I prefer to call it, Psycho-Nutrition.

Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor       APRIL 13, 2016, 9:30 AM


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6 Health Reasons To Eat Spicy Foods More Often

Many people from different cultures and backgrounds worldwide have a special place in their hearts for spicy foods, and it turns out that these foods don’t only taste great, but provide wonderful health benefits as well.

Although everyone prefers a different level of spice in their foods, it doesn’t actually matter how much your food burns your tongue, but what type of spice you use in your cooking. Spices can serve as wonderful alternatives to medicines and other conventional healing modalities, and have been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, including aches and pains. Many spices have antimicrobial properties, which explains why they make wonderful alternative remedies.

“Studies show that many different herbs and spices offer health benefits,” says David Heber, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, and director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. Much of the existing evidence supports use of cinnamon, chili peppers, turmeric, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary, Heber tells WebMD.

According to Heber, a compound in chili peppers called dihydrocapsiate increased fat-burning capacity in a study where people ate the spice three times a day. Furthermore, a study in Cell Metabolism showed decreased blood pressure in lab animals that consuming capsaicin, the component in chili peppers that makes them spicy.

If you don’t know which spices to add to your food, start out with the simple ones we’ve listed above. Thousands of spices exist in the world, but if you don’t use spices often, it’s best to begin with “safer” spices that you might be more familiar with. You can easily replace salt, sugar, or other additives with spices, which have no added calories or salt.

If you need more convincing to add spices to your food, read on for more of the benefits you can expect to receive.

6 HEALTH REASONS TO EAT SPICY FOODS MORE OFTEN

1. SPICES CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT.

Many spices have properties that increase body heat, which will help to boost your metabolism, and therefore lose weight. Others, such as cinnamon, help to balance your blood sugar so that you stay full longer.

Furthermore, as we mentioned above, spices can serve as a substitute for other additives such as sugar, which contains calories but no nutrients. More commonly, people use a spice to replace salt, which can pack on the water weight due to bloating.

Spices will help to make your food more satisfying, which means you won’t need as much to feel full.

spicerack

2. SPICES CAN INCREASE YOUR METABOLISM.

According to Better Nutrition, the capsaicin in chili peppers increases your body heat, which therefore amps up your metabolism. This goes along with our first point, but it’s still worth mentioning. Eating spices can serve as an easy way to increase your energy and metabolism, plus make your food taste better. Sounds like a win-win, right?

3. SPICES CAN PREVENT HEART DISEASE.

Garlic, ginger, and cinnamon specifically have been proven to help prevent heart disease. According to Dr. Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist, “Garlic, one of the most healthy herbs and spices in the world, is both a powerful antioxidant and blood thinner. It is commonly recommended as a cholesterol-lowering agent, and has been shown to help lower triglycerides – blood fats that are closely linked to heart disease. Garlic can even lower blood pressure as effectively as some drugs (as shown in studies where subjects supplemented with daily dosages ranging from 600 – 900 mg over a period of 3-6 months.”

He also lists cinnamon as one of the best healing herbs and spices for increasing antioxidant levels in the blood, and ginger as a natural blood thinner.

4. SPICES CAN ALSO ALLEVIATE SINUS TROUBLE.

This one seems pretty self-explanatory, as we’ve all had spicy food at one time or another, and had to run for the tissues in the middle of our meal. Because of the incredible heat present in spices, they cause the sinuses to become unclogged, which explains the runny noses and watery eyes.

If you ever have sinus issues, just reach for your favorite spice to add to your cooking, and you’ll see some relief in no time.

5. EATING SPICES COULD HELP YOU LIVE LONGER.

According to a study done by Time, people who ate spicy foods 1-2 times per week had a 10 percent reduced risk of death, compared to those who ate spicy food once or fewer times a week.

You can see why spices might make you live longer, as they decrease your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening issues.

6. SPICES CAN SERVE AS A NATURAL REMEDY FOR ANXIETY AND STRESS.

According to Dr. Cynthia, a holistic doctor, passionflower, kava kava, turmeric, and lavender have the potential to decrease anxiety and stress in a healthy, nonaddictive way. L-theanine, an amino acid found mostly in green and black tea, can reduce anxiety as well.

So, there you have it, six science backed reasons to eat more spicy foods; remember, incorporate spices into your foods slowly, so that you don’t overwhelm your taste buds. Then, once you feel comfortable, you can experiment with bolder spices that also make your food taste great!

source: Power of Positivity     July 15, 2016