Tag Archives: Superfoods

BEST DIETS

The best diets are ranked by doctors, nutritionalists and dietitians for U. S. News and World Report(1) annually. There are many factors that go into the ranking like its heart and diabetes ratings, weight loss potential, ease of following and best plant based diets. These different ratings are combined to afford its overall rating.

One of the first things you notice reviewing the list is how the trendy diets are near the bottom. Here is a list of the top and bottom five diets:

The Worst:

The Fast Diet–weak on dietary guidance when not fasting

Atkins–good for weight loss, not for nutrition or heart health

Raw food–3rd for weight loss, but too hard to follow

Dukan–not proven with a ton of rules

Paleo–not proven and ignores certain food groups, hard to follow

The Best:

DASH diet-(Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)This started out to lower blood pressure, but ranks high due to its safety, nutritional completeness and prevention of diabetes and blood pressure.

TLC diet (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) was created by the National Institutes of Health. Its described as a complete diet and is especially heart healthy. Its a do-it-yourself diet, so you just get organized with meal planning.

Mayo Clinic Developed at the clinic to make healthy eating a lifestyle. It has great nutritional balance and safety, but not necessarily as a weight loss diet.

Mediterranean Diet This diet is heavy into veggies and fruits, olive oil, fish, nuts, and grains. It’s a longevity diet, but not necessarily for weight loss.

Weight Watchers The only commercial diet on the top 5. It’s a nutritionally sound diet that’s easy to follow and has group support to encourage weight loss.

I found it interesting that cancer prevention wasn’t included as part of the ranking criteria considering it’s the second cause of death in the U.S.(heart disease is first). A plant based diet is good for cancer prevention as many of these are, but you may want a more specific diet. For example, we know that onions, mushrooms, and cruciferous vegetables provide more cancer protection than other veggies. So, adapting a diet specific to cancer is better than a general good diet, if that is your situation.

After examining the details of these diets, I find the DASH and the Mediterranean diets to be similar with their heavy emphasis on whole grains and veggies. I personally follow the Mediterranean diet because I have a cerebrovascular(stroke) history in my ancestry and I like the freedom it provides. I encourage you to choose a diet based on your genetic predispositions as well. So, take a little time to find out your family medical history to help determine your direction. Then you can choose a diet specific to your genes and family history. Bon Appetite.

L. Johnson        www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)U.S. News staff. Jan. 2015. “Best diets overall” Retrieved on 9-14-15 from website: health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-overall-diets

Superfood: QUINOA

The superfood quinoa(KEEN-wah) has recently become popular in healthy restaurants and homes. Since quinoa is a vegetable seed and not a grain, it is low in carbohydrates, low in sodium, high in protein, high in antioxidants and gluten free. Lets take a look at why this seed is considered a superfood.

Here is a summary of a study(1) that has outlined 10 benefits of quinoa:  Quinoa is incredibly nutritious because of its protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium.  It contains the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol which are anti inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer. Its very high in fiber helping reduce blood sugar and lower cholesterol which helps with weight loss. It is gluten free. The protein contains all the essential amino acids. It’s also high in minerals where most of us fall short. It should improve your metabolic health by reducing blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels. It has one of the highest antioxidants levels on the planet.

In a life extension study(2), “Scientists continue to find evidence that this versatile grain substitute may inhibit inflammation, reduce cholesterol, quench free radicals, improve glucose levels, promote cellular energy production, support weight loss, act as a prebiotic and potentially help prevent cancer and heart disease(p97).” Quinoa contributes to your health and longevity on different levels.

There is not one food that can provide all of the essential nutrients, of course, but quinoa comes close with all of its high quality proteins. Grains often provide only partial proteins and are higher in carbs. Even the fiber in quinoa is higher compared to whole wheat or brown rice. The life extension study cites other studies which conclude that quinoa can reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides resulting in a reduction in cardiovascular disease.

You can find quinoa in most grocery stores near the rice section. Just rinse it off and cook it just like rice on the stovetop. It can be used as a side dish, but I’ve been mixing it into salads and veggie dishes. Many people use it as a breakfast cereal by adding fruit. If you haven’t tasted it yet, its a very mild flavor similar to brown rice. If you are looking for a more complex flavor, I’ve tried a mix of bulgur(durum wheat) and quinoa that works well.

The most common way I use quinoa is to mix it into my salads because it is so light and versatile. I also mix quinoa with sautéed or steamed veggies, add a little soy sauce, shrimp or chicken optional, and you have a high protein Asian entree. You can stuff avocados or bell peppers with a quinoa salad mix. You can easily replace all your rice dishes with it.  There are many recipes for quinoa on the internet and if you have a favorite, please let me know.   L. Johnson of www.creativeretiremetforwomen.com

 1. Gunnars, K (no date) “11 Proven Health Benefits of Quinoa” Retrieved on 7-9-2015 from: http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-benefits-of-quinoa/                                                                    2. Downey, M. (July 2015) “Superfood Quinoa A Complete, Gluten-Free Protein” Retrieved on 7-9-2015 from: http://www.lifeextension.com//Magazine/2015/7/Quinoa-A-Complete-Gluten-Free-Protein/Page-01

Superfood: SPIRULINA

Maybe you haven’t heard about the superfood spirulina yet, but its multiple health benefits might surprise you. Spirulina(Artgrisoura platensis)is an algae that grows in spirals of a green-blue color with a mild taste. Its history goes back to Aztecs who harvested it in Mexico. It is about 70% plant based protein. Since it doesn’t have hard cell walls, the protein is quickly and easily absorbed. It provides all eight essential amino acids making it easy to digest. It also provides 10 non-essential amino acids, eight minerals, and 10 vitamins. It is considered one of the best antioxidants on the planet.

Antioxidants are so important because they repair DNA cellular damage that leads to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and slow recovery from exercise. Performance athletes are well aware of this. Spirulina significantly increases exercise performance and fat oxidation(1). This study put runners on treadmills for two hours. They gave them 6 grams of spirulina a day. Blood samples were used for measurement and showed that fatigue was significantly improved and more fat was burned which continued after exercise.  This allows athletes to feel less fatigued while exercising and recover faster.

An interesting study in India focused on pan tobacco chewers(2). These people commonly have leukoplakia, a form of oral cancer. The study provided only one gram(a quarter of a teaspoon) of spirulina per day for 12 months. During this time, the lesions(an area of abnormal tissue) that were present in the subjects regressed or went away. “Complete regression of lesions was observed in 20 of 44(45%).” There was no toxicity from this use and within only one year of stopping the spirulina, 45% had recurrent lesions. So, the continual use of spirulina kept the cancer at bay.

Another study in Greece gave subjects only 1 gram a day for just 12 weeks. Through blood testing, they found reduced triglycerides, reduced high and low lipoproteins, and lower total cholesterol, all at significant levels(3). The authors described this effect as “powerful.”

If you have PKU talk with your physician regarding that amino acid. If you take anti-coagulation drugs, are pregnant, or have autoimmune disease, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor for that as well.

In terms of its form, Supirulina comes in powder, pills and tablets. In general, a powder usually has better absorption into the body. Pills and tablets often contain fillers that bind the powder together. A powder also allows you to mix it into may different drinks or meals.

I’ve personally been using organic spirulina powder for over two years and I like to mix a tablespoon into my orange juice with broccoli powder every morning. The powder is easy to find on amazon and I notice that I have more energy and am less hungry during the day. If you’re dieting, a smoker, enjoy exercise or just want more antioxidants for health reasons, this superfood is for you.      L. Johnson  www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1) Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jan;42(1):142-51. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ac7a45.                     (2) Mathew, B et al. “Evaluttion of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis” Nutr Cancer. 1995;24(2):197-202. Retrieved on 6-29-15 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8584455                                                                      (3)Mazokopakis, E. E., Starakis, I. K., Papadomanolaki, M. G., Mavroeidi, N. G. and Ganotakis, E. S. (2014), The hypolipidaemic effects of Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) supplementation in a Cretan population: a prospective study. J. Sci. Food Agric., 94: 432–437. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6261               PHOTO:  http://yurielkaim.com/7913/6-surprising-facts-spirulina-doctor-doesnt-know/