More than a third of all cancers could be prevented by changes in diet and exercise. One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk is lose excess weight – and one of the best ways to lose weight is through a filling, fiber-rich diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
But that’s not the reason why the National Cancer Institute recently approved the dietary guidance: “Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and other chronic diseases.” These foods are packed with antioxidants and other compounds that protect your DNA and fight free radical damage.
Since these substances work synergistically, it’s best to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than relying on one particular produce item to serve as a magic bullet against disease. That said, recent studies have uncovered specific benefits in the following foods that would recommend making them a part of any healthy diet.
Tomatoes: Lycopene, also found in watermelon and pink grapefruit, has been linked to lower risk of prostate, ovarian and cervical cancer. It also targets the free radical that is implicated in lung and digestive cancers.
Broccoli sprouts: One forkful triggers a cascade of antioxidant activity that lasts for days.
Berries: Blueberries, cranberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes – all rich in anthocyanins that repair and protect DNA.
Soybeans: Isoflavones such as genistein may help prevent and treat prostate cancer and may reduce breast cancer risk
Tea: Both black and green contain powerful compounds shown in countless studies to lower the risk of several types of cancer.
Pumpkin: This unsung super-food is a super-rich source of both beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, two hard-working carotenoids that combat lung and ovarian cancer.
Spinach: Popeye’s favorite may help ward off cancers of the liver, ovaries, colon and prostate. The active antioxidant lutein is also found in kale and other leafy greens.
Garlic: Allium veggies (which also include onions and scallions) work to get your body’s own antioxidant defense systems in gear. This process provides protective benefits against stomach, esophageal and breast cancers.
Pineapple: The enzyme bromelain may inhibit the growth of malignant cells in both lung and breast cancer, while the phenolic compounds also provide a protective benefit.
Apples: Can one a day help keep cancer at bay? Studies show quercetin may reduce the risk of lung cancer and impede growth of prostate cancer cells. Other antioxidants together with pectin help halt colon and liver cancer cell replication.
We all know by now that we should be eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. But knowing and doing are two different things, aren’t they? Sometimes it is just not easy to get them all in there. We are constantly tempted to fill up on convenience and junk food. If your family is anything like mine, they’d much rather fill up on a bag of chips or a bowl of rice or pasta instead of trying an apple or a plate of steamed broccoli. So we’ll have to get creative. Here are a few ideas to “sneak” some extra vegetables and fruits in your family’s diet.
Start the day with a breakfast smoothie. All you have to do is throw some fruits, low-fat yogurt and ice in a blender. You may also want to add a scoop of protein powder in there for good measure. Just blend for a few seconds and you have the perfect breakfast ready to go. I like to sip mine in a thermal cup on the way to work. To make it even more appealing for your kids, use some frozen yogurt or a scoop of ice cream in the smoothie. They won’t believe that you are letting them have ice cream for breakfast.
Dried fruit makes an excellent snack any time of the day. Add some small cartons of raisins to your child’s lunch box, pack some yogurt-covered raisins in your husband’s briefcase and keep some trail mix sitting around for snacking. You can also add dried fruit to oatmeal and cereal in the morning. My family loves banana chips in their breakfast cereal.
Add some fruits and vegetables to your family’s sandwiches. You can add some banana, sliced apples or strawberry slices to a peanut butter sandwich. Top a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and anything else they will eat. You can even make a sub shop style vegetable sandwich by combining several different vegetables with some mayonnaise and cheese on bread.
Have a salad bar at dinner. Set out a variety of chopped vegetables, some cheese and croutons as well as several choices of salad dressing along with the lettuce and let everybody create their own perfect salad.
Let them drink their fruits and vegetables. Keep an assortment of fruit and vegetable juices in the fridge and encourage everyone to drink them as a snack. Get creative. You could start “family cocktail hour” by pouring everybody a glass of his or her favorite juice over ice. Add some straws, cocktail umbrellas and sit together to talk about how everybody’s day went.
Try this for dessert. Put a small scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt in a bowl and top it with lots of fresh or frozen fruit.
Offer fruits and vegetables as snacks. You can cut apples into slices and top them with peanut butter or cheese. Cube cheese and serve with grapes. Cut up some fresh veggies and serve them with ranch dip. And of course there’s ants on a log. Spread some cream cheese or peanut butter on the inside of a stick of celery and sprinkle raisins on it (wow, fruit and vegetable in one snack).
Try some new fruits and vegetables. Pick something exotic to get your family’s curiosity. With a little luck their curiosity will outweigh their initial apprehension to trying something new. You could try artichokes, plantains, papaya, mango, star fruit, or anything else you can find in the produce department of your local store.
Make a pot of vegetable soup or a stew that’s heavy on veggies and easy on the meat. Both of these make some great comfort food when the weather gets cold.
Start “My Veggie Day”. Each family member gets to pick a vegetable one day of the week. They qualify to pick a vegetable as long as they tried each vegetable the week before, otherwise they lose a turn and Mom gets to pick.
Incorporate a few of these ideas and you will have everyone in your family eating more fruits and vegetables in no time.
Here is another tip:
Now that everyone in the family has gotten a taste for it, make sure you always have plenty of fresh fruits and veggies available and ready to snack on.
Have you heard of the word antioxidants or free radicals? These terms are often used when we are talking about health, nutrition and the body’s ability to heal. Our body is constantly working to function in a state of health. Let’s look at antioxidants as a means to support our body’s desire to heal. Your body was created to heal, let’s help it do just that.
The prefix ‘anti’ means against, in opposition to, or corrective in nature. In this case, the ‘anti’ in antioxidant describes the effect these chemicals have against oxidants.
Oxidants, usually referred to as ‘free radicals’ are produced as a natural by-product of the millions of biochemical processes undertaken by the body every minute. The same life-giving oxygen that supports all the functions of the body creates these harmful by-products which cause cell damage, usually to DNA, fats and proteins.
Free radicals also enter the body through external influences such as exposure to the sun, pesticides and other kinds of environmental pollution. In addition, their levels are increased by mental and physical stress, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, unhealthy foods, and cigarette smoke.
In much the same way as oxidation causes rust on cars, oxidation inside the body causes a breakdown of cells. If the amount of free radical oxidation in the body is allowed to rise to an unhealthy level, it can result in extensive damage to cellular components and can accelerate the ageing process.
More importantly, it may contribute to a wide range of degenerative illnesses and reduce the body’s ability to deal with other problems, including cardiovascular malfunction, eye disease, and cancer.
Additionally, it may result in a compromised immune system, leading to immunological disorders and a lessening of the body’s ability to heal wounds and overcome infections. Some studies indicate possible links to arthritis and similar chronic conditions.
Antioxidants counter these effects by binding with free radicals before they can cause damage. They then convert them into non-damaging biochemical substances, assisting enormously with the reparation of cellular damage.
Certain antioxidant enzymes are produced within the body. The most well-known of these are catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione:
Catalase converts hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.
Superoxide dismutase breaks antioxidants down into hydrogen peroxide.
Glutathione is a detoxifying agent, changing the form of toxins so that they are easily eliminated by the body.
Other antioxidants can be consumed through the diet. Some of the better known include the antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Minerals such as selenium, zinc, glutathione and co-enzyme Q10 may also have antioxidant properties, and so may flavonoids such as cranberry, some amino acids, plus organic extracts from milk thistle and the tree known as ginkgo biloba.
A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables provides a large supply of these antioxidants, to help eliminate damaging free radicals. The highest concentrations are found in fruits and leafy green vegetables, such as carrots, orange and red peppers, spinach and tomatoes.
Cooking can destroy some antioxidants and interfere with the body’s ability to absorb them, so eating raw vegetables and fruit, and including sprouts in the diet can help. Steaming vegetables as opposed to frying, microwaving or boiling is also a good idea.
Antioxidants are best taken in combination, since single antioxidants, such as vitamin E, need other vitamins in order to work as an effective antioxidant. Food and natural supplements may therefore provide the most bioavailable source of antioxidants. Natural products from the rainforests of the world are some of the best sources of natural antioxidants ever found. Fruits like the acai berry are amazing in the health world because of the wide range and high number of antioxidants they contain, making them a perfect source of antioxidants. It’s no wonder that the acai berry has been dubbed one of the top 10 “superfoods” in the world
Quick question, when you are stressed do you tend to for the sweets or the salty food? Most people do. I’ve struggled with this in my life and still do at times. It can seem easier to choose convenient or a quick fix over what’s BEST. Hopefully, this short article will give you some tools for your tool belt when stress hits. We all deal with stress, and we all make good and bad decisions. Our hope is to build a solid foundation in our health and one of those is what we choose during stressful circumstances. Hugs, Andrya
Eat Your Stress Goodbye – Stress Reducing Diet
When you’re stressed out, the foods that you’re turning to are most likely going to be traditional ‘comfort’ foods – think big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol. Let’s face it – we’ve all found some comfort in a tasty meal and a bottle of beer or glass of wine when we’ve been stressed out or upset about something. However, this isn’t a good permanent solution.
When you’re turning to unhealthy foods you can feel better temporarily, but in the long run, you will feel worse. When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you can begin to feel less energetic, more lethargic, and in some cases less able to concentrate and focus. All of this can lead to even more stress.
Foods that Fight Stress
If you’ve been feeling more stressed out than usual lately, it’s important to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when it comes to combating stress and helping you to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet which includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups.
Filling up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins as the basic staples of the diet is the best way to ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health problems. When it comes to choosing the foods to eat, some have a range of great properties which help the body to combat stress. Choosing these stress-busting foods will help to heal and calm your mind permanently, rather than providing a temporary fix.
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
Avocado – Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit which can be eaten in a range of different ways whether you enjoy it raw, made into sauces, dressings and dips, or in a smoothie. These nutrient-dense fruits have the properties to stress-proof your body, thanks to their high glutathione content which specifically blocks the intestinal absorption of certain fats which cause oxidative damage. Avocados also contain higher levels of vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene than any other fruit, which boosts their stress-busting properties. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as it is high in fat.
Blueberries – If you’re feeling stressed out and reaching for the snacks, swapping chocolate or chips for one of the best superfoods is a great way to help you deal with your stress levels and achieve a higher level of calm. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants, especially antho-cyanin, which means that this berry has been linked to a wide range of health benefits including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which can help you to better deal with stress.
Chamomile Tea – Of course, it’s not all about what you’re eating when it comes to managing stress; what you’re drinking can also alleviate or worsen the stress you’re feeling. Drinking liquids which are high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks or soda, can actually increase your stress levels if consumed regularly. Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother, and it has also been used in clinical trials, which determined that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Chocolate – Although it’s usually seen as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between chocolate and our mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can actually make you happier. However, that doesn’t mean that you can start munching on chocolate bars every time you’re stressed out – chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Dark chocolate in particular is best for you, as it contains more flavonols and polyphenols, two hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress, more than many fruit juices.
Beef – Grass-fed beef is not only kinder to the planet and to animals, it’s also good for people, too. Grass-fed beef has a huge range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and Vit-amins C and E, which can help your body to fight stress and anxiety. If you’re looking for more reasons to spend a little more money on organic, grass-fed beef, it’s also lower in fat than grain-fed beef whilst being higher in omega-3.
Oatmeal – Oatmeal is great in that it can be a filling comfort food, but also has a large number of healthy properties to actually make you feel better from the inside out. A complex carbohydrate, eating oatmeal causes your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, helping you to feel calmer and less stressed. Studies have shown that kids who choose oatmeal for breakfast tend to be much sharper throughout the morning in school compared to kids who had alternative morning meals.
Walnuts – If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option which will help you to stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavor of walnuts and they can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert. A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads, or add them to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake.
Pistachios – another food which is great for snacking on and can also help to combat stress and anxiety in the long term is pistachios. Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when you are stressed, putting less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries. Along with this, the rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can actually be quite therapeutic!
Green Leafy Vegetables – leafy, green vegetables should be a pivotal part of anyone’s diet. Along with helping to combat stress, leafy greens are full of nutrients and antioxidants which help to fight off disease and leave your body feeling healthier and more energized. Dark leafy greens, for example spinach, are especially good for you since they are rich in folate, which helps your body to produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is a ‘feel-good’ chemical. Making leafy greens a part of your diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out overall.
Fermented foods – last but not least, eating fermented foods such as yogurt can help to keep your gut healthy, which actually in turn will help to improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. The beneficial bacteria which are found in fermented foods such as yogurt actually have a direct effect on your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
Putting Together Your Diet Plan
Planning your meals wisely is key to not only staying physically fit and healthy, but also to staying mentally strong and being able to best manage your levels of stress. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to reach for to snack on when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important to helping you get control over your emotions and fears.
When you’re feeling stressed, you may be tempted to reach for classic ‘comfort foods’ – usually foods which are laden with sugar, very starchy, or greasy. However, although these foods can make you feel momentarily better, they will actually make you feel worse in the long run.
Having stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yogurt, walnuts or pistachios, or even a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens in it can help you to feel better in both the short and long term when it comes to stress. When it comes to combating and dealing with stress in the long run, it’s important to make sure that for the most part, you are eating a diet which is healthy and balanced.
In order to stay on track, it’s a good idea to make a meal plan for your week and plan ahead to make sure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen to make meals and snacks from when you’re feeling like stress-eating. Making sure that the majority of your meals include foods such as lean proteins and leafy green vegetables will not only make you feel healthier overall, but can improve your mental health and stress levels, too.
A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu would be:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries
Mid-morning snack: Natural yogurt with fruit or a handful of pistachio nuts
Lunch: A whole-grain pasta salad filled with plenty of leafy greens
Afternoon snack: Dark chocolate
Dinner: Grass-fed beef with vegetables
Before bed: Chamomile tea
Of course, you don’t need to stick to this menu – but it gives you a good idea! Remember to exercise good portion control when eating foods such as nuts, chocolate, yogurt or avocado! As the saying goes, you are what you eat – so make sure that first and foremost, you’re filling yourself up with foods which are good for your mental health.