- Green foods are full of chlorophyll (green pigment) that binds to potential carcinogens, promotes production of liver enzymes involved in detoxification pathways, and prevents infections.
- Green foods are full of fiber that helps keep us full, promote gut health, and boost heart health.
- Green foods are full of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and folate that help with vision, making collagen, nerve function, and oh so much more!
- Green foods are full of phytonutrients such as polyphenols and flavonols that work as antioxidants to help neutralize free radicals that cause cellular damage.
- Green foods are full of water to help hydrate the body. (Sometimes we forget about the fact that we can eat our water too! If you know you struggle to get in around 8 cups of water a day, try adding in some green veggies to up your intake.)
This vitamin, particularly good for vegetarians, should not be overlooked
Here’s the vitamin C conundrum: We can’t live without this essential nutrient, yet our bodies don’t make or store it. To replenish our supplies, we turn to antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables—citrus, kiwis, strawberries, tomatoes, red and green peppers, broccoli—yet dietary vitamin C degrades easily during storage and cooking. Perhaps that’s why 25 percent of Americans get less than the recommended intake.
Vitamin C helps make collagen to repair skin and blood vessels, maintains bones and teeth, and protects against free-radical damage that can lead to premature aging, heart disease, and cancer. (Noticeable symptoms of a deficiency—gingivitis, scaly skin, nosebleeds—only occur in severe cases, but low levels of vitamin C have been linked to conditions including hypertension and atherosclerosis.) Recent studies suggest that vitamin C may mimic certain heart benefits from exercise and reduce bloodstream levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. And regular supplementation can reduce the duration and severity of the common cold. Finally, vitamin C is also a particular ally of vegetarians, enhancing iron absorption from plant-based sources.
Use It Right
According to the National Academy of Sciences, women require 75 mg of vitamin C daily, while men need
90 mg. More may be better: Studies have found that taking 250–500 mg twice a day (preferably with food) is beneficial. Supplements usually contain vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid. For people with sensitive stomachs, a less acidic option is a buffered or esterified formula.
Excess vitamin C is eliminated by the body, though taking 2 g or more per day can cause gastrointestinal upset. Vitamin C may interact with certain medications or conditions, resulting in lower levels of the vitamin and/or higher levels of estrogen or metal absorption. Consult your doctor before supplementing if you have iron buildup, kidney problems, or are being treated for cancer, or if you’re taking aspirin, acetaminophen, NSAIDs, aluminum-based antacids, oral contraceptives, or hormone-replacement therapy.
Los Angeles–based journalist David Kalmansohn has a long history of covering issues of mind, body, and spirit. He is the former executive editor of Natural Health.
American Health Ester-C
$21.99/240 500 mg vegetarian capsules with citrus
Country Life Buffered Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids
$14.27/250 500 mg tablets
Dr. Mercola Liposomal Vitamin C
$14.97/60 1,000 mg capsules
Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Vitamin C
$23.49/120 500mg vegan capsules
MegaFood Ultra C-400
$26.61/60 400 mg tablets
Nature’s Way Vitamin C 1000 mg with Rose Hips
$17.44/250 1,000 mg capsules
Q: What do you think about juice cleanses? Are they worth it? A: That depends on why and how you’re doing a juice cleanse. If you need the discipline of a juice cleanse to reset your eating habits, one- to three-day cleanses are the perfect dose. A cleanse is the process of clearing the accumulated toxins in your body that can come from the additives and chemicals used in processed foods. Freshly pressed juice, consisting primarily of greens, sends a surge of nutrients into your body; it provides an injection of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients you might not otherwise be getting. Juice cleansing is a conscious effort to reduce your intake of toxins while increasing your intake of nutrient-rich foods. Make sure the juice is organic, otherwise the concept of cleansing is out the window. Nonorganic juices can be laced with a plethora of pesticides, typically in concentrated amounts, because you would juice more produce than you would eat in a single sitting. In addition, your body needs fiber. Fiber is essential for keeping your digestive system regular and also for cleansing. Fiber binds onto toxins and clears them from your body. Juices don’t contain fiber—including the prebiotic fiber essential for healthy gut flora, which enable your body’s eliminative organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and colon, to function properly. That’s why juice cleansing isn’t recommended for longer than three days. Alternatively, you may want to add fiber-rich foods, such as chia or flaxseeds, to your cleanse. I personally love green juice made with kale, Swiss chard, cucumber, celery, and ginger. It’s my liquid chlorophyll drip that I add daily to my overall diet. Our bodies are working on overdrive to detoxify and neutralize all the stress they undergo on a daily basis. The best way to show them some love is to eliminate harmful substances and add an abundance of nutrients. Eating clean and organic on a regular basis does this.
How It Heals
Pulverize apples into a slurry of juice and pulp, allow the slurry to ferment so that the fruit sugar converts to acetic acid, and you have a folk remedy for a laundry list of ailments. By helping break down proteins and other nutrients, apple cider vinegar may in fact improve digestion, says Bastyr University associate professor and certified nutritionist Jennifer Adler. Also, a study in the journal Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism found that adding 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a meal containing carbohydrates reduced postmeal blood glucose in healthy people by about 20 percent; the vinegar appears to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream. “This may confer protection against diabetes and spur weight loss,” Adler says. The cobweb-like substancereferred to as the “mother of vinegarthat you see floating in the fluid is believed to contain most of the cider’s nutrients, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria. According to Adler, these bacteria may help boost the immune system. To best reap the brew’s medicinal benefits, Adler recommends purchasing raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
Eat It Up
Apple cider vinegar’s bright, crisp taste and more-than-a-hint-of-tart flavor work well with lentil soups, slaws, baked beans, braised cabbage, and roasted winter squash. “Bean salads and cooked whole grains also take well to apple cider vinegar’s tang,” says Adler. Or try the cider in a hot or cold beverage lightly sweetened with natural honey or agave syrup.
To improve digestion and blood sugar control, Adler suggests mixing 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of water and imbibing before meals. Due to its acidity, apple cider vinegar can burn the esophagus, so adequate dilution is a must.
I am a salad lover, and what’s not to love? Salads make it easy to eat a well-balanced meal at home or on the go. Just toss a bunch of fresh vegetables together, add beans, whole grains like cooked quinoa or brown rice, and even your favorite fresh or dried fruit. Leafy green vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, containing a potent dose of vitamins and minerals. However, there is one essential piece of salad prep that will make them even more nutritious.
Including a few ounces of healthful fats in the form of nuts, seeds, or avocados to daily salads is the secret to soaking up as many nutrients as possible. This increases the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and beneficial phytochemicals. You can sprinkle these foods on your salad, or blend them up for a super-nutritious salad dressing.
When we eat salads with a nut- or seed-based salad dressing, we absorb a substantially higher amount of the carotenoids found in the raw vegetables. In a 2004 study conducted at Iowa State University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that more than 10 times as much alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene were absorbed when participants consumed salads with a nut- or seed-based dressing versus a fat-free salad dressing. That’s a huge jump in nutrient absorption. Healthful fats consumed in the form of whole foods like nuts, seeds, and avocados are better for us than oils because they contain more nutrients per calorie. That’s why I like to prepare salad dressings in my blender with nut and seed butters, whole nuts and seeds, or delicious avocados.
Getting enough nuts and seeds in our diets has been shown to benefit skin health, prevent heart disease, keep blood sugar in check, lower cholesterol, increase protection against cancer, and even promote weight loss. Although they are high in fat, numerous studies have found that consuming just an ounce or two of nuts, seeds, or avocado each day results in more weight loss than the same number of calories consumed in the form of carbohydrates. A large cohort study of over 83,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study found that body mass index decreased as nut consumption increased. Nuts help us feel satiated on fewer calories, keep our weight in check, and enhance the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients found in already nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.
So get on the nut-, seed-, or avocado-based salad dressing bandwagon! I love getting my dose of healthy fats in the form of a creamy, smooth salad dressing, and I don’t feel guilty about using a lot of dressing.
Talia Fuhrman has a BA in nutritional sciences from Cornell University and is currently working on a psychology, nutrition, and healthy recipe book for young women called Love Your Body to be published early next year. Visit her Web site taliafuhrman.com and her Facebook page for nutrition tips and yummy vegan recipes.
How It Heals
More assertive than its sweeter relative, marjoram, oregano (Origanum vulgare) belongs to the mint family. The aromatic leaves of this kitchen staple are a superb source of phytonu-trient antioxidants. “Antioxidants act like chemical superheroes, snatching up free radicals before they can do serious harm to cells in the body,” says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, coauthor of The SuperFoodsRx Diet. According to USDA researchers, oregano supplies up to 20 times more antioxidants than dill, thyme, rosemary, or other common herbs; gram for gram, it provides greater antioxidant power than such fruits as blueberries and oranges. “Dried oregano may have even higher concentrations of antioxidants by weight than fresh because the water has been removed,” Bazilian notes. Oregano leaves also serve up a healthful dose of vitamin K, which “is critically important for normal blood clotting and maintaining bone health,” she says. Additionally, the essential oils in oregano, including carvacrol and thymol, show antimicrobial activity.
Eat It Up
A mainstay in Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, and Latin cuisines, oregano livens up tomato sauces, dips, bean burritos, roasted root vegetable medleys, lentil salads, and frittatas. Or add a few sprigs to olive oil for an infusion of flavor. Sautéed mushrooms in particular benefit from a generous sprinkling of oregano.
It’s best to add the fresh herb toward the end of cooking, as prolonged heat diminishes oregano’s flavor. The dried herb retains much of the savor of the fresh and successfully imparts oregano’s bold, complex personality to long-simmering chilis, stews, and soups. For added pungency, choose Mexican oregano over the Mediterranean variety.
Oregano grows with ease in pots or containers, so consider raising your own on a sunny windowsill. Store fresh oregano in the fridge, wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel, for up to three days. Or chop the leaves, place in ice cube trays with a bit of water, and freeze; add the frozen cubes directly to recipes.
Taking 5 to 10 drops of oil of oregano with meals can help kill off food pathogens, so consider packing a bottle when traveling overseas. Brew a tea by steeping a tablespoon of the herb’s fresh leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried) in hot water for 10 minutes, then sweetening to taste.
Legumes are loaded with antioxidants, and adzuki beans are no exception. The small, dark red beans have a sweet, nutty flavor and are often used in Asian desserts. They are easy to digest and filled with flavonoids, which are part of a bigger family of antioxidants called polyphenols. These compounds may lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Among beans, adzukis are one of the highest in protein and lowest in fat. Other benefits include high levels of potassium and fiber, B vitamins, and minerals such as iron and zinc.
Nutritionally, few foods hold a candle to the sensational soybean in its purest form. A staple food in Japan, green soybeans are harvested before fully ripened for a nutty flavor and crisp texture. With more than 17 grams of protein and just 8 grams of fat per cup, edamame is a great source of plant-based protein to quell hunger and build lean body mass. Each serving is also replete with fiber, vitamins C and K, folate, magnesium, potassium, and energizing iron. Furthermore, the isoflavones in soy have been found to protect against type 2 diabetes, lung cancer, and premenopausal breast cancer. Who knew a food could be so naturally talented?
Choose It & Use It
Edamame can be purchased in or out of its pod in the freezer section of most grocery stores. To avoid GMO soy, choose bags labeled organic. Add edamame to salads, soups, and stir-fries, or swap for the chickpeas in hummus or the lima beans in succotash. Or snack on boiled edamame topped with lemon juice, smoked salt, and cayenne.
Heirloom grains have a deep and exciting history that goes back to another time when wheat, rice, and corn were packed with more nutrients, more color, and more flavor than the varieties we’re familiar with today. This vibrancy has largely been bred out of modern hybrid versions in favor of higher yields.
However, in recent years heirloom grains have made a comeback. Though they can be a bit pricier than the drab grains we’re accustomed to, heirloom wheat, rice, and corn can add new life to everyday meals. Here are some old foods worth getting to know today:
Wheat, the world’s most important and widely planted seed crop, was first domesticated some 10,000 years ago. Since that time it has been transformed into a highly viable commercial crop grown to feed millions all around the world. Problem is, when foods are bred for higher crop yields and commercial appeal, flavor and nutrition are often sacrificed. This is what happened to ancient wheat, einkorn. Einkorn is higher in protein and lower in gluten than modern wheat. It also has higher amounts of phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B6, and even carotenoids. Sounds like einkorn gives you more bang for your buck!
Red & Black Rice
There are around 40,000 varieties of rice in the world, but most of us are only familiar with one or two. I discovered red and black rice on a summer-long vacation in Southeast Asia a few years ago. Instead of brown rice, health-conscious restaurants offered magnificent red rice, and black sticky rice was used in place of white rice for sweet treats. From just the sight of that deep rich hue, I knew it had to be healthy. Grown for centuries in China and Southeast Asia, red and black varieties of rice have higher amounts of phytonutrients, iron, and fiber. They are also stunning when served with colorful fresh vegetables and fruits.
You’ve likely seen multi-colored, red, or blue corn used as decorations for autumn and in Thanksgiving centerpieces, but did you know that type of corn is highly nutritious? Corn was cultivated for thousands of years by native Americans, and when settlers showed up, the crop was quickly recognized as a nourishing food. Of course, in time heirloom varieties of corn were altered and became the sweet yellow “vegetable” we all know and love. What was bred out of the heirloom grains was their high protein content and exceptional levels of beta-carotene.
Though these heirloom grains lost popularity over many years, a revival is underway. A few farmers are bringing heirloom grains back, and the more we request these ancient varieties, the more accessible they’ll be—and the more colorful, nutritious, and varied our dinner menus will become.
Jenné Claiborne is passionate about helping women adopt and maintain a plant-based diet so they can improve their energy, lose weight, and feel their very best. She is the founder of The Nourishing Vegan, a New York–based personal chef service. She is also the creator of Sweet Potato Soul, a vegan food blog that features recipes, tips, and cooking videos. In 2013, Jenné launched the 21-Day Vegan Blueprint, an interactive online program that takes the guess work out of becoming vegan. Follow Jenné on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Category: Nutrition IQ
Q: What is BPA? And is it dangerous?
A: BPA stands for bisphenol A, a chemical used in some hard, clear plastic products, such as reusable bottles, and in the resin that lines food and beverage cans. Manufacturers like to use BPA because it is tough and heat-resistant. They produce it in enormous quantitiesmore than 7 billion pounds annually, and increasing every year. Virtually everyone has been exposed to BPA, and most of us are exposed repeatedly each day, particularly from food and beverages.
Is it dangerous? Regulatory authorities are busy arguing that point. In the meantime, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is supporting efforts to reduce BPA exposure, especially for children.
Very few studies have looked at BPA’s effects in humans, but those that have are worrying. The first large human study of BPA exposure was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008. Researchers checked for traces of BPA in urine samples from 1,455 people. Those with higher levels were more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, and liver abnormalities. So far, though, no study has confirmed these findings.
A Chinese study presented evidence of hormone effects in humans. Published this past November in Human Reproduction, the study found that male workers in factories producing BPA (who were exposed to high levels of airborne BPA) had a higher incidence of sexual dysfunction, compared with men working in other factories. Erectile difficulties were reported in 16 percent of exposed men, compared with 4 percent of unexposed men. Many of the exposed men also reported loss of sex drive and other sexual problems. While sexual dysfunction is not life-threatening, the researchers viewed it as a sign that other hormonal problemsperhaps even cancermight also be linked to BPA.
Q: How much exposure is too much?
A: This past December, Consumer Reports published test results for BPA levels in canned products. Nearly all the products tested contained traces of BPA. While each exposure from a food or drink is minuscule, these exposures occur very frequently.
Here’s the problem: no one really knows how much exposure is safe, and there may actually be no safe exposure level. Exactly what defines a dangerous doseone serving of canned foods, versus two or threeis not at all clear.
Q: What can I do?
A: Choose fresh or frozen foods over canned. Try cooking beans from scratch; it’s easier than you think. If you reheat food in the microwave, use a glass container, not plastic. When buying plastic products, look for BPA-free options: Check the recycling label (the triangle made of three arrows with a number from 1 to 7 in the middle) on the bottom. Products with a 3 or 7 may contain BPA, unless they specifically indicate that the product is BPA-free.
While industry, government, and health advocates fight it out, my suggestion is to choose products that are free of BPA.