There has been much written lately about superfoods — mostly raw fruits, vegetables and nuts that contain special nutrients that help the body stay well — and superfood ideas for integrating them into your everyday diet. According to the American Cancer Society, a healthy diet consists of mostly plant-based and “whole” foods — that is, foods that are closest to their natural state.
Below is a list of some superfoods that promote optimal health and wellness, and a few words about why they are so good for you. Be sure to include some of each in your diet as often as you can.
This leafy green is all the rage in foodie circles. It can be prepared a variety of ways, and can be eaten raw in a salad. Its lovely deep green hue not only indicates that it’s bursting with health benefits, but provides a meal that tastes as good as it looks!
Kale is in a family known as cruciferous vegetables, which also includes broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. According to Cancer.gov, cruciferous vegetables contain a variety of key nutrients and minerals. All vegetables in that class are recommended for many known contributions to good health, and chewing them releases a compounds, such as sulforaphane, that are being studied for their ability to prevent several types of cancer.
Blueberries get the most attention in the berry family for their cancer-fighting properties, but strawberries should get some notice, too. All berries contain a variety of phytochemicals, fiber, vitamin C and other compounds. Straweberries in particular contain ellagic acid, while the popular blueberries are rich with antioxidents like anthocyanosides. These compounds have cancer-prevention potential, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), and are being studied in the prevention of specific cancers. Berries are great additions to smoothies and plain yogurt, or even as a sweet afternoon snack.
Nuts are another good source of nutrients, healthy oils and fiber. They are also good sources of protein, and can dress up a variety of meals, including salads and rice dishes. They make a great snack on their own, too. Walnuts are an excellent source of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, according to the AICR — and they are rich with other compounds that are known for (or are at least being studied for) their protective potential.
The legume family, of which beans are a part, provides a wide variety of choices for a colorful, lean and tasty variety of little nutritional powerhouses. They are a good source of protein in a mostly plant-based diet, and an excellent source of fiber. Their starches and fiber have been studied in the prevention of colorectal cancers, according to the AICR. They are also being studied for protective properties in a variety of other cancers.
Garlic is a star in the allium family of vegetables that we know as bulbs (e.g., onions, scallions and leeks). They are rich in micronutrients and sulfur, which gives garlic its pungent flavor and aroma. That compound may be key to all that is right about garlic, as sulfur is the beginning ingredient of several other beneficial compounds.
Garlic is gaining a great deal of attention for its preventative properties in a variety of cancer types. According to the National Cancer Institute, studies conducted around the world showed that eating garlic is related to reducing the risk of several cancers. Garlic comes out a winner time and again. It has been shown to lower the risk for cancer, such as breast, colorectal, esophageal, intestinal, pancreatic, prostate and stomach.
Specifically in the gastrointestinal tract, large studies and clinical trials have shown the promise of garlic as a cancer-fighter. A review of seven population studies showed that people’s risk of stomach and colorectal cancers decreased with the more garlic consumed. A clinical trial in China of 5,000 high-risk subjects tested a theory about consuming garlic and the mineral selenium together. There was a 33 percent reduction in the risk of any type of tumor — and a whopping 52 percent reduction in the risk of stomach cancer.
Most of these powerhouses are widely available in your local supermarket. There are many ways to prepare all of them, and many make healthful snacks with no preparation required.
Learn more about how a healthy diet helps with cancer prevention.