For quite a long time, healthcare professionals and scientists didn’t give the little blueberry its due, since it had relatively low vitamin C content when compared with other fruit. Then it was discovered that the blueberry was a nutrition powerhouse, a super food loaded with phytonutrients and a fruit that had benefits unlike any other.
With their powerful antioxidant protection, blueberries can improve nighttime vision, promote quicker adjustment to darkness and promote faster restoration of visual clarity after exposure to glare. According to the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, laboratory studies show a diet including blueberries may improve motor skills and reverse the short-term memory loss that comes with aging or age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Researchers have also identified a compound in blueberries that helps to reduce the risk of infection.
Papayas may be very helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Papayas are an excellent source of the powerful antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin A (through their concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoid phytonutrients).
These nutrients help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Only when cholesterol becomes oxidized is it able to stick to and build up in blood vessel walls, forming dangerous plaques that can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes. One way in which dietary vitamin E and vitamin C may exert this effect is through their suggested association with a compound called paraoxonase, an enzyme that inhibits LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol oxidation.
Papayas are also a good source of fiber, which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels. The folic acid found in papayas is needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine into benign amino acids such as cysteine or methionine. If unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and, if levels get too high, is considered a significant risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.
Pomegranate fruit is one of the most popular, nutritionally rich fruit with unique flavor, taste, and heath promoting characteristics. Together with sub-arctic pigmented berries and some tropical exotics such as mango, it too has novel qualities of functional foods, often called as “super fruits.”
Botanically, it is a small size fruit-bearing, deciduous tree belonging to the Lythraceae family, of genus: Punica. The tree is thought to have originated in the Persia and Sub-Himalayan foothills of Northern India. Scientific name: Punica granatum.
Pomegranate tree grows to about five and eight meters tall. It cultivated at a commercial scale in vast regions across Indian sub-continent, Iran, Caucuses, and Mediterranean regions for its fruits. Completely established tree bears numerous spherical, bright red, purple, or orange-yellow colored fruits depending on the cultivar types. On an average, each fruit measures about 6-10 cm in diameter and weighs about 200 gm. Its tough outer skin (rind) features leathery texture.
Interior structure of the fruit is separated by white, thin, spongy, membranous, bitter tissue into discrete compartments. Such sections, packed as sacs, filled with tiny edible sweet, juicy, pink pulp encasing around a single, angular, soft or hard (in case of over mature fruits) seed.
One of the most fascinating new areas of raspberry research involves the potential for raspberries to improve management of obesity. Although this research is in its early stages, scientists now know that metabolism in our fat cells can be increased by phytonutrients found in raspberries, especially rheosmin (also called raspberry ketone). By increasing enzyme activity, oxygen consumption, and heat production in certain types of fat cells, raspberry phytonutrients like rheosmin may be able to decrease risk of obesity as well as risk of fatty liver. In addition to these benefits, rheosmin can decrease activity of a fat-digesting enzyme released by our pancreas called pancreatic lipase. This decrease in enzyme activity may result in less digestion and absorption of fat.
Recent research on organic raspberries has now shown organic raspberries to be significantly higher in total antioxidant capacity than non-organic raspberries. Raspberries in the study were grown on farms in Maryland that had been previously certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A series of tests involving free radical scavenging all provided the same results: organic raspberries outperformed their non-organic counterparts in terms of their antioxidant activity. This greater antioxidant capacity was associated with the greater levels of total phenols and total anthocyanins found in organic versus non-organic raspberries. While there are many good reasons to purchase organic versus non-organic foods of all kinds, this study makes it clear that these reasons specifically hold true for raspberries in a profound way.
You'll get significantly more antioxidant support by purchasing raspberries that are fully ripe. Recent studies have measured the total phenolic content, total flavonoid content, and anthocyanin content of raspberries harvested at varying stages of ripeness (from 50% to 100% maturity) and greatest overall antioxidant benefits were associated with full ripeness of the berries. Although it's possible for raspberries to ripen after harvest, this fruit can be highly perishable and can mold quite easily at room temperature. So your most risk-free approach for getting optimal antioxidant benefits from raspberries is to purchase them at full maturity, keep them refrigerated at all times at temperatures between 35-39°F (2°-4°C), and consume them very quickly (within 1 to 2 days after purchase).
Anti-cancer benefits of raspberries have long been attributed to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. In animal studies involving breast, cervical, colon, esophageal, and prostate cancers, raspberry phytonutrients have been shown to play an important role in lowering oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and thereby altering the development or reproduction of cancer cells. But new research in this area has shown that the anti-cancer benefits of raspberries may extend beyond their basic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory aspects. Phytonutrients in raspberries may also be able to change the signals that are sent to potential or existing cancer cells. In the case of existing cancer cells, phytonutrients like ellagitannins in raspberries may be able to decrease cancer cell numbers by sending signals that encourage the cancer cells to being a cycle of programmed cell death (apoptosis). In the case of potentially but not yet cancerous cells, phytonutrients in raspberries may be able to trigger signals that encourage the non-cancerous cells to remain non-cancerous.
The phytonutrients in apples can help you regulate your blood sugar. Recent research has shown that apple polyphenols can help prevent spikes in blood sugar through a variety of mechanisms. Flavonoids like quercetin found in apples can inhibit enzymes like alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. Since these enzymes are involved in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, your blood sugar has fewer simple sugars to deal with when these enzymes are inhibited. In addition, the polyphenols in apple have been shown to lessen absorption of glucose from the digestive tract; to stimulate the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin; and to increase uptake of glucose from the blood via stimulation of insulin receptors. All of these mechanisms triggered by apple polyphenols can make it easier for you to regulate your blood sugar.
Even though apple is not an excellent source of dietary fiber (it ranks as a "good" source in our WHFoods Rating System), the fiber found in apple may combine with other apple nutrients to provide you with the kind of health benefits you would ordinarily only associate with much higher amounts of dietary fiber. These health benefits are particularly important in prevention of heart disease through healthy regulation of blood fat levels. Recent research has shown that intake of apples in their whole food form can significantly lower many of our blood fats. The fat-lowering effects of apple have traditionally been associated with its soluble fiber content, and in particular, with the soluble fiber portion of its polysaccharide component known as pectins. What we now know, however, is that whole apples only contain approximately 2-3 grams of fiber per 3.5 ounces, and that pectins account for less than 50% of this total fiber. Nevertheless, this relatively modest amount of pectins found in whole apples has now been shown to interact with other apple phytonutrients to give us the kind of blood fat lowering effects that would typically be associated with much higher amounts of soluble fiber intake. In recent comparisons with laboratory animals, the blood fat lowering effects of whole apple were shown to be greatly reduced when whole apples were eliminated from the diet and replaced by pectins alone. In summary, it's not fiber alone that explains the cardiovascular benefits of apple, but the interaction of fiber with other phytonutrients in this wonderful fruit. If you want the full cardiovascular benefits of apples, it's the whole food form that you'll want to choose. Only this form can provide you with those unique fiber-plus-phytonutrient combinations.
The whole food form of apples is also important if you want full satisfaction from eating them. Researchers have recently compared intake of whole apples to intake of applesauce and apple juice, only to discover that people report less hunger (and better satiety, or food satisfaction) after eating whole apples than after eating applesauce or drinking apple juice. But especially interesting was an additional finding about calorie intake following apple consumption. When healthy adults consumed one medium-sized apple approximately 15 minutes before a meal, their caloric intake at that meal decreased by an average of 15%. Since meals in this study averaged 1,240 calories, a reduction of 15% meant a reduction of 186 calories, or about 60 more calories than contained in a medium apple. For these researchers, "getting ahead" in calories with a net reduction of 60 calories was a welcomed outcome of the study, and an extra benefit to their study's primary conclusion—the importance of whole apples (versus other more processed apple forms) in helping us manage our hunger and feeling more satisfied with our food.
Scientists have recently shown that important health benefits of apples may stem from their impact on bacteria in the digestive tract. In studies on laboratory animals, intake of apples is now known to significantly alter amounts of two bacteria (Clostridiales and Bacteriodes) in the large intestine. As a result of these bacterial changes, metabolism in the large intestine is also changed, and many of these changes appear to provide health benefits. For example, due to bacterial changes in the large intestine, there appears to be more fuel available to the large intestine cells (in the form of butyric acid) after apple is consumed. We expect to see future studies confirming these results in humans, and we are excited to think about potential health benefits of apple that will be related to its impact on bacterial balance in our digestive tract.
The nutrient list of blackberries is extensive. They are loaded with vitamin C (a 100g serving has 23 mg or 35 percent of the recommended daily allowance or RDA), but are low in calories (only 43 calories per 100g serving) and sodium. They are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. A 100g serving of whole blackberries contains 5.3 g of fiber, which is 14 percent of the RDA.
Blackberries are also rich in vitamins A, E, K, and B vitamins, as well as antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which scavenge free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and chronic diseases. They are one of the best high-ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) foods available. Minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid, are also found in this fruit.
The humble blackberry contains impressively high levels of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals, such as ellagic acid, anthocyanins, tannin, gallic acid, pelargonidins, quercetin, cyanidins, kaempferol,catechins, and salicylic acid. These antioxidant compounds protect against aging, inflammation, cancer, and other neurological diseases.
However, consume blackberries in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Packed with more vitamin C than an equivalent amount of orange, the bright green flesh of the kiwifruit speckled with tiny black seeds adds a dramatic tropical flair to any fruit salad. California kiwifruit is available November through May, while the New Zealand crop hits the market June through October making fresh kiwis available year round.
The kiwifruit is a small fruit approximately 3 inches long and weighing about four ounces. Its green flesh is almost creamy in consistency with an invigorating taste reminiscent of strawberries, melons and bananas, yet with its own unique sweet flavor.
Kiwifruit can offer a great deal more than an exotic tropical flair in your fruit salad. These emerald delights contain numerous phytonutrients as well as well known vitamins and minerals that promote your health.
In the world of phytonutrient research, kiwifruit has fascinated researchers for its ability to protect DNA in the nucleus of human cells from oxygen-related damage. Researchers are not yet certain which compounds in kiwi give it this protective antioxidant capacity, but they are sure that this healing property is not limited to those nutrients most commonly associated with kiwifruit, including its vitamin C or beta-carotene content. Since kiwi contains a variety of flavonoids and carotenoids that have demonstrated antioxidant activity, these phytonutrients in kiwi may be responsible for this DNA protection.
The protective properties of kiwi have been demonstrated in a study with 6- and 7-year-old children in northern and central Italy. The more kiwi or citrus fruit these children consumed, the less likely they were to have respiratory-related health problems including wheezing, shortness of breath, or night coughing. These same antioxidant protective properties may have been involved in providing protection for these children.
Many foods commonly consumed in the U.S. are valuable sources of antioxidants. But researchers have recently ranked the 50 best antioxidant sources among commonly eaten foods and found strawberries to be quite exceptional. When total antioxidant capacity was measured against a uniform amount of food (100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces), strawberries ranked 27th best among U.S. foods. In addition, when only fruits were considered, strawberries came out 4th among all fruits (behind blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries). However, since many foods (for example, spices and seasonings) are seldom consumed in amounts as large as 3.5 ounces, researchers also looked at common serving sizes for all foods and their total antioxidant capacity. In this evaluation based on common serving sizes, strawberries came out 3rd among all U.S. foods including spices, seasonings, fruits, and vegetables! (In this analysis based on serving size, only blackberries and walnuts scored higher in total antioxidant capacity.) When we hear the word "strawberry," we might think about a very commonplace fruit. But the antioxidant capacity of strawberry is anything but common!
Recent research has shown strawberries to be a surprisingly fragile, perishable, and delicate fruit. Food scientists recently took a close look at storage time, storage temperature, storage humidity, and degree of strawberry ripeness and found significant differences between different types of strawberry storage. On average, studies show 2 days as the maximal time for strawberry storage without major loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. It's not that strawberries become dangerous to eat or invaluable after 2 days. It's just that more storage time brings along with it substantially more nutrient loss. In terms of humidity, 90-95% has been shown optimal. Most refrigerators will average a much lower humidity (between 80-90%). Because air circulation inside the fridge can lower humidity, you may want to give your strawberries more storage humidity by putting them in your refrigerator's cold storage bins (if available). Those cold storage bins will help boost humidity by reducing air circulation. If your fridge does not have storage bins, you can use a sealed container for refrigerator storage of your strawberries. Optimal temperature for strawberry storage over a 2-day period has been found to be relatively cold—36F (2C). All public health organizations recommend refrigerator temperatures of 40F (4.4C) as the maximum safe level for food storage. However, if you are storing sizable amounts of fruits and vegetables—including strawberries—in your refrigerator, you may want to consider setting your refrigerator to a lower-than-maximum temperature setting in the range of 36-38F (2-3C). In terms of ripeness, recent studies have found that both underripeness and overripeness can have an unexpectedly large impact on the phytonutrient content of strawberries, especially their antioxidant polyphenols. Fortunately, optimal strawberry ripeness can be judged by color. You'll want to consume your strawberries when their amazing pinkish-red color is most vibrant and rich in luster.
Improved blood sugar regulation has been a long-standing area of interest in research on strawberries and health. However, scientists have recently discovered a fascinating relationship between intake of strawberries, table sugar, and blood sugar levels. As you might expect, excess intake of table sugar (in a serving size of 5-6 teaspoons) can result in an unwanted blood sugar spike. But you might not expect this blood sugar spike to be reduced by simultaneous consumption of strawberries! Yet that's exactly what researchers have discovered. With the equivalent of approximately one cup of fresh strawberries (approximately 150 grams), blood sugar elevations from simple sugar intake can be reduced. These health science researchers have further speculated that polyphenols in strawberries played a major role in helping regulate blood sugar response. This finding is great news for healthy persons wanting to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and also for persons with type 2 diabetes who enjoy fresh strawberries and want to enjoy them on a regular basis.
Given their amazing combination of phytonutrients—including anthocyanins, ellagitannins, flavonols, terpenoids, and phenolic acids—it's not surprising to find increasing research interest in the anti-inflammatory properties of strawberries. But it's still exciting to see this remarkable fruit lowering levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP) when consumed several days per week in everyday amounts of approximately one cup. Recent research has shown that several blood markers for chronic, unwanted inflammation can be improved by regular intake of strawberries. Interestingly, in one large-scale study, consumption of strawberries did not show anti-inflammatory benefits until strawberries were consumed at least 3 times per week. This research is one of the reasons we recommend inclusion of berries at least 3-4 times per week in your overall fruit intake.
Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, is one of the most antioxidant rich foods on Earth. In a test of over 3,000 foods, amla turned out to be the number-one antioxidant-rich food. Amla powder can be blended into a morning smoothie for a hefty antioxidant boost.
Amla may be effective in treating diabetes, and in an in vitro study, amla demonstrated nearly the same ability as a leading chemotherapy drug in cutting tumor growth, and the amla powder preserved and even enhanced normal cell growth.
Amla has been used in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Thai medicine for centuries, and preclinical studies have shown that it possesses many disease-combatting properties. It has also been used as a snake venom neutralizer and hair tonic, and may be an effective component in homemade mouthwash.
Broccoli can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you will cook it by steaming. The fiber-related components in broccoli do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they've been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it's easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw broccoli still has cholesterol-lowering ability—just not as much.
Broccoli has a strong, positive impact on our body's detoxification system, and researchers have recently identified one of the key reasons for this detox benefit. Glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, and glucobrassicin are 3 glucosinolate phytonutrients found in a special combination in broccoli. This dynamic trio is able to support all steps in body's detox process, including activation, neutralization, and elimination of unwanted contaminants. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) are the detox-regulating molecules made from broccoli's glucosinolates, and they help control the detox process at a genetic level.
Broccoli may help us solve our vitamin D deficiency epidemic. When large supplemental doses of vitamin D are needed to offset deficiency, ample supplies of vitamin K and vitamin A help keep our vitamin D metabolism in balance. Broccoli has an unusually strong combination of both vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and vitamin K. For people faced with the need to rebuild vitamin D stores through vitamin D supplements, broccoli may be an ideal food to include in the diet.
Broccoli is a particularly rich source of a flavonoid called kaempferol. Recent research has shown the ability of kaempferol to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on our body. This kaempferol connection helps to explain the unique anti-inflammatory benefits of broccoli, and it should also open the door to future research on the benefits of broccoli for a hypoallergenic diet.
Bright, vibrant-looking spinach leaves are not only more appealing to the eye but more nourishing as well. Recent research has shown that spinach leaves that look fully alive and vital have greater concentrations of vitamin C than spinach leaves that are pale in color. The study authors suggest that the greater supply of vitamin C helps protect all of the oxygen-sensitive phytonutrients in the spinach leaves and makes them looking vibrant and alive.
Many people are concerned about the nutrient content of delicate vegetables (like baby spinach) when those vegetables are placed in clear plastic containers in grocery store display cases and continuously exposed to artificial lighting. One recent food study has shown that you don't need to worry about the overall status of antioxidants in baby spinach that has been stored and displayed in this way. In this scientific study, the overall nutrient richness of the baby spinach when exposed to constant light was actually higher than the overall nutrient richness of baby spinach leaves kept in total darkness. The period of time in the study was 9 days, and the spinach was kept at 39°F/4°C (a temperature on the lower end of the scale for most home refrigerators). These findings are good news for anyone purchasing baby spinach in "ready-to-eat" containers.
One new category of health-supportive nutrients found in spinach is called "glycoglycerolipids." Glycoclycerolipids are the main fat-related molecules in the membranes of light-sensitive organs in most plants. They're indispensable for the process of photosynthesis carried out by plants. However, recent lab research in laboratory animals has shown that glycoglycerolipids from spinach can help protect the lining of the digestive tract from damage — especially damage related to unwanted inflammation. You can expect to see more studies about this exciting new category of molecules in spinach and its potential health benefits.
In a recent study on the relationship between risk of prostate cancer and vegetable intake — including the vegetables spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards, and kale — only spinach showed evidence of significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer. ("Aggressive prostate cancer" was defined as stage III or IV prostate cancer with a Gleason score of at least 7. Gleason scores are based on lab studies of prostate tissue and common tumor-related patterns.) The study authors did not speculate about specific substances in spinach that may have been involved in decreased prostate cancer risk. However, we know that certain unique anti-cancer carotenoids—called epoxyxanthophylls — are plentiful in spinach, even though they may not be as effectively absorbed as other carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein. You can count on seeing future research on neoxanthin and violaxanthin — two anti-cancer epoxyxanthophylls that are found in plentiful amounts in the leaves of spinach.
Aromatic, pungent and spicy, ginger adds a special flavor and zest to Asian stir fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Fresh ginger root is available year round in the produce section of your local market.
Ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant with a firm, striated texture. The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young.
Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract). Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects.
We are fortunate to have the results of a new 10-year study from the Netherlands about carrot intake and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)—and those results are fascinating. Intake of fruits and vegetables in the study was categorized by color and focused on four color categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Out of these four categories, orange/yellow (and in particular, foods with deeper shades of orange and yellow) emerged as most protective against CVD. And even more striking, carrots were determined to be the most prominent member of this dark orange/yellow food category. Participants who had the least carrot intake had the least amount of CVD risk reduction, even though they still received risk-reducing benefits from their carrot intake. However, participants who ate at least 25 more grams of carrots (with 25 grams being less than one-quarter of a cup) had a significantly lower risk of CVD. And the groups of participants who ate 50- or 75-grams more had an even more greatly reduced risk of CVD! We're not sure how any study could better demonstrate how easy it can be to lower disease risk by making a food like carrot part of the everyday diet in such achievable amounts.
Much of the research on carrots has traditionally focused on carotenoids and their important antioxidant benefits. After all, carrots (along with pumpkin and spinach) rank high on the list of all commonly-consumed U.S. antioxidant vegetables in terms of their beta-carotene content. But recent research has turned the health spotlight onto another category of phytonutrients in carrots called polyacetylenes. In carrots, the most important polyacetylenes include falcarinol and falcarindiol. Several recent studies have identified these carrot polyacetylenes as phytonutrients that can help inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, especially when these polyacetylenes are found in their reduced (versus oxidized) form. These new findings are exciting because they suggest a key interaction between the carotenoids and polyacetylenes in carrots. Apparently, the rich carotenoid content of carrots not only helps prevent oxidative damage inside our body, but it may also help prevent oxidative damage to the carrot polyacetylenes. In other words, these two amazing groups of phytonutrients in carrots may work together in a synergistic way to maximize our health benefits!
Even people who usually boil carrots have discovered that they taste better steamed! In a recent study examining different methods for cooking vegetables, study participants were asked to evaluate the flavor and overall acceptability of the results. In comparison to boiling, participants in the study significantly favored the flavor and overall acceptability of steamed carrots to boiled carrots. This preference was also expressed by participants who had always boiled carrots in their previous kitchen practices.
Not surprisingly, research on the carotenoids in carrots has become fairly sophisticated and we now know that it's especially important to protect one specific form of beta-carotene found in carrots called the (all-E)-beta-carotene isomer. That form of beta-carotene appears to have better bioavailability and antioxidant capacity than another beta-carotene form called the Z (cis) isomer form. With this new knowledge of beta-carotene specifics, researchers in Victoria, Australia wondered about the stability of (all-E)-beta-carotene under proper storage conditions. What they found was excellent retention of (all-E)-beta-carotene under the right storage conditions. Over several weeks period of time at refrigerator temperatures and with good humidity (as might be provided, for example by the wrapping of carrots in damp paper and placement in an air-tight container), there was very good retention of the carrots' (all-e)-beta-carotene. While we always like the idea of vegetable consumption in freshly-picked form, this finding is great news and gives all of us more flexibility for incorporating carrots into our diet.