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By JJ Virgin
That hyperbolic headline stared me front and center recently while I patiently waited in my grocery line. Reluctantly, I grabbed the weekly and thumbed straight to the article claiming a specific "superfood" could make you lean and energetic while upping your libido.
Uh, huh. I rolled my eyes, winced and put the magazine back.
Every year or so, one of these supposedly miraculous foods makes headlines. Often with little or no science to back their claims, writers create frenzied buzz that ultimately benefits magazine sales rather than your health.
Like a has-been former A-list actor, these foods inevitably fall out of favor because they're arcane or otherwise inaccessible, don't live up to their hype or people just get tired of hearing about them.
That got me thinking: What super-hyped foods actually earn their permanent stay at the table? I came up with these seven. They aren't miracles, but incorporating them into your meals yields impressive gains (or losses, if you will).
Studies show a high-fiber diet creates lower overall body weight. Lentils become tops for fiber as well as protein and nutrients.
"A cup of lentils contains a nice amount of protein—about 18 grams," wrote Dr. Jonny Bowden in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. "But best of all, that same cup contains a whopping 16 grams of fiber. Lentils are also a terrific source of folate and a good source of at least seven minerals."
Coconut contains a special type of saturated fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which your body prefers to burn than store. Studies show compared with other oils, MCTs can help you burn more fat. Coconut oil provides a delicate flavor with medium-heat cooking, while unsweetened coconut milk provides healthy fat for protein shakes.
Fresh or frozen, organic blueberries pack quite a nutrient punch and satisfy your sweet tooth. Nature packed these guys with vitamins, minerals, ﬁber, antioxidants and all kinds of other goodness that cumulatively spike your health while lowering their sugar impact. In fact, studies show blueberries help normalize blood sugar levels and reduce your risk for diabetes. They're also high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that improves insulin sensitivity and insulin's ability to get glucose out of your bloodstream.
4. Green tea
If you run into me late morning or early afternoon, chances are I'm sipping iced or hot green tea. Antioxidants and lower caffeine amounts are two reasons green tea becomes my drink staple. Studies show this popular beverage's fat-burning benefits become more pronounced when you combine green tea with exercise. Green tea contains L-theanine, a calming amino acid that dials down the chronic stress that makes you fat and miserable.
One study found coffee contains higher antioxidants than even green tea. (You should drink both). Those are among the reasons studies find coffee drinkers live longer. Quality and quantity become key. Stick with a cup or two of Bulletproof Upgraded (my favorite because it's mycotoxin-free), be aware about caffeine's jittery and other effects and don't use a gargantuan cup of dark roast to compensate for crappy sleep or chronic stress.
6. Swiss chard
Move over, kale; you've got a rock star leafy-green contender.
"When I first looked up the lab analysis of the nutritional content of Swiss chard, I had to go back and check twice to be sure there wasn't a mistake," writes Bowden. "The amount of nutrition in this baby is so spectacular I thought it was a misprint; but no, it's absolutely true. Swiss chard is an excellent example of a nutritional powerhouse that delivers the goods for almost no calories." Among its gazillion benefits, studies show Swiss chard can help fight cancer.
Whether you slice it onto a salad, eat it as a mini-meal or make guacamole with kale chips, avocado becomes a super-fruit (yes, fruit) packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found avocado "improved overall diet quality, nutrient intake and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome."
Bowden points out avocados also contain 11 to 17 grams of fiber as well as nutrients like potassium, folate, vitamin A and carotenoids like beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.