I'm often asked by my patients, "What superfoods are most important to stay healthy?"
I like to think that everything I eat is a superfood. When I walk into the grocery store, which I call the "Farmacy," I like to seek out powerful foods that are going to provide the right information for my body.
By Taylor Jones
Quinoa is an ancient South American grain that was largely ignored for centuries.
Interestingly, it was only recently noticed by the rest of the world and hailed as a "superfood" due to its high nutritional content.
Quinoa is an ancient South American grain that was largely ignored for centuries.iStock
It is now considered a specialty food by foodies and the health conscious.
This article takes a look at what quinoa is, where it comes from and why it's so good for you.
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is the seed of the Chenopodium quinoa plant.
Botanically speaking, it's not a grain. However, it's often called a "pseudograin" because it's similar in nutrients and eaten the same way as cereal grains (1).
Quinoa was first grown for food 7,000 years ago in the Andes. The Incas called it "the mother grain" and believed it was sacred (2).
Although it's now grown around the world, the majority is still produced in Bolivia and Peru. It was largely unknown to the rest of the world until very recently (1).
Since then, it has experienced a huge surge in popularity because of its high nutrient content and health benefits. It is also easy to grow in a range of conditions.
In fact, the year 2013 was named "The International Year of Quinoa" by the UN because of its valuable qualities and potential to fight world hunger.
Quinoa is also popular because it's a gluten-free grain. This means people with celiac disease, wheat allergies or those who avoid gluten can consume it.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is a seed classified as a pseudograin. Nutritionally, it is considered to be a whole grain and is also gluten-free.
Types of Quinoa
There are more than 3,000 varieties of quinoa (2).
However, the most widely grown types are red, black and white. There is also a tricolor variety, which is a mixture of all three.
This is what the three types look like:
Quinoa can also be rolled into flakes or ground into flour, which can then be used for cooking and baking.
White quinoa is the most commonly consumed variety and is what you'll usually find at the store. Interestingly, the different types also have varying nutrient contents.
Red and black quinoa also have nearly twice the vitamin E content of white quinoa.
The same study analyzed the antioxidant content of each type and found that the darker the color, the higher the antioxidant capacity.
Bottom Line: There are many types of quinoa, but red, black and white are the most popular. They vary in both color and nutrient composition.
Quinoa Is Loaded With Nutrients
This grain is also popular because it's very nutritious.
Just one cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa is a great source of the following nutrients (4):
- Manganese: 58 percent of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 30 percent of the RDI.
- Phosphorous: 28 percent of the RDI.
- Folate: 19 percent of the RDI.
- Copper: 18 percent of the RDI.
- Iron: 15 percent of the RDI.
- Zinc: 13 percent of the RDI.
- Thiamin: 13 percent of the RDI.
- Riboflavin: 12 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin B6: 11 percent of the RDI.
The same cup provides only 220 calories, in addition to 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat and at least 5 grams of fiber.
Adding quinoa to your diet is a great way to increase your daily intake of important vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is loaded with vitamins and minerals and contains more fiber and protein than most other grains.
Quinoa Contains Complete Proteins
Proteins are made of amino acids, which can either be made by your body or found in certain foods.
Nine of the amino acids are essential amino acids, meaning your body cannot produce them and you must get them from your diet.
Complete proteins contain all nine amino acids in significant amounts. While all animal sources of protein are complete, the majority of plant proteins are not. As a complete plant protein, quinoa is one of the exceptions.
This is one of its most unique qualities and makes it a very valuable source of protein, especially for someone whose diet is mostly plant-based.
While it's possible to get all of the essential amino acids from a plant-based diet, it does require eating a variety of plant-based proteins.
Quinoa is especially high in lysine, methionine and cysteine, which are some of the amino acids that plant foods are frequently low in (5).
Bottom Line: Quinoa is one of the few plant proteins that is a complete protein. This means it contains all of the essential amino acids you need.
It Contains Beneficial Plant Compounds
Quinoa is very high in beneficial plant compounds. Some examples are saponins, phenolic acids, flavonoids and betacyanins (6).
Many of these compounds may act as antioxidants, which means they can neutralize the free radicals that damage your body on the molecular level.
One study examined 10 types of grain from Peru. It found that quinoa had an antioxidant capacity of 86 percent, which was higher than all the other grains analyzed (7).
While all varieties of quinoa are high in antioxidants, the darkest seeds contain the highest amounts. This means black quinoa contains more antioxidants than white (3).
Also, sprouting the seeds can increase the antioxidant content even further (8).
However, a high antioxidant capacity in the lab does not necessarily translate to a higher antioxidant capacity in your body.
This shows that it really can help your body fight oxidative damage from free radicals.
Bottom Line: Quinoa contains beneficial plant compounds. Many of them act as antioxidants and protect your body from free radicals.
It May Improve Blood Sugar Control
Quinoa is considered to be a whole grain.
Several studies have linked whole grain intake to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and improved blood sugar control (10).
One large review found that consuming just 16 grams of fiber from whole grains per day was linked to a 33 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (10).
However, there aren't many studies on the specific health effects of quinoa.
Nonetheless, one rat study found that it could reverse some negative effects of a high-fructose diet, including high blood sugar (11).
It also appears to contain compounds that inhibit alpha-glucosidase, one of the enzymes involved in digesting carbs. This could delay the breakdown of carbs, causing a slower release of glucose into the blood stream (13).
Quinoa's high fiber and protein content may also contribute to its positive effects on blood sugar. However, it is a grain and is still relatively high in carbs (7).
Bottom Line: Whole grains like quinoa appear to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Quinoa may also help with blood sugar control.
Other Health Benefits
May Improve Metabolic Health
Quinoa is a good choice for people who have high blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides).
One study found that eating 50 grams (1.7 oz) daily for 6 weeks lowered total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (14).
However, the effects were small and it lowered the levels of the "good" HDL cholesterol too.
Another study compared quinoa and corn flakes. It found that only quinoa significantly reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (9).
This is preliminary, but suggests quinoa could help improve metabolic health.
May Help Fight Inflammation
Although studies have not shown consistent results, a diet high in antioxidants is thought to help fight inflammation in the body (15).
Quinoa appears to be very high in antioxidants, yet may help fight inflammation in other ways as well.
Saponins are one of the plant compounds found in quinoa. They give it a bitter taste and some people rinse or soak quinoa to try and remove this taste (16).
However, saponins also seem to have some positive effects. In addition to acting as antioxidants, they appear to have anti-inflammatory effects.
One study found that saponins could inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory compounds by 25–90 percent in isolated cells (16).
Read this article for even more information about the health benefits of quinoa.
Bottom Line: Quinoa appears to help lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides. It may also reduce inflammation.
It Does Contain Some Antinutrients
However, quinoa is very well tolerated and antinutrients are not a big concern for healthy people with a well-balanced diet.
Saponins can have both positive and negative qualities.
On one hand, they have beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Some saponins have even been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels (5).
However, saponins also have a bitter taste and can prevent the absorption of certain minerals, such as zinc and iron.
Some varieties are lower in saponins than others. Rinsing, scrubbing with water or soaking can also help reduce their levels if desired.
While oxalate does not cause problems for most people, those who are prone to developing these types of kidney stones may want to avoid foods that are high in it.
Phytic acid is found in a range of foods, including nuts, seeds and grains (17).
It can also be both positive and negative. On one hand, phytic acid has antioxidant effects and can block kidney stone formation.
On the other hand, it can also block mineral absorption. This might raise the risk of deficiencies in an unbalanced diet.
Bottom Line: Like other grains and legumes, quinoa contains some antinutrients. However, they do not cause problems for most people.
How to Eat Quinoa
Quinoa is very versatile and easy to prepare. It has a nutty flavor and a chewy, fluffy texture. You can cook it just like rice, with two parts liquid to one part quinoa.
Simply bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff and serve.
Try using broth instead of water or adding different seasonings for even more flavor.
Watch the video below for a demonstration of how to cook quinoa:
Quinoa can be used like any other grain. It can be served plain, as a side dish or incorporated into other recipes. Quinoa flour can also be used in baking.
Here's a list of some ways to enjoy quinoa:
- Mix with chopped vegetables, served warm or cold.
- Season and serve as a side dish.
- Cook into breakfast cereal with bananas or blueberries.
- Mix with veggies and stuff into bell peppers.
- Add to chili.
- Toss into a spinach or kale salad.
Take Home Message
Quinoa is a delicious whole grain packed with nutrients, fiber, protein and plant compounds. It has a unique flavor and is an easy way to add variety to your diet.
It's particularly great for vegans, vegetarians and people on a gluten-free diet.
However, its impressive nutrient profile and health benefits make quinoa an excellent addition to any diet.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
By Josh Chamot
Seaweed is an acquired taste, but rich in nutrients and cheap to produce, and it could replace carbon-intensive foods on menus everywhere. With that in mind, Lisette Kreischer and Marcel Schuttelaar wrote Ocean Greens, a guide to cooking with seaweed. Kreischer shared her insights on seaweed with Nexus Media, along with two of her best recipes.
By Jordyn Cormier
No food deserves the proclamation of "superfood" so much as sprouts. They are a sustainable, living food, loaded with highly bioavailable nutrients. They are easily digestible nutrition, yet they are also incredibly affordable. In this age where many of us have trouble affording or consuming all of the veggies we need in a day, sprouts are awaiting your discovery.
No food deserves the proclamation of "superfood" so much as sprouts.Care2
I had the opportunity to chat with the CEO of Sprout Brothers, Ari Meyerowitz, to learn a little more about the benefits of sprouts and sprouting. Here's Ari had to say about why sprouts are a superfood:
"Sprouts are the most bioavailable, nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Because of their ability to be grown year-round and their incredible potency, growing your own sprouts can turn your kitchen into your very own, living 'farm-acy.' Sprouts are living medicine."
Because sprouts (aka baby plants) are so easily digestible and affordable, consuming them can act as preventative medicine. Many sprouts are scientifically known to contain anti-cancer properties, like broccoli sprouts, in quantities you could never ingest were the sprout fully grown into the mature plant. They are high in protein and proportionally more nutrient-dense than their mature counterparts. Oh, and you can grow them right in your kitchen!
Unlike the hoards who suggest growing your sprouts in a glass mason jar, the Sprout Brothers try to dissuade their customers from doing this. The lack of air flow can encourage the growth of mold. Instead, they recommend specially woven hemp bags, which mimic the air flow and water retention of a sprout's cozy natural habitat—soil. What's more is that one bag, if taken care of, can easily last a lifetime. Here's what Ari had to say about it:
"A mason jar was never designed as a sprouting tool. Sure people have invented tops that make them workable, and sure people have mason jars laying around, but this does not make it any more ideal. Look at the environment plants grow in naturally. Soil is porous and naturally aerates. Water is held by the seedling and then dissipates. The sprout bag is designed as a sprouter. I get calls and emails daily with peoples sprouting problems. 9 times out of 10 it is either bad seed, or a bad grower. Good seeds and a good grower and sprouts will grow themselves!"
Once you begin sprouting, you'll find it's incredibly easy. In fact, growing sprouts make it possible for you to have fresh produce in your kitchen year-round, no last minute grocery excursions required! But what do you do with all of your sprouts? Well, you can make a delicious and highly nutritious sprout salad, toss them on top of stir frys or dehydrate them for a crispy snack.
Since there is relatively little information on dehydrating sprouts on the web, I've compiled a few of my favorite sprouts along with some tips for dehydrating them:
Radish sprouts. High in vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium, radish sprouts are incredibly pungent with a delightful radish intensity. Dehydrating them can extend their shelf life significantly. Once mature after 5 to 6 days of sprouting, spread your radish sprouts out in a single layer on a dehydrator tray at 115 degrees F (or, in a pinch, use a cookie sheet with the oven at its lowest setting, keeping the door slightly ajar). Let dehydrate for 2-3 hours or until crisp.
Broccoli sprouts. Known to have potent anti-cancer properties, broccoli sprouts are a personal favorite. There is also evidence that they can help with estrogen dominance by supporting the body in processing excess estrogens. Since our environment is rampant with xenoestrogens, this can be an important food for women and men of all ages. After sprouting for 5 to 7 days, set the sprouts in a single layer on a dehydrator tray set around 115 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 3 hours, much like radish.
Wheatgrass. There is a lot of confusion about wheatgrass, so I am going to take a moment to clear some of it up. Unfortunately, dehydrating wheatgrass sprouts is a bit of a waste. Your body cannot digest wheatgrass—we do not have ruminant stomachs as cows do. So, to reap the incredible benefits, we juice it. Dehydrating the wheatgrass would simply leave all of the undigestible bits and take out all of the juice, rendering it fairly inedible. Wheatgrass powders are made by freeze drying the fresh juice, not by dehydrating and powdering the wheatgrass sprout itself. Also, for all those concerned, know that wheatgrass itself contains no gluten. The green stalk that we use to juice is gluten-free. Gluten in stored in the seed itself and absolutely none of it resides in the luscious green stalk.
Lentil sprouts. Move over beef! These powerful sprouts are 26 percent protein. While lentil sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked once sprouted, they actually can make a tasty dehydrated snack as well. To begin, lentils take 4 or 5 days to reach peak nutrition, so pop them into a hemp bag or automatic sprouter and just make sure that they are watered ever morning and evening. Once they are done, spread the sprouts out onto a dehydrator tray at 115 degrees Fahrenheit and dehydrate for about 4 hours or until crisp. Store in an airtight container. Once you get the basics down, feel free to marinate the sprouts beforehand in some onion powder and tamari and ginger powder for a flavor packed, nutritious snack! If you marinate them, dehydrate them at 125 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 to 8 hours.
When cooking sprouts, it's always best to cook low and slow to preserve their nutrient density. Dehydrating is a great way to extend your sprout harvest and get a little more creative with your snacks, crackers and breads. You'd be surprised at how easy it his to "cook" with sprouts. You can even begin to experiment with sprout cookies and sprout veggie burgers to increase the bioavailability of your treats and meals:
Sprout Burgers (adapted from Sproutman's Kitchen Garden Cookbook)
2 cups sprouted lentils
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
5 Tbsp. miso
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
Simmer sprouted lentils in water on low heat for an hour or until soft.
Process in a food processor with tahini, sunflower seeds, miso, garlic and spices.
Form into patties, using a little corn meal if the patties seem a little too wet or sticky.
Place on parchment paper and bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Enjoy!
Sprouts are a diverse wonder food! If you are new to the sprouting game, I recommend getting started by reading Sprouts: The Miracle Food. It is a wonderful book that covers everything you've ever wanted to know about sprouts and sprouting: germination, mixing and matching seeds, nutrition, health benefits and so much more. Once you know the basics, begin to experiment with your own dehydrated creations. Get ready to enter a new, sproutful world of nutritious possibilities!
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
By Lauren Kessler
True, food isn't everything, but much of the hope (and hype) surrounding the anti-aging movement is focused on food and in particular on what are being called "superfoods." This is not a scientific term. It is not a term used by dietitians or nutritional scientists.
A superfood is a food particularly rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, enzymes and other essential nutrients with proven health benefits. It has more of the good stuff per calorie than other foods and fewer (or none) of the properties considered to be negative.
And when it comes to your skin, these are the top 10 foods you should always eat:
Broccoli—the "eat it, it's good for you" food that George Bush (the elder) proclaimed his distaste for—is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on Earth. It has protein; bone-building calcium; fiber; vitamins A, C and K; a phytoestrogen shown to benefit cognitive skills; and a chemical that, at least in animal studies, reversed age-related damage to body tissues and organs. Done.
Blueberries are one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) top ORAC foods. That stands for "oxygen radical absorbance capacity," which means these foods are antioxidant powerhouses that, as the USDA says, "attack aging at its roots" and can "help slow down the effects of aging in humans" by protecting the body against cellular damage. (Remember the pollution caused by those cellular engines, mitochondria?) Or that's what the USDA used to say.
Recently, the agency has recanted, removing the ORAC list from its Web site because "metabolic pathways are not completely understood and non-antioxidant mechanisms [are] still undefined."
In other words: More research is needed. But studies at Tufts support the "powerhouse food" approach, finding that several compounds in blueberries help to mitigate inflammation. (Inflammation has been linked to just about every disease of aging).
It's one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower cholesterol, prevent blood platelets from sticking to artery walls, decrease inflammation, decrease the risk of strokes and prevent heart attacks. Salmon has lots of protein, is a good source of iron and is low in mercury—a concern for fish lovers. In 2009, Madonna went on a well-publicized salmon binge to "knock 12 years off her appearance," as the Boston Globe reported. Hard to separate the effects of salmon, a 24-7 personal trainer and possible skilled plastic surgery, but the woman looks amazing.
Almonds (walnuts too and pistachios) are proven reducers of bad cholesterol. Like broccoli, they are rich in a type of antioxidant thought to be instrumental in battling free radical damage. They're high in fiber, in phytochemicals that may protect against cancer and in arginine, a precursor to human growth hormone. They are also high in calories, so limit the amount you consume.
Beans also make the short list because they are very high in soluble fiber, which has been linked to lower risks of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers; reduced cholesterol and blood glucose levels; lower blood pressure; and less inflammation.
Sweet potatoes, with their prodigious vitamin A content (good for the skin and eyes), their host of powerful antioxidants and their potassium, which helps blunt the effects of sodium on blood pressure and bone loss, are nutritional powerhouses. If you grew up thinking sweet potatoes appeared on the dinner table only once a year, topped with brown sugar and mini marshmallows, that's no way to treat a top 10 superfood.
The Greek-style kind (thicker and creamier) has triple or more the protein of regular yogurt. Yogurt is calcium rich, like milk (and can be tolerated by many of the lactose intolerant), and is full of what is euphemistically called "active cultures"—better than saying it's good for you because it's loaded with bacteria. But it's the good kind, the gut-enhancing kind.
Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is the only grain on the list. It's high in protein, fiber and iron. Besides, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists tasked with feeding astronauts in space chose it because it supplied the most "essential life-sustaining nutrients" of any single food. What they meant was that it contained all the essential amino acids and was thus a complete protein—not that it contained every nutrient needed to sustain life.
Adapted from Counterclockwise.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Rodale Wellness.
By Michelle Schoffro Cook
While most people probably think of parsley as nothing more than a garnish served alongside their restaurant meals, this herb warrants greater inclusion in our diet and natural medicine cabinet. Not only is parsley packed with nutrients, it helps prevent diabetes, prevent and treat kidney stones and is a proven all-natural anti-cancer remedy. It's definitely time to rethink this humble and overlooked herb.
Not only is parsley packed with nutrients, it helps prevent diabetes, prevent and treat kidney stones and is a proven all-natural anti-cancer remedy.
Native to southern Europe, parsley has been in use for more than 2,000 years and is used all around the world. According to the Roman statesman Pliny, "not a salad or sauce should be presented without it."
While we tend to think of parsley primarily as food, our ancestors thought of it primarily as medicine. It was in this capacity that they used parsley to treat many conditions including: gallstones, arthritis, insect bites—even as an aphrodisiac and to curb drunkenness. When it came to alcohol consumption, ancient people believed that parsley could absorb the intoxicating fumes of wine so it could not cause drunkenness.
Here are a few reasons to love parsley along with some ways to incorporate more parsley into your diet:
Nutrition Boost: Parsley is high in many nutrients, including: vitamins A and C, as well as the minerals iron and sulfur, making the dietary addition of this versatile herb a simple and delicious way to boost the nutrition content of almost any meal or fresh juice.
Anti-Cancer Powerhouse: A new study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that parsley has potent anti-cancer properties and works against cancer in four different ways: it acts as an antioxidant that destroys free radicals before they damage cells, protects DNA from damage that can lead to cancer or other diseases and inhibits the proliferation and migration of cancer cells in the body.
Diabetes Prevention: Exciting new research in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating foods high in a naturally-occurring nutrient known as myricetin can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent. Parsley is one of the best sources of myricetin, containing about 8.08 mg of the medicinal nutrient per 100 grams of parsley.
Kidney Stones: In a study published in Urology Journal, researchers found that ingesting parsley leaf and roots reduced the number of calcium oxalate deposits (found in kidney stones) in animals. Additionally, the researchers also found that ingesting parsley leaf and roots helped to break down kidney stones in animals suffering from the painful condition.
How to Use Parsley:
Parsley leaves and stems can be chopped and added to soups, stews, salads, pasta dishes, fresh juices and more. Try making the Middle Eastern favorite tabbouleh—a combination of couscous, parsley, chopped tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. You can substitute quinoa for a gluten-free, whole grain option. Parsley is also an excellent addition to most tomato sauces and chopped salads.
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