May 25, 2012

Supercharge your body with these super foods

Addiction wreaks havoc on your system. Add these power foods to your diet, and put yourself on track to a healthy life.

By Kelsey Allen

With recovery comes a list of things in which you cannot— and should not—indulge: alcohol, drugs, prescription pills, cigarettes. Luckily, there is also a list of things you can lose yourself in: power foods. In fact, the more power foods that you eat, the better you’ll feel. Addiction wreaks havoc on the user’s system and depletes the body of the vitamins and minerals it needs. To combat this, load up on power foods (or super foods— they’re the same thing). you’re looking for a steady and true definition of a power food, you won’t find one. Gary Null, an international expert on nutrition and health sciences and author of Gary Null’s Power Foods, qualifies a power food as one that has “known phytochemicals and the capacity to reduce free radicals at high levels.”

Sounds confusing, but in simple terms, a phytochemical is a chemical found in plants that helps to keep the plant healthy. If you eat plants with a lot of phytochemicals, those phytochemicals protect you, too.

Susanna Lyle, an expert in plant and soil science and author of Eat Smart Stay Well, adds that in addition to their healing properties,power foods should be easily accessible and affordable. Accordingto the “Power Foods Shopping List” published by the PreventiveCardiology and Rehabilitation Program at the Cleveland ClinicFoundation, a power food will give you “the richest amount ofnutrients, the least amount of calories and the most health benefitsto decrease your risk of heart disease.”

Don’t feel like you have to overhaul your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. Take it one day at a time (you’ve heard that before), and try to incorporate two or three of these foods into your daily meals.

“Although we all know the best foods to eat, it’s often difficult to motivate ourselves to eat what may seem a dull diet,” Lyle says. “Stopping an addiction needs rewards, too, and so we need to choose tasty but also healthy foods. After kicking a habit, it’s important to build up the body’s health again, to enjoy feeling fitter and more vibrant.”

Julia Zumpano, a registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic, separates power foods into five categories: vegetables, fruits, protein, grains and legumes. “Choose a category, and once you have that, make it a staple in your diet,” Zumpano says. “There is a lot of time we focus on restriction when it comes to diet. This is promoting things that you can have and tons of them.”


When it comes to vegetables, think dark leafy greens: spinach, watercress, Swiss chard, romaine, kale, broccoli. The secret weapons in these vegetables are vitamins A, C and K; folate; calcium; copper; magnesium; potassium; zinc and fiber. They are going to help your body fight against cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity and osteoporosis because of their ability to neutralize free radicals. One serving of spinach packs nearly a full day’s vitamin A and half of your vitamin C.


Zumpano says berries have the highest antioxidant power compared to any other food. Filled with vitamin C, folate, manganese, potassium and fiber, berries—bilberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, elderberries, juniper berries, raspberries, strawberries, wolfberries, Goji berries—help protect your heart, enhance your eyesight, improve your memory and, because of their sweetness, prevent cravings. Just 1 cup of raspberries has 6 grams of fiber and more than half of your daily requirement of vitamin C.


Fish is an excellent way to stock up on your protein while also getting your omega-3 fatty acids. According to Lyle, these acids are key to the nervous system and the brain. “A lack of omega-3s results in symptoms such as impaired memory and decreased learning efficiency,” Lyle writes in her book. Salmon supplies your body with B6, B12 and D vitamins; phosphorus; potassium and selenium.


If you only ever have one thing for breakfast again, make it oatmeal. In its simplest form—instant, unsweetened and unflavored — oats provide you with soluble fiber, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. The fiber will keep you feeling fuller longer, reduce your cholesterol and maintain your blood-sugar levels throughout the day while also fighting against heart disease and colon cancer.


How does that saying go? About beans being magical? Well, they are. Beans and other legumes help build muscle, burn fatand—that’s right—regulate our digestion due to their high concentration of fiber, protein, iron and folate. Zumpano highly recommends soybeans, as soy is fortified with lots of nutrients and antioxidants.

For more information on what vitamins and minerals do for the body and serving sizes for each super food category, pick up the May/June 2012 issue of Renew magazine.

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