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Food for Thought - Nutrition and Health

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As part of our series on nutrition and health, let’s look at some foods that deliver unique nutrients. It’s worth repeating that, while considerable study has been done the science of nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, herbs and even some flowers (like lutein for eyes in marigolds!), much more is yet to be learned – and formalized. What we do know, however, is also worth repeating – and applying to our daily diets.

Mothers since the advent of recorded history have been telling kids to eat their vegetables. They may not have understood why it was so important, but innately, they knew it was. As science has progressed, we’ve learned more. Indeed, there are unique compounds in garden-based foods, called “phytonutrients.” There are only guesses among the nutrition science set as to how many phytonutrients exist across the spectrum of plant-based foods.

Whatever the actual number, they agree that it is in the thousands. And while many details have yet to be revealed, the benefits to health are real. It turns out that phytonutrients have have antioxidant properties. This means that different phytonutrients protect cells from different types of cell damage (oxidation) caused by “free radicals.” Free radicals can weaken or mutate cells, affect their reproduction and other factors that can ultimately lead to development of a health effect, whether illness, disease or deterioration.

Our last post got you started with two easy recipes to get a variety of fruit and vegetable servings into your day. Here, we’ve pulled a couple of super-hero ingredients to consider adding to your blender, fridge or crock pot. We like their intense health benefits and how easy they are to add to your diet as whole foods.

Acai Berries

(pronounced ah-SIGH-ee). It’s true that all berries are great sources of phytonutrients. What has gotten this little beauty in the spotlight is its high punch of anthocyanins, which help fight cancer and heart disease. Acai also contains oleic acid—the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil. You can see where your smoothie adventures are going, right?

Kale

This powerful leaf comes in many colors – red, green, purple – and all of them are amazing. Kale contains cancer-fighting isothiocyanates (ITCs) and 45 varieties of flavonoids, known to have anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. Kale is also supportive of reducing cholesterol levels as it binds with bile acids in the digestive tract. Interestingly, while raw kale is beneficial for cholesterol levels, steamed kale boosts this power even more. Apparently, the steaming allows the fiber-related components to bind even better and aids excretion of the bile acids. This is another great addition to your crock pot soup, too.

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