(written for Glitz Magazine Health Section... unpublished)
“Natures Healthy Fast Foods”
by Adaure Achumba
Dietary deficiency is a major cause of deaths in developing countries including Nigeria. It is often associated with poverty and increases the bodies’ susceptibility to diseases and illnesses. Unfortunately many Nigerians are out of touch with what they eat, and perhaps rightly so. I mean who has time to calculate how many calories or grams of sugar are contained in a mound of akpu or eba, or how much iron is in a bowl of Edika-Ikong soup.
In fact do such calculations even exist in such foods and even if they do, who really thinks about high cholesterol and fat content of foods when one is tired and hungry, and not to mention struggling to make ends meet, if not out right poor. Your are probably more worried about staining your tie with the chain from the Ogbono you’re racing through at a near-by buka, or, with the sleeves of your shirt or end of your wrapper, carefully making sure the phlegm from your nose doesn’t make its way to your mouth while you slurp that hot Isi-Ewu pepper-soup, than you are with how many pounds you’ve just gained swallowing one ball of Iyan. Most of all who really cares about pounds, calories and cholesterols, it is not like Nigerians are obese and have food in abundance to abuse. Well you should care, and so should everyone who wants to live a healthy life, especially young people, who have the opportunity and hindsight to prevent having to worry or deal with these issues in the future.
Thanks to erosion, drought, soil degeneration and depletion, our foods often lack the necessary nutrients our bodies need to maintain a balanced and healthful diet. Even the ‘comfort’ foods or culture-oriented foods we eat all the time, that seem healthy, may not be. Therefore we need to be more health-conscious and know what kinds of foods are needed as supplements to replace those lost nutrients as well as the kinds of foods we ought to eat less of or totally avoid.
Super Foods are one of many health-oriented food groups that we should make a conscious effort to have abundantly in our diets. These are nutritionally dense and concentrated foods which when eaten in their natural state supply vitamins, minerals, micro-nutrients and other nutrient density missing from food products.
Super Foods are mostly green, fresh foods filled with natural energy from the Sun and Earth, and in their very substance require almost nothing for digestion and assimilation. They are also high in protein, low in fat and calories, and when not processed and carefully blended together, possess a natural clean "sweetness" that’s just enough to satisfy our sweet tooth. Eating Super Foods also helps prevent and reverse aging and chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart diseases and glaucoma.
Below is a list of common Super Foods, their servings and what they do for your body. Like all foods, you must wash and prepare them hygienically, especially because these are fresh (salt or vinegar is highly recommended). This is by no means a medical dietary prescription but rather a well-researched guide for your quest for a healthful diet. However, you should always consult your doctor regularly, or a dietician if you have that luxury.
Carrots and Carotenoids: 2 carrots every other day provide enough beta-carotene to reduce stroke risk by half for men who already have symptoms of heart disease Carotenoids absorb dangerous particles, have the potential to stimulate the immune system and are toxic to tumor cells. Carotenoids can be found in green and orange fruits and vegetables.
Fresh Peppers: The heat source in peppers, capsaicin, is an antioxidant which contains blood thinning properties to prevent strokes, lowers cholesterol. It also protects DNA against carcinogens and may stimulate release of "natural high" chemicals, endorphins.
Spinach and Leafy Vegetables: Contains vitamins A and C, folic acid and magnesium which help control cancer, reduces heart disease and stroke risk, blocks free radicals and may help prevent osteoporosis. Lettuce and cabbage all have an active ingredient called “indoles” which have been proven to be protective against cancer. Pumpkin leaves, Bitter-leaf and Aloe Vera, when used properly or under medical supervision are also medicinal. These vegetables are able to increase the body’s production of important protective enzymes.
Edible/ Medicinal Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms contain beta-glucan and have been shown to boost heart health, lower the risk of cancer, promote immune function, ward off viruses, bacteria, and fungi. They also reduce inflammation, combat allergies, help balance blood sugar levels, and support the body's detoxification mechanisms.
Tomatoes: Lycopene is found abundant in tomatoes and tomato products and may help reduce some cancer and heart disease. Lycopene is an antioxidant more potent than vitamin C. It stimulates immune function and may slow degenerative diseases. A Harvard study shows there is evidence that lycopene can prevent prostate cancer, a disease that is rampant among black people.
Paw-Paws and Pineapples: These contain high amounts of enzymes that help combat everything from autoimmune diseases, allergies, and cancer. It is also helpful in diets of people living with AIDS.
Mangoes and Citrus Fruits: Fruits like oranges, lime, mangoes and avocadoes are rich in bioflavonoids that aid the immune system. They contain vitamin C, which helps your body fight lung, cervical, esophagus & stomach cancers.
Bananas: Rich in magnesium, potassium and slowly absorbed sugars. Good source of pectin (a soluble fiber). Prevents radical swings in blood sugar and helps protect circulatory system.
Garlic: This helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It contains chemicals capable of destroying cancer cells. Garlic has been found to stimulate natural protection against tumor cells, is toxic to invading pathogens and is harmless to normal, healthy cells. Some studies suggest that garlic inhibits the development and progression of breast, colon, stomach, esophagus, prostate and skin cancers in test tubes and in animals. Other studies also showed that garlic exhibits antibiotic and antifungal effects. Bulbs like Onions and turnips are also healthy.
Legumes and Beans: Beans and bean products are high in protein and complex carbohydrates. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, phytochemicals and protease inhibitors that may help prevent cancer. These foods have a unique ability to envelop tumor cells and prevent their growth.
Soya-Beans and Soy-based products: These lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels in bloodstream, which reduces heart disease risk. Studies have shown that people who eat soy products regularly have reduced risk or lower rates of breast, prostate, colon, lung, rectal and stomach cancers reduce blood clotting, plaque formation. They also help prevent osteoporosis and bone loss. The isoflavones contained in soy products are an alternative way to control menopausal symptoms.
Fish: Fish and Fish products like Salmon and cod-liver oil contain omega-3 oils that fight heart disease. Individuals at risk for coronary heart disease benefit from the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil. They also contain calcium, magnesium, protein, B-vitamins, lower triglycerides and minimize any potentially adverse effects due to environmental pollutants. You can lower the bad type of cholesterol (LDL - low density lipoprotein) and increase the good type of cholesterol (HDL - high density lipoprotein) by altering your diet. LDL is responsible for clogging blood vessels and HDL helps to send the LDL to the liver where it is "destroyed". It is best to have higher level of HDL and less LDL in your blood.
Black or Green Tea: Green tea contains polyphenols, which give tea its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants may help protect our body from free radical damage and may reduce heart disease, cancer and stroke risk. Green tea is best because it is not heavily processed, but Black tea is an alternative if green tea is unavailable.
Eggs: Eggs are rich in folate, vitamin B12, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The yolks are a good source of antioxidant lutein as well. Eggs are a nutritious food, but should be eaten in moderation to avoid the build up of ’bad cholesterols.’
Ginger: A common spice known for its "stimulating carminative" property throughout the world. It can be cooked in hot dish for its pungent flavor, eaten raw, or marinated with vinegar. It promotes gastrointestinal circulation, and is useful in treating nausea, motion sickness and vomiting. Pregnant women must consult their doctors and should avoid taking excessive dose of ginger to deal with morning sickness because of the possibility of its inhibition of testosterone binding in the fetus although no evidence from any studies that such an effect is possible.
Other Super foods are Fresh Milk, Non-fat Yogurt, turkey breast, Red Wine, berries, oats, fiber-foods like wheat, corn, millets and other seafood.
Facts and information gathered from www.healthcastle.com, www.cancercenter.com the Food and Drug administration www.fda.gov, and the US Department of Agriculture, www.usda.gov.