Sugar and Spice Advice on “superfoods”

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How many times have you been standing in line at the check-out waiting your turn to pay and have found yourself scanning the magazine racks? You can find out who is sleeping with whom, how some star lost 50 pounds, who has been probed in the latest extraterrestrial story, and the latest escapades of the Kartrashians. You are a smart soul and aren’t interested in all that nonsense. But you do enjoy reading the covers of health and food magazines.

The magazines are touting a new superfood that will lower your blood pressure, help you drop a dress size in 5 minutes, improve your varicose veins, and get rid of Uncle Morty’s warts! Have you heard of the new superfood – acai berries. Last month the cure-all superfood was oat bran. On top of that there are miracles attributed to coconut water and chia seeds. How does one know which one to choose? If a person eats some of all of them will they be superhealthy? How do you know which claims are valid? Below are some things you might want to read that may just help you get the answers you are looking for.

Be aware that there is no single food or food group that will cure everything and bring back the fountain of youth. Heredity, environment, lifestyle, etc., all play a part in your health. So does that mean we don’t ever believe the superfood claims? Not in their entirety. Many natural foods could be given the superfood label, but research has shown that the best way to be healthy is by eating a nutrient rich diet with plenty of whole foods. Don’t forget the exercise.

As you walk down your produce aisle you will run into a lot of items that could be called superfoods. Fruits and vegetables have a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. The goal is to eat a variety of the brightly colored fruits and veggies. Berries, oranges, grapefruit, papaya, spinach, kale, peppers, and other leafy greens are some of the best choices.

But what about the latest foods in the news? Let’s see how they measure-up. Pomegranates. Messy, but yummy. For me personally, I’d rather not fight with my fruit, so I will gladly drink a glass of pomegranate juice. Tart, but good. It is more expensive than the actual fruit and doesn’t have the fiber. Pomegranates are high in potassium, Vitamin C, and a good source of fiber. Some research shows that these may improve cholesterol levels and improve blood flow in persons with ischemic (which means not enough blood flow) heart disease.

Acai Berries. These are a good source of antioxidants, fiber, and heart healthy-fats. They grow in rain forests so you won’t find fresh berries here in the US. You will find them covered with chocolate. (I wonder if the good balances out the bad.) Instead, you will likely find frozen puree, juice or dried berries.

Kale. This deep green leafy veggie is high in antioxidants, Vitamins A, C, and K, as well as phytonutrients. It is also a good source of fiber, and personally speaking, tastes good in a salad. It can be used in soups, pasta dishes and smoothies. I’ll have to think on the smoothie one. Some people like kale chips. They can be a little expensive, so why not make your own? See the quick and easy recipe coming up in Mama’s Kitchen.

I mentioned Chia Seeds, did I not. The first time I heard about chia seeds, was of course, many years ago when the first Chia Pets came out. You remember those, don’t you? One of them was a ceramic Shaggy from Scooby Doo. You poured in the chia seeds and a little water and voila! in no time at all, Shaggy had a huge head of hair. But I am not talking about planting them.

The second time I heard about chia seeds was a couple of years ago when I was taking my father to the wound care clinic. The nurse in charge told my father about the benefits of chia seeds in getting the old colon rollin’. She swore by her daily chia seeds mixed in her cereal. If you take in enough fluids, chia seeds are a great natural assistant to smooth bowel movements. If you are stingy with your fluid intake, chia seeds will turn to brick.

With that little note of caution, chia seeds are a great source of omega-3-fatty acids and this is good news if you are not a fatty fish eater. Fish is recommended to be eaten at least twice a week. Add them to yogurt, smoothies, and salads.

Try some of these new-fangled products and see what you think. But remember, the best diet is made up of a variety of foods.

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