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The ABC of Superfoods

The term superfoods entered the language in the 1990s to denote foods packed with nutrients that supposedly have health-giving properties. Some are exotic, such as alfalfa, spirulina and wheatgrass, and some prosaic such as broccoli, beans and beetroot.

Superfoods soon became the new health craze. Dr. Steven Pratt's book SuperFoods: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, for example, became an instant bestseller. By making the fourteen superfoods highlighted in Dr. Pratt's book part of your regular eating habits, you can apparently change the course of your biochemistry and stop the incremental changes in your body that lead to diseases such as type II diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer's.

The fourteen superfoods that will change your life, according to Dr. Pratt, are:

  • Beans reduce obesity
  • Blueberries lower risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Broccoli lowers the incidence of cataracts and fights birth defects
  • Oats reduce the risk of type II diabetes
  • Oranges prevent strokes
  • Pumpkin lowers the risk of various cancers
  • Soy lowers cholesterol
  • Spinach decreases the chance of cardiovascular disease and age-related macular degeneration
  • Tea (green or black) helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Tomatoes raise the skin's sun protection factor
  • Turkey helps build a strong immune system
  • Walnuts reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
  • Wild salmon lowers the risk of heart disease
  • Yogurt promotes strong bones and a healthy heart.

In a later book Dr. Pratt added dark chocolate, honey, and kiwi to his superfood list:

  • Dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa) high in phytonutrients that make it a natural anti-inflammatory and blood thinner; it also helps raise good cholesterol levels
  • Honey boosts the antioxidant ability of the blood, heightening its resistance to free radical attack
  • Kiwi fruit helps thin the blood; great source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, potassium, fiber, carotenoids, polyphenols, chlorophyll, glutathione, and pectin, yet are relatively low in sugars.

There are many other superfoods on our planet that are continuously being discovered and rediscovered. Here are some of the latest nutrient dense superfoods for beauty and overall well-being.

Acai Berry

Acai berry (pronounced "ah-sigh-ee") is a small grape-sized berry that grows in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. Once known only to natives of the Amazon rainforest, the acai berry is now being sought after for its exceptional antioxidant power and health qualities. The fruit gained popularity in 2005, when Dr. Perricone touted the berry as the "Number one super food in the world" in his book The Perricone Promise and in appearances on TV shows such as Oprah.

Acai's antioxidant concentration surpasses even blueberries. Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods, which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products), which can cause damage. Antioxidants act as "free radical scavengers" and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals. Acai is especially rich in anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants that help to build the immune system, fight infections, protect the heart, and may help control prostate enlargement. Acai has 33% more anthocyanin than red wine.

Acai is also an excellent source of protein and cholesterol-lowering omega 3, 6 and 9. A 100-gram serving of acai contains only 90 calories, two grams of fat and no cholesterol. Plus, it delivers 3.5 grams of dietary fiber, something we could all use more of in our diets.

Borojo

Borojo, native to the Amazon, is also found in jungles in Panama and Colombia. Natives use the pulp to prepare juice (jugo del amor), compotes, marmalades, candies and wine, or they eat it straight up as food supplement while journeying through the jungles.

Borojo is high in protein and an excellent source of vitamin B, which is good for the metabolism, healthy skin and muscles, enhanced immunity and nervous system, and counteracts stress, depression and heart disease. Its high phosphorous content is great to maintain strong teeth and bones. It is also high in amino acids, so much so that a pound of this fruit is equivalent to three fresh pounds of meat!

Borojo is particularly well-known to help treat bronchial issues. It is also said to stabilize blood sugar levels, control arterial hypertension and relieve menstrual discomfort.

In Columbia, the University of Santiago of Cali carried out research in which they discovered Borojo contains a substance called "sesquiterpelantond," which they claim inhibits cell growth in harmful tumors and shows promise for treating cancer.

Camu-camu

Camu-camu is a low-growing shrub found in the Amazonian rainforest of Peru, mainly in swampy or flooded areas. It grows to a height of about 2-3 m and has large, feathery leaves. The camu-camu fruit is about the size of a large grape and has a purplish red skin with a yellow pulp.

The fruit has never been documented as a traditional herbal remedy for any condition in the Amazon region. In fact, it was not widely eaten as a fruit by the indigenous people, due to its sour, acidic taste. In recent years, the fruits have become popular in Iquitos, Peru, where they are made into drinks and ice creams.

Camu-camu fruit contain powerful phytochemicals, are full of amino acids (serine, valine, and leucine), and have more vitamin C than any other known fruit in the world. Oranges provide 500-4,000 ppm vitamin C; camu-camu provides up to 500,000 ppm, or about 2 grams of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit. In comparison to oranges, camu-camu provides thirty times more vitamin C. Camu-camu is also a significant source of potassium, providing 711 mg per kg of fruit.

The camu-camu fruit has a surprising range of medicinal effects as measured by quantity of a variety of phytochemical compounds which experimentally have demonstrated therapeutic effects. Dr. James Duke, retired chief botanist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pre-eminent New World tropical botanist, and author of many botanical books, including the popular Green Pharmacy, lists some of these effects in his Ethnobotanical website, based on amounts of various phytochemicals which camu-camu contains. In a comparative study of hundreds of botanicals, ranked in order of effectiveness for various health conditions, camu-camu was ranked among hundreds of herbs as follows:

  • Antimutagenic No. 4
  • Antiviral No.6
  • Antioxidant No.4
  • Asthma No.1
  • Arteriosclerosis No.1
  • Cataracts No.1
  • Colds No.1
  • Depression No.2
  • Edema No.1
  • Gingivitis-periodontal disease No.1
  • Glaucoma No.1
  • Hepatitis No.1
  • Infertility No.1
  • Migraine/cluster headaches No.1
  • Osteoarthritis No.1
  • Painkiller No.1
  • Parkinson's disease No.1.*

In Brazil, camu-camu is being promoted as a product that untangles and strengthens hair, and protects it from external damage, adding to its shine and vitality.

Durian

Durian is a yellow, smelly fruit contained in a large, spiky shell grown in Southeast Asia. It is considered the "King of all Fruits" and is either revered by those who love it or hated by those who cannot bear its pungent smell.

Durian provides an incredible array of phytonutrients and antioxidants to energize the body and lift the spirit. It contains high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, known to alleviate anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and create feelings of euphoria by raising levels of serotonin in the brain. Durian is also high in dietary fiber, thiamin and vitamin B6, and very high in vitamin C.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and the information given here is for educational purposes only. This product is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Seek out a health care professional for treatment of illness.

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