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Superfoods to Save the Day

By Dr. James D. Krystosik

It is an age-old truth that eating fruits and vegetables improves health. But not all produce is created equal. Meet the superheroes of produce: superfoods, which offer superior disease-fighting capabilities, boost the immune system, fight fatigue and much more.

It's a bird; it's a plane ... no, it's a superfood! Considering that a recent survey revealed three out of four Americans don't have a clue of what superfoods are, chances are you may be one of the uninitiated. So, what are superfoods? Well, for starters, they are foods that provide health benefits which go well beyond basic nutrition, giving your body a youthful vigor and disease-fighting power. Sorry, superfoods won't give you the power to leap tall buildings, run faster than a speeding bullet or make you more powerful than a locomotive. But they will help boost your immune system, prevent heart disease, improve your sex drive, fight fatigue and much more.

Superfoods stand much taller than the typical foods you know are good for you. Almost every superfood is found in the plant kingdom. There are a few exceptions, such as cold-water fish that provide healthy omega-3 oils to squelch inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease; or probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that boost our immune system and maintain health in the digestive tract.

A little over 10 years ago, researchers began to uncover a virtual goldmine of disease-fighting compounds called phytochemicals (naturally occurring plant chemicals) in fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals include cancer-fighting lycopene in tomatoes and lutein in spinach, which shows great promise for preventing cataracts and macular degeneration. So, mom was right all along - we should be eating our fruits and vegetables every day. But new research is shifting the spotlight to a whole new generation of superfoods your mom probably never even heard about. Let me explain by introducing you to the humble broccoli plant.

Broccoli evokes a lot of groans around the dinner table in most American households. Yet despite the resistance to broccoli, scientists continue to find more reasons why we should eat it often. For starters, broccoli is rich in vitamin C, folic acid, calcium and fiber. More importantly, researchers at Johns Hopkins University discovered a compound in broccoli called sulphuraphane. These scientists discovered that this extraordinary compound not only kills H. Pylori, a bacterium that causes ulcers, but also is a powerful anticancer compound. Considering how new research has found a possible link between H. Pylori and Alzheimer's and heart disease, broccoli is beginning to look more like a medicine - one without side effects or an insurance copayment - than a food. It appears that nutrition is going back to the future; in the fifth century, Hippocrates said, "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food."

As good as broccoli is for our health, broccoli sprouts are even better. Here's why: Dr. John Talalay, one of the leading researchers at Johns Hopkins investigating the benefits of broccoli sprouts, found that broccoli sprouts have up to 100 times more sulphuraphane than the mature broccoli plant. Quite impressive, don't you think? Dr. Talalay has demonstrated that 1 ounce of broccoli sprouts has as much of the cancer-fighting compound as 1 1/4 pounds of garden-variety broccoli. That will certainly save you a lot of chewing.

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