Berry Healthy

Who would have thought that the common old mulberry tree found in many a backyard and considered to be a nuisance because of the stains left by its fruit, is actually supplying us with a food that is a powerhouse of nutrients with amazing health benefits. Fact is, the more a fruit or vegetable stains your fingers, the higher its content of anthocyanins, the polyphenols responsible for giving it its strong colouring, and the major contributors to the antioxidant activity of all berries.

mulberries on tree

Nutrient Powerhouses

Antioxidants attract and neutralize highly reactive free radicals that could otherwise damage body cells in ways that initiate cancer development, heart disease and age-related eye damage. Apart from having an abundance of these phytochemicals, mulberries and all other berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant. Just one cup of most berry varieties gives almost half the daily requirement of vitamin C for an adult. Vitamin C aids the formation of collagen, helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries and promotes iron absorption and a healthy immune system.

And then there’s resveratrol, an antioxidant found in abundance in mulberries, that has been heavily publicised for its positive health benefits. These benefits include lowering cholesterol, preventing cancer, blood clots, diabetes and aiding in weight loss.

Like all berries, mulberries are also an excellent source of vitamin B, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron and just a handful of most berry types can help you meet your daily fibre requirement. Sadly, in the past, very little research has ever been done on mulberries. However that is all changing with extensive research now being done not only on the fruit but also on mulberry leaf extract as a treatment option for diabetes. (Unfortunately the mulberry tree has been categorized as an invasive alien in South Africa and even though it may only be a problem in some areas such as KZN, you probably won’t be able to buy a mulberry tree at any nursery anywhere in the country. So do look after what you have!)

Blueberries

hands holding berries

Blueberries, on the other hand, have been the subject of many a study and their health benefits, although probably very similar to mulberries, are well documented. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, blueberries take first prize in the berry category when it comes to antioxidant activity per serving (ORAC values). Blueberries clock in at 2400 with mulberries and blackberries close seconds. This is why blueberries are touted as a super-food when it comes to anti-aging, cancer prevention, heart and vision health.

Other promising health benefits that have emerged in laboratory studies done on blueberries include:

  • improvement in motor skills and reversal of short term memory
  • the potential of blueberries to inhibit the growth of Triple Negative Breast Cancer, a particularly aggressive and hard to treat form of breast tumor,
  • may inhibit both the initiation and promotion stages of cancer
  • may confer protection to the brain against damage from ischemic stroke
  • may reduce plasma cholesterol levels especially LDL cholesterol
  • could help regulate blood pressure and combat atherosclerosis
  • may improve night vision and prevent tired eyes.
girl with bowl of berries

Strawberries

Let’s not forget strawberries, which, when in season, are usually more readily available than other berries. Ideally look for organic, firm, bright, juicy, fragrant berries with fresh green caps. If you remove the caps you tear cells in the berries, activating an enzyme that destroys vitamin C. If the berries are not organic, wash them thoroughly as strawberries are one of the most pesticide-sprayed fruit crops. Do not hull them before washing as this may reduce the nutritional value of the strawberry.

And here’s a little trick that will keep organic strawberries from deteriorating too soon: Add ½ cup of white vinegar to the bowl of water you wash them in – caps on of course. Spread them out on a dish cloth and when completely dry store in the fridge. This prevents mould from growing and extends their life although they still won’t last as long as some commercially grown strawberries that last forever in the fridge. We do not want to know why!!

Brain Food

An article published online in the Annals of Neurology reports a protective effect for diets containing high amounts of blueberries and strawberries against cognitive decline in older women. In this study cognitive function was tested every two years in 16,010 participants who were over the age of 70, for a period of 6 years. Consuming a relatively high amount of blueberries or strawberries was associated with a slower decline in cognitive function test scores compared to women whose intake was lower, resulting in a delay in cognitive aging of up to 2.5 years. Although the study was done on women it surely applies to men too.

The healing health benefits of raw fruits and vegetables should never be underestimated and incorporating a wide variety of raw berries into your diet will ensure optimal health.

Recipes:

Here are two recipes which kids will also find irresistible and since they contain protein, carbs and fat, they’ll be sustaining too:

Berrie Lollies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup organic cream (optional)
  • Honey, Xylitol or stevia to sweeten

Method:

  1. Blend all the ingredients till smooth
  2. Pour into lolly moulds and freeze for 3 to 4 hours.
  3. Place the frozen moulds under warm water for a few seconds before attempting to remove.

Blueberry smoothie

Ingredients:

blueberry smoothie
  • 1 cup blueberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 bananas, preferably frozen
  • 1½ C plain yoghurt
  • Xylitol, stevia or raw honey to sweeten

Blend till smooth, adding iced water if necessary. Drink immediately.

Fabulous Avocados

avocados
Although I don’t believe any food is the be-all–and-end-all, this one comes pretty close. When in season as they are now, they are at their best, and it becomes difficult not to pig out on this amazing fruit and, surprisingly, to  never get tired of it. Currently, avocado benefits have been getting a lot of positive press, and we’re not just talking Banting. Although the fats in avocados fall in the category of healthy fats that won’t cause weight gain, there are many other reasons why an avo a day would not go amiss.

Eye food
One reason would be to support deteriorating vision.  There is much evidence supporting the notion that the intake of one whole avocado a day can lead to improvement in most vision-related avocados and eyeschallenges, including age-related macular degeneration and gradual diminishment of visual acuity.

The explanation for avocados being good for vision lies in its abundance in three nutrients that support the unique tissues that make up our eyes, these nutrients being lutein, a known protector of eye health, and  vitamin E and C.  The carotenoid antioxidant lutein in avocado is especially helpful to vision because it comes packaged with plenty of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids that help ensure optimal absorption of lutein into the bloodstream. (This is a critical point with all fat-soluble nutrients; they are best absorbed when they are ingested along with foods that are rich in healthy fats.). Our Creator has ensured the whole caboodle comes packaged in one delicious fruit.

Brain food

A new study out of Tufts University has not only linked avocados with better vision but also with better brain function in older adults. Not surprising, as there is a significant amount of scientific research that indicates how eye health is directly connected to brain health. The research assessed 40 healthy adults over the age of 50 who ate one fresh avocado per day for six months. Apart from experiencing a 25% increase in their levels of lutein in their eyes, it was found that they also experienced a significant improvement in their problem-solving skills and working memory. Credit again goes to lutein, known for its ability to accumulate not only in the eyes, but also in the blood and brain, as well as for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Heart food
    Step aside bananas! One avocado contains as much potassium as two small bananas. Potassium is a nutrient that promotes healthy heart contraction and reduces high blood

    pressure. So for lowering blood pressure there is no better food than avocado. Furthermore, many studies have shown that avocados can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
    and raise HDL cholesterol. Avocados themselves contain no cholesterol, only heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
waistline
You may be wondering why a fruit so dense in calories is also so waistline-friendly. The answer lies is in the healthy fats and the high fibre content that promote a feeling of satiety that decreases the tendency to snack even hours after eating one.
So why waste anymore time underestimating the healing power of avocados – just get on and enjoy them – one a day, everyday! (BTW I have no conflict of interest to declare – I only wish I did own an avocado plantation).

Supplements- Are they necessary?

It is gratifying to see that more and more people are realizing the need to take responsibility for their own health and are striving to prevent illness by eating healthily. Unfortunately there is a downside to this because it also means there are more people falling prey to unscrupulous profit-mongers in the food industry who are jumping on the “health food” bandwagon. Fortunately there are many dedicated natural health practitioners out there who are not shy to speak out and to warn others of the dangers of so-called “health foods”, with certain cereals, margarines, milk, fruit juices, breads, health bars, sports drinks, “lite” foods and soya products coming under fire on a regular basis. Many of the synthetic vitamins and minerals added to these “fortified” foods cannot even be absorbed by the body, thus having the potential to cause more harm than good. As for vitamin and mineral supplements, there are some that have more toxic additives in the form of fillers or binders than the nutrients they claim to provide.

Welcome to the real worldhealthy

Some people believe we can get our daily requirement of vitamins and minerals simply by eating lots of good wholesome food in its natural state. I could go along with this, if we lived in a chemical-free world and all our food was organically grown. However we live in the real world, where our diets lack nutrients we were designed to have due to the adulterated foods we eat: processed, mass-produced foods grown in mineral-depleted soils using petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides and now we can also add genetically engineered foods to the list – lucky us!

Consider this quote from U.S. Senate Document #265:

“The alarming fact is that food, fruits and vegetables and grains, now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of needed minerals, are starving us, no matter how much of them we eat.  No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the mineral salts he requires for perfect health because his stomach isn’t big enough to hold them…”. This document was written in 1936!  Of course the situation is much worse today.

Food is not enough

No matter how healthy your eating habits, it’s virtually impossible to get all the nutrition you need from food alone, and that’s doubly true if you’re over 50. Apart from our food, our air and water is also tainted with thousands of chemicals that play havoc with our health. Our bodies are continuously having to clean these chemicals out and compensate for their effects, which means a greater burden is being placed on our immune systems. For this reason supplementation is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity.

Which supplements?

The variety of multivitamins on the shelves is mind-boggling and many of them should be left on the shelf where they can do no harm. My advice is: “Go Natural”. Take supplements made from whole foods. These contain a broad spectrum of nutrients, phyto-chemicals, fibre, vitamins, minerals and enzymes which will have the greatest impact because they work together in synergy. They have the greatest level of nutritional and bio-available vitality and there is no risk of over supplementation, since they are formulated from food, not synthetics. (Some people absorb less than ten percent of a synthetic supplement pill – expensive urine!). The range of whole food supplements that gets my vote is the Vibrant Health range. Their plant-based superfoods, such as Green Vibrance for adults and Super Kids Vibrance for the younger set, support the four foundations of health namely, nutrition, digestion, circulation and immunity. Having been engineered by Nature, these powders contain all the nutrients and probiotics your body needs to maintain good overall health. To a daily serving of one of these super foods simply add two See Yourself Well omega-3 softgels daily to ensure optimum immune function and prevention of disease.

As Thomas Edison once wrote: “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease”  

I do hope that the future he referred to is not far off.

 

 

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