My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

2 Nov 2013

Superfoods for Super-Immunity!

Image: Joanne Tsakos Photography
One of my favourite annual events occurred this week - the General Motors Retirees Health Fair in Oshawa. I was thrilled to return for the fifth (or was it the sixth?) time as a guest speaker, and it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. As always, I was made to feel welcome by the 300+ attendees and hope to return next year for another round! 

This year's topic was Superfoods for Super-Immunity. Here is a synopsis of the 20+ foods reviewed during the presentation:  

What are Superfoods? 

Simply put, superfoods pack the most nutrients into each serving. They are nutrient powerhouses that pack larger amounts of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals than other foods. Eating superfoods may reduce the risk of chronic disease and prolong life.

Quinoa: Gluten-free quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals. This supergrain seed contains more protein than most cereal grains (22 grams per one cup/250 millilitres uncooked quinoa).

Delicious Arugula Salad

Kale (and other greens): Dark green vegetables such as kale, chard, arugula, collard greens and bok choy, have the highest concentrations of easily digestible nutrients, vitamins and minerals to protect and heal the body. They are packed with vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and phytonutrients.

Dark Chocolate Bark is so easy to make!
Dark chocolate: Packed with more antioxidants than almost any other food, dark chocolate with 60% or more cacao content may lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve heart health. Raw cacao nibs offer chocolate's maximum health benefits. 

Turmeric: Curcumin, the active ingredient of the Indian curry spice turmeric, reduces inflammation. It’s well known for its powerful pain-reducing effect on arthritis and is being studied for its potential to fight cancer, improve liver function, lower cholesterol and stave off Alzheimer’s disease. Add a pinch of turmeric to almost any food!

TIP: When turmeric is combined with black pepper, your body absorbes 1000 times more curcumin!
A funky strawberry

Berries: Packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals, berries are also high in potassium and vitamin C. Half a cup of berries daily can lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also anti-inflammatory.

Seaweed: Most nutritionally dense plants on the planet, providing about 70 trace minerals, including thyroid- and weight-balancing iodine. There are many types of seaweed: nori (sushi), dulse, wakame, arame, or kombu can be added to salads, soups, and sushi. The brand I use is Maine Coast Sea Seasonings.

Red wine: Most studies on red wine suggest 1 to 2 daily 4-ounce glasses can lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and even decrease the risk of some forms of cancer thanks to the antioxidants resveratrol and quercetin.

Coconut oil: Coconut oil’s medium-chain triglycerides, including lauric acid, capric acid, caprylic acid and myristic acid, have been shown to improve immunity, having antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

Cinnamon: Diabetics, listen up! Researchers are investigating cinnamon’s role in lowering blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, most likely due to the insulin-like effects of its polyphenols. Studies suggest its effects can be seen with a daily dose of just half a teaspoon.

Green tea: The overall antioxidant power of black tea is the same as green tea, but green tea does have ECGC, Epigallocatechin gallate ,a powerful antioxidant. A recent Japanese study on green tea found that men who drank green tea regularly had lower cholesterol than those who didn't. Researchers in Spain and the United Kingdom have also shown that ECGC can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

TIP: Green tea & lemon: The vitamin C in lemon makes more of green tea’s catechins (a type of antioxidant) available to your body.

Grilled salmon topped with rosemary & garlic
Salmon: The omega-3s in fish lower heart disease risk, help arthritis, and may possibly help with memory loss and Alzheimer's Disease. Salmon also contains astaxanthin, a naturally-occurring carotenoid also found in algae, shrimp, lobster and crab. Well-designed clinical trials have shown that astaxanthin helps diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, eye strain and fatigue and seeing in fine detail.

Greek yogurt (and other fermented foods): Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein & calcium – more so than regular yogurt. The probiotics in Greek yogurt promote bowel health and are mood and immunity boosters. Top Greek yogurt with fiber and fresh fruit for a balanced breakfast or snack. Other fermented foods that offer probiotics include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir and chutneys.

Pomegranate: The pomegranate fruit contain the beneficial antioxidants polyphenols and anthocyanins. Pomegranate juice also contains high levels of antioxidants - higher than most other fruit juices, red wine or tea. Some evidence suggests that drinking concentrated pomegranate juice may reduce LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

Chia seeds: Chia is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It also provides B vitamins, fiber, and the potent antioxidant quercetin. They help to regulate blood sugar levels.

Flaxseeds: Similar to chia seeds, flaxseeds are also a vegetarian source of omega-fatty acids and an excellent source of soluble fiber. Flaxseeds contain an important fiber called lignans. These help detoxify potentially dangerous hormones and help reduce cholesterol. They may help prevent breast and prostate cancer and heart disease. Add 2 tbsp. of ground flaxseed to oatmeal, salads, smoothies and more. 

Broccoli sprouts: Sulforaphane, a disease-fighting compound in broccoli and broccoli sprouts, has been shown to have anti-diabetic and antimicrobial properties, and has been shown to destroy cancer stem cells. Small amounts of broccoli sprouts have as much sulforaphane as the mature broccoli plant.

Lemon: A great way to start your day is with a glass of water and generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Your body will get a gentle energy boost, as will your immune system. Lemon juice helps detoxify the liver, promotes weight loss and improved digestion and elimination, and better skin. Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto chicken, fish, salads, grain dishes, and vegetables.

Spirulina: Widely used as a nutritional supplement since the 1970’s, spirulina is making a comeback and is being touted as the “food of the future.” A blue-green algae first discovered in natural alkaline lakes in South America and Africa, this swirling, spiral-shaped single-celled organism is a remarkable food source and natural energizer. Add to its combination of over 100 nutrients and an impressive 60% protein content, spirulina is often described as the most complete food source in the world. Spirulina is the only known source of phycocyanin, an antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory agent. Spirulina is available as a food supplement in tablet or powder form. When feeling physically or mentally fatigued, spirulina provides a quick energy boost.

Walnuts: Walnuts are one of the best plant sources of protein. They are rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and antioxidants such as Vitamin E. Nuts in general are also high in plant sterols and omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts, in particular, have significantly higher amounts of omega 3 fatty acids as compared to other nuts. 

TIP: When walnuts and blueberries are combined, they are even more effective at sharpening memory and improving communication between brain cells.

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is an excellent source of soluble fiber. It binds to and removes cholesterol and fat via the bowels. The beta glucans in oatmeal have been shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Combined with an orange (vitamin C), there is a four times greater improvement in cholesterol and heart disease prevention. Oatmeal combined with cinnamon effectively balances blood sugar levels. 

Acai: Pronounced 'ah-sigh-ee', the Brazilian berry has twice as many antioxidants (anthocyanins) as blueberries. It's available frozen, in capsules or powder. Add it to smoothies, desserts and homemade ice cream. 

Tiger nuts: Tiger nuts are not nuts, but tubers! Nutritionally comparable to almonds, research suggests they may help reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). Tiger nuts are a great gluten-free snack and the flour is fantastic for baking. I add it to my favourite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

Hemp seeds: Also known as hemp hearts, hemp seeds are legal to eat and buy, and those who eat them regularly insist they have more energy... but you can't get high on them! The protein and fiber in hemp make it an excellent blood sugar balancer. (They're great for diabetics). Hemp seeds can be added to salads, or smoothies.

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