Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES
Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.
The famous quote “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food” is attributed to Hippocrates, considered by many to be the father of medicine. Another quote “You are what you eat,” appearing originally in 1826, was coined by the French lawyer, politician, and foodie, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. His full quote in French translates to “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”
What does it mean to let food be thy medicine? Most experts believe certain foods contain compounds — in addition to vitamins and minerals — that help improve health, prevent disease, and promote weight loss. One type of these non-vitamin, non-mineral compounds occurring naturally in plants are phytonutrients (coming from the Greek word phyto, meaning plant). In nature, phytonutrients help protect plants from insects and resist bacteria, fungi, and viral infections. These phytonutrients have been shown to reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease and cancers as well as aid in weight loss. There are thousands of phytonutrients present in plant foods. Among them are carotenoids, ellagic acid, flavonoids, glucosinolates, phytoestrogens, and resveratrol. Foods containing phytonutrients have been called "superfoods" for their health-promoting benefits. Several plant foods have been identified to contain one or more of these compounds. Here are 10 superfoods to include in your WLS diet:
1) Blueberries. Native to North America, these phytonutrient powerhouses contain anthocyanins giving them their purplish-blue color. Blueberries are said to provide anti-aging benefits, lower the risk of heart disease, and promote healthy skin. One serving of blueberries (3/4 - 1 cup) has five times more antioxidants than apples, broccoli, or carrots. Blueberries, strawberries, and other berries can help satisfy sweet cravings but contain fewer calories than high sugar sweet treats.
2) Broccoli. A part of the Brassica family of vegetables (also called cruciferous vegetables), the name broccoli is derived from the Latin word brachium which means branch referring to the broccoli’s stalk with the floret head on top. Studies have shown that eating just 1/2 cup of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables a day may lower the risk of gastrointestinal and lung cancers and prevent weight gain long-term.
3) Oats. This humble grain has been shown to lower cholesterol thanks to its soluble fiber, beta glucans. As shown in many studies, just one bowl of oatmeal can lower someone's cholesterol level by 8 to 23 percent, reducing the risk of developing heart disease by 2 percent. Several studies have shown oatmeal may help with managing weight and promoting weight loss due to its fiber and protein content.
4) Oranges. Originating n Asia, oranges were brought to the Americas (specifically Florida and California) by Spanish explorers and missionaries. Oranges are packed with vitamin C, a known antioxidant vitamin which helps reduce inflammation, along with folate which plays a role in preventing heart disease, colon cancer, and cervical cancer. Oranges and citrus fruits have also been studied for their role in fat burning and weight loss.
5) Pumpkin. Mostly carved as Jack-O-Lanterns on Halloween or eaten as pie on Thanksgiving, pumpkins are not actually a vegetable but a fruit! Pumpkins are part of the gourd family. Pumpkins are rich in both alpha and beta-carotenes, potent phytonutrients which are known to prevent certain chronic diseases. Not to mention pumpkins also contain a good amount of fiber which is known to help slow stomach emptying (possibly boosting fat loss).
6) Salmon. Baked, grilled, or pan-seared, this fatty fish provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids plus B vitamins, potassium, and selenium. Salmon is delicious and can be bought fresh, frozen, or canned. It is high in protein which can help with satiety and managing appetite.
7) Spinach. Remember Popeye? This leafy green known for its iron content has been touted as a superfood not just because of its iron content but because it contains CoQ10, a powerful antioxidant which plays a key role in fighting sun damage to the skin and production of energy in the mitochondria (the cell’s energy factories). Spinach contains a long list of nutrients, including vitamin K, lutein, and B vitamins among others. It is known to contain disc-like membranes called thylakoids which in a few animal and human studies were found to help suppress hunger sensations and reduce body fat and weight.
8) Tea. Legend says that tea was discovered accidentally during the reign of Emperor Shen Nung in China around 2700 BC. Green, black, and oolong are the three types of true tea, varying in the way it is processed after harvest. Tea contains thousands of compounds, most notably polyphenols called flavonoids. There is some evidence linking drinking tea to lowered risk of heart disease and stroke. Tea is high in epigallocatechin (EGCG), an antioxidant which studies have shown may help boost metabolism and increase weight loss.
9) Avocado. Mostly known as a key ingredient in guacamole, avocado can be a delicious and healthy replacement for mayonnaise. Avocados are native to the Americas but are also cultivated in many other regions all over the world including Asia. This fruit (botanically a large berry) is rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals. Avocado's high level of healthy fats can help one feel fuller between meals and may help keep blood sugar levels stable by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates.
10) Eggs. Considered a complete protein, eggs are loaded with protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, selenium, and phosphorus. Hard cooked eggs make for a quick, filling snack between meals helping prevent cravings and boosting weight loss.
Enjoy these foods often and make them staples in your kitchen. There are several online sites you can go to and recipe books incorporating one or more of these superfoods. Try to add at least one of these foods to your meals per day, and you will not only have better-looking skin and more energy, but you may also lose more weight. Bon appetit!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.