The “Bs” Have It: Three Superfoods for Overall Health

In recent years, nutritional researchers have made significant progress in identifying the substances in our diets that promote health and those that undermine it. The knowledge they have gathered has given us a greater understanding of which foods do the most to promote overall health and wellness, and how those foods exert their beneficial effects.

Three foods that share the label “superfoods” for their positive influence on many aspects of health, also share the same first letter: B – bananas, blueberries, and beets.  Research has identified multiple health benefits from all three of these foods from lowering blood pressure to preventing heart disease to helping detoxify carcinogens in the body.


Bananas for Stress

Feeling stressed after a hard day at work? Don’t have a cocktail, eat a banana! Bananas are very high in potassium, which works to lower blood pressure, while being very low in sodium, which raises blood pressure. In fact, banana producers in the United States now may legally claim that their product reduces blood pressure and lowers the risk of stroke. High blood pressure is also one of the leading contributors to heart disease, so the benefits of bananas extend to the heart as well.

Bananas also have proven to be especially beneficial for kidney health. While a large body of research has indicated that eating fresh fruits promotes kidney function, the fruit that seem to offer the greatest protection against kidney cancer is the banana. A study reported in the January 2005 issue of the International Journal of Cancer found that women who ate four to six bananas per week had half the risk of kidney cancer as women who did not eat bananas.


Blueberries for Aging

Many of us worry about the natural effects of aging and look for ways to try to look and feel as young as possible. Few of us probably realize that having a handful of blueberries every day can help you do just that. Blueberries contain compounds called anthocyanins that research has shown may offer protection from oxidative stress, which underlies virtually all disorders commonly linked to aging – cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease to name just a few.

In 2006 the journal Neurobiological Aging published studies conducted at Tufts University in Massachusetts that indicated a diet supplemented with blueberries actually reversed age-related decline in the region of the brain associated with memory formation and storage. More recently, researchers at the University of Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center found that blueberries added to the diet of mice reduced the effects of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.


Beets to Fight Inflammation

The third of the “superfoods” contains a wide range of compounds that promote optimal health and help fight the chronic effects of aging. Research reveals that beets have particularly powerful antioxidant properties, which aid in repairing cellular damage. They have also been shown to fight chronic inflammation, which is linked to a wide range of diseases associated with aging including heart disease, atherosclerosis, and Type 2 diabetes. The fact that beets show both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects means that a diet rich in beets is highly likely to have a positive effect on reducing the risk of cancer.

Adding fiber to the diet is recognized as an excellent way to promote colon and digestive health, and beet fiber seems to be particularly helpful in this regard.  Both beets and another root vegetable, carrots, contain pectin polysaccharides, substances that significantly increase these foods’ total fiber content. As a result, they may provide benefits above and beyond other vegetables in terms of promoting digestion and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

All Over-the-Counter

Perhaps the best part is that all of these super disease fighters are completely natural and readily available in any market. You don’t need a prescription to obtain them and there are no special instructions for taking them – just eat them regularly and in moderation for optimal health benefits. Of course, any time you consider a change in diet it is best to see a professional who can offer you advice on how to get the greatest benefit out of such a move. A specialist in integrative medicine in as excellent choice because he or she can help you incorporate diet as one part of a fully integrated and healthy lifestyle.


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Clarke, JD, Riedl K, Bella D, Schwartz SJ, Stevens JF, Ho E. Comparison of Isothiocyanate Metabolite Levels and Histone Deacetylase Activity in Human Subjects Consuming Broccoli Sprouts or Broccoli Supplement. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2011; 110930085450000 DOI: 10.1021/jf202887c

Elbandy MA and Abdelfadeil MG. Stability of betalain pigments from a red beetroot (Beta vulgaris). Poster Session Presentation. The First International Conference of Food Industries and Biotechnology & Associated Fair. Al-Baath University, North Sinai, Egypt. Available online at: www.albaath Posters/6.pdf. 2010.

Galli RL, Bielinski DF, Szprengiel A, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Neurobiol Aging. 2006 Feb;27(2):344-50. “Blueberry supplemented diet reverses age-related decline in hippocampal HSP70 neuroprotection.” Neuroscience Laboratory, USDA-ARS Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington St., Boston, MA 02111, USA.

Lee CH, Wettasinghe M, Bolling BW et al. Betalains, phase II enzyme-inducing components from red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extracts. Nutr Cancer. 2005;53(1):91-103. 2005.

Rashidkhani B, Lindblad P, and Wolk, A. Fruits, vegetables and risk of renal cell carcinoma: A prospective study of Swedish women. International Journal of Cancer. 2005 Jan; 113 (3): 451-55.

Wu X, Kang J, Xie C, Burris R, Ferguson ME, Badger TM, Nagarajan S. USDA Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72202, USA. J Nutr. 2010 Sep;140(9):1628-32. Epub 2010 Jul 21. “Dietary blueberries attenuate atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice by upregulating antioxidant enzyme expression.”

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