Food Synergy Super Foods (cont.)

Synergy Super Food No. 3: Nuts

Nuts contain mostly monounsaturated fat, and antioxidant phytochemicals (like flavonoids). Most also contribute phytosterols, which in sufficient amounts may help lower blood cholesterol, enhance the immune system, and decrease the risk of some cancers. Nuts also have some vitamins and minerals we tend to lack, like vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium. Two forms of vitamin E tend to work best together (alpha- and gamma-tocopherol), and you'll find them in almonds, cashews, and walnuts. Walnuts also contain some plant omega-3s.

Synergy Super Food No. 4: Tea (Especially Green Tea)

With each sip, you get two potent flavonoids -- anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin -- plus a healthy dose of catechin, which may enhance the antioxidant activity of alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E). Green and black teas also contain antioxidant polyphenols, thought to block cell damage that can lead to cancer. Phytochemicals in tea have a half-life of a few hours, so have a cup now and another later to get the biggest bang for your tea bag.

Synergy Super Food No. 5: Olive Oil.

There are 30-plus phytochemicals in olive oil, many of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action in the body, helping to promote heart health and protect against cancer. They're also found in the olives themselves, of course.

Synergy Super Food No. 6: Fish

Fish offers heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, along with a dose of potassium. It's also a rare natural food source of vitamin D. A recent Norwegian study found that the intake of fish and fish products was strongly linked to higher mental performance in a group of men and women aged 70-74. And because lean fish had the same health benefits as fatty fish in this study, it may not be just the omega-3s at work, but perhaps a combination of components found in fish. Fish omega-3s may also have some synergy with plant omega-3s and olive oil, so cook your seafood with a little canola oil or olive oil. Or, serve your seafood with a side dish rich in plant omega-3s or lightly dressed in olive oil.

Synergy Super Food No. 7: Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids, which have synergy as a group. Few fruits and vegetables can say that! Tomatoes also contain three high-powered antioxidants thought to have synergy together (beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C) as well as lycopene, which has synergy with several food components.

Synergy Super Food No. 8: Citrus

The whole citrus family is loaded with synergy because it boasts plenty of vitamin C and the phytochemical subgroup flavones, which are thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action in the body, as well as other benefits. Oranges also offer two carotenoids: lutein and zeaxanthin. Grapefruits are rich in the antioxidant lycopene.

Synergy Super Food No. 9: Flaxseed

Ground flaxseed seems to have synergy within itself on many levels, through fiber, lignans (plant estrogens), and plant omega-3s. But the seed may have synergy with several other foods, such as fish omega-3s and soy, and these are just the ones we know about. Remember, it's ground flaxseed you want to add to your yogurt or cereal. All those healthy components aren't absorbed and available to the body until the seed is ground.

Synergy Super Food No. 10: Low-Fat Dairy

Dairy foods deliver a team of players that's important for healthy bones (calcium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and B6), some of which have synergy together. Calcium combined with vitamin D, for example, may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Including a couple of low-fat dairy servings a day is also part of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to lower hypertension.

The Bottom Line to Food Synergy

The bottom line wisdom to food synergy is evident. I predict it will still be evident five years from now after hundreds more studies are published, and I wanted to get this exciting news out as soon as possible. And here's the bonus: The more you incorporate powerhouse foods and beverages into your day, the less room there is for the more processed and nutrient-poor foods and beverages that now monopolize so many of our diets.

Published March 2008.

SOURCES: Food Synergy, Rodale Publishing, March 2008, Elaine Magee, MPH, RD. Nurk E., et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov. 2007, Vol. 86, No. 5, 1470-1478. Unlu, N.Z., et al. Journal of Nutrition, March 2005, Volume 135: 431-436. Reboul E. et al., Journal of Nutrition, April 2005, Vol. 135: 790-794. He X., Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 8, 2007. Canene-Adams K. et al., Cancer Research, Jan. 15, 2007, Vol 67, pp 836-843.

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