Here are the superfoods that really can save your life
Published 09/04/2010 | 05:00
It turns out superfoods may not be quite so super after all. An eyebrow-raising new survey has shattered the theory that five daily helpings of fruit and veg can help fight cancer.
Indeed if the findings are correct, claims that a high-veg diet could reduce the risk of cancer by a whopping 50pc have turned out be a load of broccoli.
Far from reducing susceptibility to the disease by half, the International Agency for Research on Cancer found the five-a-day diet may boost our resistance to the illness by a massive 2.5pc.
Or, to quote the authors of the survey, a fruity diet led to a "very small" improvement in your chances of avoiding cancer.
Naturally, this runs spectacularly in the face of the received wisdom, as noisily promulgated by health awareness campaigns across the world.
To be sure, quaffing pints of carrot juice every morning won't do you any harm. But nor is it a cast-iron protection against cancer, the biggest killer in Ireland after heart disease.
"Our study supports the notion of a modest cancer preventive effect of high intake of fruits and vegetables and we can exclude chance as a likely factor," said Dr Paolo Boffetta of Mount Sinai Medical Centre in New York, one of the researchers who conducted the study of 500,000 Europeans over a 10-year period.
Still, no need to bin the contents of your fruit and veg basket quite yet.
Without question, this week's bombshell is a major knock-back for health campaigners. That's not to say that greens don't have a hugely important place in your diet, however.
Or that the much-touted 'superfoods' we're forever urged to stock up on haven't got a great deal to recommend them.
So below are 10 of the superfoods you should be eating to help you stay happy and healthy.
Can the humble cup of builder's tea really, truly be a superfood? Well yes.
Both black and green teas have powerful anti-oxidant qualities. In a study in Japan, it was shown that regular consumption of green tea could be linked to lower cholesterol, particularly among men (sorry ladies).
The antioxidants in tea have, moreover, been shown to reinforce the walls of the arteries against the damage linked to heart disease and to combat the formation of blood clots.
You don't have to spend all day knocking back the stuff, either. Studies suggest as little as one cup a day can impact positively on health.
Just don't undo all the good work by chucking in three spoonfuls of sugar and munching your way through a packet of Custard Creams while you're at it.
The superfood that doubles as dessert, yoghurt has long been acknowledged as a fantastic source of calcium. If you have an intolerance to lactose it is also a perfect substitute for milk.
From ancient times, yoghurt has been recognised as highly beneficial to the digestive system. In particular, it is known to improve the functionality of the large intestine (trust us, you don't want the messy details).
Yoghurt containing bacteria has also been proved to fight incidence of diarrhoea. So you might consider stocking up before that holiday to India. Bear in mind that by 'yoghurt' we don't mean any jelly-like treat sold in the chilled foods counter. That mini-trifle with extra cream on top may be delicious but it won't do much for the well-being of your colon.
Contrary to popular belief, bananas are not fattening. In addition, they are rich in photo-chemicals. These have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. The high potassium content of bananas also lowers blood pressure. And as a rich source of vitamin B6 bananas help foster healthy skin and hair.
Bananas, moreover, are a great source of energy -- just the thing to refuel with after you've hit the gym. Plus, you've got to love any fruit that comes complete with its own natural wrapper.
When it comes to the crunch, you can't beat apples as a health snack. Loaded with anti-oxidants, they safeguard against heart disease and lower your cholesterol.
Then there's all that vitamin C, which goes a long way towards ensuring healthy skin and gums. Indeed, it is estimated a single apple contains a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs.
Because of the way in which the sugars from apple are gradually absorbed into the bloodstream, it is thought they help keep weight under control too. You can't say that about a Mars Bar.
Frankly you'd be, well, a bit nutty not to include these in your daily diet. One of the few readily available sources of selenium, brazil nuts have been shown to help push back the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
And like all nuts they are packed with fibre, minerals and vitamins. Scoffing a few every day could considerably boost your defences against heart disease, which, lest we forget, is the number one killer in the developed world.
It's not just delicious with a nice glass of wine. Salmon is also an excellent source of proteins and minerals. What's more, like all oily fish, it is rich in omega 3 fats. Countless studies have shown these have a hugely important roll in cutting down blood clotting.
Indeed, such are the health benefits of salmon, it's been shown that adults who start to eat the fish even well into middle age develop a greater resistance to heart disease.
As if that wasn't enough, omega 3 fats also fight the onset of dementia.
The Lionel Messi of superfoods, broccoli is rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
More than that, it is a source of folic acid, another vital tool in your body's fight against heart disease. The presence of the antioxidant lutein, moreover, helps delay the onset of macular generation as you get older.
Forget about carrots -- broccoli is the veg that really can help preserve your eyesight.
As is well known, olive oil is good for your ticker. Furthermore, this cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet has been shown to assist in lowering levels of 'bad' cholesterol whilst raising the incidence of 'good' cholesterol.
A word of warning, though -- one tablespoon of olive oil contains as many calories as a wedge of bread smeared with butter.
Baked beans? A superfood? Absolutely. Few foods pack as powerful a nutritional punch as baked beans, which are endowed with fibre, iron, calcium and protein. And don't forget the tomato sauce, full of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against heart disease.
Plus, the fibres in baked beans nourish the lining of the intestines, safeguarding against cancer. Yes, yes, we all know baked beans come with some less savoury side effects. When you consider the benefits, though, that's surely a price worth paying.
Worth seeking out for their off-the-scale antioxidant levels. Fresh or frozen, they are equally good for you.
In addition, they have very high levels of potassium and vitamin C. Claims they act as an aphrodisiac are, thank goodness, beyond the scope of this article.