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The search for a youth-restoring, health-promoting, vitality-producing elixir is ages old. Yet, food may be the closest you can get to the fabled fountain of youth. Research unequivocally demonstrates that dietary choices have the ability to mitigate the aging processes, improve immune function, protect the body from disease, increase mental acuity, and “reverse abnormal gene activation.” Whether you are looking to regain health, increase energy, bolster immunity, or prevent wrinkles, food is the foundational cornerstone.
While there are numerous foods that have solid research attesting to their bioactive health properties, the following five superstars stand out from the crowd. Each of these foods performs an array of functions within the body from inhibiting tumor growth and eradicating potent viruses to repairing environmentally induced cellular damage and down-regulating aberrant gene expression. Integrating these foods into your diet is good medicine.
Fermented soy has been consumed in traditional Asian cuisines for centuries and has been found to be effective in treating diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Despite popular myths to the contrary, the Mayo Clinic asserts that “a lifelong diet rich in soy foods reduces the risk of breast cancer in women.” Genistein, a type of phytoestrogen primarily found in soybeans, is perhaps the most studied of soy’s bioactive compounds. Research has found that this estrogen-like compound acts as a chemopreventative agent in several types of cancers via its ability to regulate gene expression through DNA methylation. In addition to the cancer preventive effects of soy, the FDA recently approved a health claim for soy’s cholesterol lowering effects.
Unfermented soy products are difficult to digest due to high amounts of protein enzyme inhibitors, which are removed during the fermentation process. Thus, fermented soy products, such as miso and tempeh, are the preferred way to reap soy’s health benefits.
Mushrooms have a long history of use and their list of benefits is lengthy: brain booster, hormone modulator, immune enhancer, mood lifter, stress alleviator, and antioxidant protector. They have been found to inhibit a number of viruses and are currently being investigated in FDA approved Phase 2 trials for their potential role in treating SARS-CoV-2. According to one meta analysis of 19,500 cancer patients, “mushroom consumption is associated with lower risk of cancer.” Mushrooms contain polysaccharides called beta-glucans that bind to immune receptor sites and aid the immune system in recognizing pathogens, including cancer cells.
When it comes to mushrooms, all edible varieties have something to offer. Even the common white button mushroom has been found to stop the growth of cancer. Mushrooms have tough cell walls and are largely indigestible in their raw form so cooking is a prerequisite to reaping their plethora of benefits. Medicinal mushrooms can often be found in powdered blends and are also a great way to ingest multiple varieties of mushrooms.
Matcha tea is high in a class of polyphenols known as catechins. One catechin in particular, EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), has demonstrated a remarkable ability to prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Animal and in vitro studies show that EGCG can even reverse certain types of cancer. Several investigations into EGCG have found that it “inhibits a vast array of anticancer molecular targets and cancer-related cellular processes.” Of current interest, researchers have discovered that ECGC blocks infection of SARS-CoV-2 and new variants by inhibiting spike binding to ACE2 receptors.
To maximize the benefit of matcha tea it is important to optimize absorption of EGCG. This can be done by combining the tea with ginger, turmeric, or lemon which contain compounds that work synergistically to enhance bioavailability.
Additionally, when purchasing matcha tea be mindful of the country of origin. Most matcha tea is grown in either Japan or China, with the former being the preferred location. One well-known tea study found that Chinese tea exceeded recommended safety levels for lead. Japan’s stricter safety standards ensure that tea is free from metals and other toxic byproducts.
Broccoli sprouts are an anti-aging powerhouse. Their primary bioactive component is known as sulforaphane (SFN). While this compound is present in all cruciferous vegetables, broccoli sprouts contain 20 to 100 times the amount of mature vegetables. SFN has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties. According to one study, SFN has the ability to completely halt the growth of some cancers. It is important to note that SFN in supplement form does not produce the same results as actually consuming broccoli sprouts.
Broccoli sprouts are mild, easily digested, and highly absorbable. Adding just 1/2 cup to your diet each day can improve markers of oxidative stress and cholesterol.
Berries contain a rich variety of compounds that have been shown to mitigate cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, brain deterioration, and SARS-Co-V-2. Blueberries are among the most commonly consumed berry and have been shown to prevent cancer by inhibiting the production of inflammatory molecules, reducing oxidative stress, and preventing DNA damage. They are often touted as the “anti-cancer” fruit.
When selecting blueberries, opt for wild over cultivated. Wild blueberries contain 33 percent more antioxidants than ordinary blueberries. In addition, wild blueberries contain twice the fiber, eight times the manganese, and nearly 1/3 less sugar than regular blueberries.
There are several other research-backed superfoods that deserve a place at your table. From turmeric, ginger, walnuts, and tulsi to cilantro, olive oil, manuka honey, and watercress, Mother Nature has provided everything you need to live optimally. By diving into nature’s bounty and allowing food to become your partner in health, you can take ownership of your well-being and enjoy the vibrant life that you were created to live.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
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