Many Foods Serve Up Health Benefits
Recent studies have given every chocolate
lover reason to rejoice: Chemicals known as flavonoids -- found
in abundance in dark chocolate -- loosen up the arteries and promote
This revelation may have many people
wondering if other favorite foods might also provide similar health
benefits. If America's scientific community is right, the answer
might just be a resounding, "You bet your life!" Literally.
Based on a spate of recent research,
pecans, grapes, mushrooms, cranberries, blueberries, broccoli,
kiwi, pomegranates, almonds, cabbage, cinnamon and a host of other
popular foods don't just taste great, they may also be good for
much of what ails you.
According to the Georgia Pecan
Commission, for example, eating a handful of pecans every day
reduces cholesterol and may be an alternative to cholesterol-reducing
drugs. The assertion is backed up by considerable research, including
a study in the September 2001 Journal of Nutrition conducted
by scientists in the Department of Nutrition at Loma Linda University's
School of Public Health, in California.
The five-member team investigated
the effect of pecans rich in monounsaturated fat in men and women
with normal to moderately high serum cholesterol, and found the
nuts successfully altered the subjects' lipid profiles, without
increasing their weight. The research concluded that pecans can
be prescribed as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet for patients
with high cholesterol, or as part of the habitual diet of healthy
Other research shows that lower
cholesterol isn't the only health benefit that comes in a small,
compact food. Grapes, for instance, have been the focus of many
recent studies that suggest there's much more to the tiny, round
fruit than meets the eye.
Shiuan Chen, director of surgical
research at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif., and
his team have been studying grapes for several years. According
to their research, chemicals -- called procyanidin C dimers --
found in high levels in grape-based food products, including wine,
block the formation of estrogen. And estrogen is a key factor
in breast cancer tumor development. The research on grapes, published
in the December 2003 issue of Cancer Research, could prove
useful in breast cancer treatment.
"Too much estrogen causes
breast cancer tumor growth in postmenopausal women," Chen
said. "This research suggests that fruits such as grapes
contain natural substances that can act as aromatase inhibitors
and can be beneficial as chemopreventative agents against breast
Earlier research published in the
December 2001 Journal of Nutrition by Chen and his City
of Hope colleagues showed that white button mushrooms also suppress
estrogen formation and can help prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal
Cranberries and blueberries are
two other tiny foods that researchers and doctors alike agree
can pack a powerful health punch. New York City physician Dr.
Carolyn Dean, author of Natural Prescriptions for Common Ailments,
is a fan of both.
"I've often prescribed pure
cranberry juice for the prevention and treatment of minor urinary
tract infections," Dean said. "Proanthocyanidins in
cranberries can prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering
to the bladder wall and causing bladder infections. Cranberries
also contain significant amounts of antioxidants and other phytonutrients
that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other
Her enthusiasm for blueberries
is similarly high. They contain phytochemicals called anthrocyanins
and phenolics that studies show improve memory, clear arteries,
enhance vision, strengthen blood vessels, stop urinary tract infections,
promote weight control and reverse aging, she said.
Dean is also a broccoli enthusiast,
pointing out, for starters, that the green crucifer contains high
levels of vitamin C and beta carotene.
"Both are powerful antioxidants
that fight age- and disease-causing free radicals," she said.
"Broccoli also has a high fiber content, which is important
in bowel health as well as in diabetes control. And it contains
as much calcium as dairy products, as well as a substance called
sulforaphane. In animal studies, sulforaphane has been found to
reduce the number, size and reproduction of malignant tumors,
as well as delay their onset."
Reference Source 101
October 25, 2004