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Nutritionists reveal superfoods—and a superdrink—to help women to ward off diseases.

by Joan Teotico

MAY 2012

“The term ‘superfood’ has been tossed around for many years now, and used in a variety of contexts. The general and arguably the most popular definition of superfood that I always read about is that a superfood is deemed as such if it has high concentrations of essential nutrients with proven health benefits,” says, Imogene*, a 27-year-old copy editor who eats dark chocolate because of its high amount of antioxidants.

But Ina Teves, a journalist and lecturer, thinks otherwise: “Superfoods are supposed to protect you from disease, delay aging, and give you energy, but is there really such a thing that could do all these?” She adds that popular literature has a bias for Western food—listing blueberries or kale, but not ampalaya or malunggay, “which is touted locally as a Pinoy superfood although no one really uses the term in connection with these veggies.”

“There is really no such thing as a superfood. As a matter of fact, foods that are regarded as superfoods are ordinary foods you can grow in your backyard or find abundant in the market,” says Jo Ann Salamat, R.N.D., member of the board of directors of the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines. She observes that superfoods are branded as such because they contain high amounts of certain nutrients and substances that may counteract a disease and be beneficial to our health.

“Superfoods are common foods that we eat every day. They give us nutrients to make our body strong and healthy,” adds Nini Ramos, R.N.D., of the Clinical Nutrition Services of St. Luke's Medical Center, Quezon City and part-time faculty at the Institute of Nursing in St. Joseph's College of Quezon City.

What’s inside these superfoods that help ward off diseases, combat cancer and maintain our overall health and well-being? Salamat and Ramos chalk up the vitamins, minerals, fiber and food substances such as antioxidants, phytochemicals and bioflavonoids.

Salamat and Ramos share the best superfoods—fruits, vegetables, grains and even a superdrink that are natural and readily available:

• Talbos ng kamote versus iron deficiency anemia.

Half a cup of boiled talbos ng kamote contains 137 mg of iron that provides almost all the iron you need per day, says Salamat. Ramos, who has been anemic since childhood, reveals the key to enhance our body’s ability to absorb iron: consume foods rich in vitamin C. She eats a combination of high-iron foods—chicken or pork liver and green leafy vegetables—and vitamin C-rich foods like strawberry and broccoli.

Bonus: Camote tops are also rich in anthocyanin, a pigment that helps inhibit the progression and promotion of tumor cells, Salamat adds.

• Ampalaya leaves and fruit versus non-insulin dependent diabetes.

Ampalaya contains charantin, which helps maintain normal blood sugar levels. Half a cup of cooked ampalaya leaves contain 90 mg of the immune system-boosting vitamin C—important for diabetics who usually have decreased defenses.

Bonus: According to Salamat, lectin, a substance found in ampalaya leaves, lowers blood glucose levels and helps suppress appetite.

• Water versus urinary tract infection.

“Water may not be a food but it has been proven to cleanse our system,” says Salamat who recommends drinking eight glasses per day. Ayn de Jesus, who runs and practices aikido, says she feels much healthier—“awake, refreshed, stronger, no hunger pangs”—when properly hydrated, whereas too little water intake leaves her feeling sluggish and sleepy; her hair and skin dry; her muscles weak; and her eyes sunken.

Bonus: Drinking water before meals may help you get slim: Boston University researchers found that those who drank 16 ounces of water before eating breakfast, lunch and dinner lost five pounds more than those who did not drink the beverage before meals.

• Oats versus high blood cholesterol.

Ramos says the high fiber content of oats helps eliminate excess fat and cholesterol. The recommended serving is one cup or 185 grams; add low-fat milk for a calcium boost. Top with slices of fruit like strawberry, which is high in vitamin C and only has 40 calories per one and a quarter cups (165 grams).

Bonus: Boost brain and heart health by sprinkling nuts on your oatmeal. “Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E that promotes mental cognition,” says Ramos. A teaspoon of peanuts has approximately 45 calories.

• Malunggay versus osteoporosis and poor eyesight.

Salamat says, malunggay provides 7740 mcg of beta-carotene, which helps maintain good eye health; its calcium content is “very good in preventing osteoporosis in women who are lactose intolerant and therefore cannot tolerate milk”. Bonus: What do we get from half a cup of cooked malunggay leaves? 6.1 grams of muscle-building protein and one fourth of the iron we need for the day.

For more information about nutrition superstars that deserve prime real estate on your plate, get a copy of HealthToday’s May issue, now in major newsstands and bookstores.

superfoods every woman needs

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