Health and Nutrition III: Healthy Diet Foods

In this part we will focus first on healthy diet foods recommended for everyone and with special properties that may help overweight, diabetic or high cholesterol people. Then we will mention supplements and herbs that have been proved in several researchs to be effective for weight loss, control blood glucose, insulin production and cholesterol levels.

In Health and Nutrition I: Introduction we focused on general tips and warnings to start eating healthier and buying our food more wisely, avoiding toxics and emptying our wallets in useless food products.

In Part II: Healthy Foods to Eat we listed common foods that are somewhat ignored in our diets and if we include them more often our health would be highly improved. We listed some exotic foods that have so many healthy properties that we couldn’t miss them on that part.

For readers of parts II and III we recommend using our List of Vitamins and Supplements as a reference, to see what effects readers should expect from the vitamin content of the foods listed. If a food has a content over 50% of the daily recommended value for a vitamin, the reader should expect to experience some if not all of the positive health effects listed for it.

List of healthy diet foods

Cabbage

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Fresh white cabbage

It is believed the first edible variant of the Cabbage was cultivated in Europe in 1000 B.C. and it took popularity in traditional cuisine by the Middle Ages. It originally belonged to the family cruciferous because of the cross pattern its leaves form. 100 g. (3.5 oz.) contain:

  • 24 calories, 24 mg. of Sodium, 2 g. of protein and 11% content of fiber.
  • 18% daily value (dv) of vit. A, 44% of C, 10% B6, 11% B9, 72% K.
  • 8% dv of Manganese.
  • <4% dv of Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
  • <5% dv of vit. B1,, B2, B3 and B5.

Although its trisaccharide raffinose content is what produces its known flatulence when eating too much of it. Actually is one of the most beneficial vegetables for gut health. It has a high content in L-glutamine which helps people with leaky gut, besides being beneficial for the muscles, heart and brain.

Purple cabbage contains anthocyanins which are under research for potential anti-carcinogenic properties, specially colon cancer. Other compounds like sulforaphane and glucosinolates have a detoxifying effect. Its juice is very effective healing ulcers, anything related to an irritable bowel, acid reflux and heartburn.

This trait makes it very good among healthy diet foods that can help overweight people to restore a normal bowel function which is so often associated to obesity. Restoring a proper gut flora and heal the intestinal lining giving proper foods to your gut is one of the things that is going to help overweight people to lose weight maybe even more than exercise or calory restriction diets.

Moringa Oleifera

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Powdered moringa oleifera leaves

A tree cultivated worldwide for its leaves, drumsticks or immature seed pods, its seeds and even roots, but its leaves are the most popular for consumption. The leaves are used fresh or dried and ground into powder, and are high in protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin A.

Some estimates show that gram-for-gram, moringa contains twice the protein of yogurt, four times the calcium of milk, seven times the Vitamin C of oranges and 25 times the iron of spinach. Its detailed contents per 100g (3.5 oz) of leaves are:

  • 78,66g water content, 8,28g of carbohydrates, 1,4g of fat and 9,4 of protein for a total of 64kcal.
  • 47% dv of vitamin A, 22% of B2, 15% of B3, 92% of B6, 10% of B9 and 62% of vitamin C.
  • 19% dv of Calcium, 31% Iron, 41% Magnesium, 16% Manganese and Phosphorus and 6% of Potassium and Zinc.

Being a very resistant tree, growing in arid and semiarid environments it is regarded as one of the most effective healthy diet foods. That is, for nutritive diets as a means for malnutrition relief, specially among infants and nursing mothers being specially effective to combat iron deficiency.

Various parts of this plant such as the leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and immature pods act as cardiac and circulatory stimulants, possess antitumor, antipyretic, antiepileptic, antiinflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, diuretic, antihypertensive, cholesterol lowering, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial and antifungal activities, and are being employed for the treatment of different ailments in traditional medicine of several countries, particularly in South Asia.

Parsley

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Fresh parsley leaves

This common flowering plant, native of the central Mediterranean region, from Spain and Morocco to Greece and Tunisia, is a very common garnish in our dishes but a bit the one no one wants to eat. If you knew its properties you’d use it more in your dishes. Parsley has more vitamin A than kale, more vitamin C than oranges, and twice the iron that spinach has. It also has massive amounts of vitamin K. It’s very bitter and good for the liver. 100g (3.5 oz) of fresh parsley contain:

  • 6,33g of carbohydrates, 0,79 fat and 2,97 protein with a total of 36kcal.
  • 53% dv of vitamin A, 38% of B9, 160% of C, 1562% of vit K and approximately 7% of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and E.
  • 48% dv of Iron, approximately 12% of Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc and approx. 8% of Manganese, Phosphorus and Sodium.

A good recipe for salad is to combine it with fresh kale and lemon juice as those prevent kidney and gallbladder stones and detoxifies the liver in addition of being a great tonic against fatigue. This easy to get and affordable plant should be getting much more attention than other, more exotic foods.

Pumpkin

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Sliced pumpkins

Pumpkins, like other squash, are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, was found in Mexico.

Although is 92% water and not as vitamin packed as other mentioned plants and vegetables its health properties are what makes it stand out among healthy diet foods. First 100g (3.5 oz) of its pulp has:

  • 53% dv of vitamin A, 10% of B2 and C and approximately 5% of B1, B3, B5, B6, B9 and vitamin E.
  • Approximately 5% of Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

Pumpkins were used by traditional Americans not only to aid digestion because of its high fiber content but as an anthelmintic (expulsion of worms) too.

In Germany and southeastern Europe, seeds of one species of pumpkin were also used as folk remedies to treat irritable bladder and benign prostatic hyperplasia. In China, another species’ seeds were also used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of the parasitic disease schistosomiasis and for the expulsion of tape worms.

Chinese studies have found that a combination of pumpkin seed and areca nut extracts was effective in the expulsion of Taenia spp. tapeworms in over 89% of cases. In addition of its medicinal properties the seeds are a popular snack rich in protein, magnesium, copper and zinc.

The leaves are often discarded but can be steamed like spinach, sauteed in some olive oil with garlic and salt, or used in stir frys and stews. Pumpkin leaves contain a healthy amount of Vitamin A, lots of vit K, a healthy amount of iron, potassium, and manganese.

Radish

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A bunch of red radishes

This edible root vegetable is thought to have originated in Southeastern Asia where the only truly wild variant exist and later dispersed to Europe and domesticated in pre Roman times. Its nutritional values seems mediocre compared with other healthy diet foods mentioned but their high Sulphur content is what give it its extraordinary properties making it a really healthy to eat. The nutrient content of 100g (3.5 oz) is:

  • 3,4g of carbohydrates, 0,1 fat and 0,68g of protein and a total of 16kcal.
  • Approximately 5% dv of vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9 and 18% of vitamin C.
  • Approximately 3% dv of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

As mentioned radish is really high in Sulphur, so it’s an effective liver detoxifier, specifically chemicals and poisons of all kinds that are in that organ. It supports something called phase I and phase II detoxification, that’s where you take a poison and turn it into a water soluble particle so that it is eliminated safely through the body.

Radishes are also great for sinus mucus congestion, especially the Spanish black radish. You can take them for deep mucus in the lungs that just can’t come out and to thin and flush it from the body.

Tamarind

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Its pods have a brittle thin husk

This fruit is a pod like fruit given by the leguminous tree of the same name. Indigenous of tropical Africa but widely cultivated in Asia and know worldwide it is used to make juice and eaten raw too. Is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Its sticky pulp is delicious and a rich source of dietary fiber. Its slightly acidic taste and soft texture, almost like a hard marmalade, makes it almost feel like your enjoying candy so it is a perfect way to encourage your children to eat more healthy diet foods and fruits and start losing that first rejection some of them have when little.

Also if they don’t like the feel of the seeds in their mouths you can always go the juice route but you’ll miss a lot of nutrients in the pulp. Usually the seeds are as large as gravel and makes it a fun and easy fruit to eat for kids. 100g (3.5 oz) of pulp will give you:

  • 5.1g or over 13% of the dietary fiber that you typically need in a day. 57,4g of sugars with almost no fat and 2,8g of protein for a total of 239kcal.
  • 37% dv of vitamin B1, 13% of B2 and B3 and less than 5% of B5, B6, B9, Choline, C, E and vitamin K.
  • For minerals 7% dv of Calcium, 22% of Iron, 26% of Magnesium, 16% of Phosphorus and 13% Potassium.

This fruit is particularly useful for restoring electrolyte imbalance when you’re experiencing dehydration. Also animal research has shown a cholesterol lowering effect.

In regard to human research a 2004 study by Arjun L Khandare et al. found that it is effective against fluoride poisoning in children, increasing its excretion by the urine. This is an extremely useful property seeing how water fluoridation is rising in many countries including the US.

Turmeric

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Powdered turmeric, great for seasoning

Turmeric is an herb of the ginger family native to southern Asia. Which has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, as a dye and a condiment in dishes like curry which is mainly a mixture of Turmeric and pepper.

More than being among healthy diet foods, turmeric must be consumed as a seasoning. That makes it more difficult to take it in the right amount but is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It’s good for the brain.

It’s also considered an anti-aging nutrient and has good antimicrobial properties so it is used sometimes to treat gastroenteritis, throat infections, common colds, or liver ailments, as well as topically, to cleanse wounds or treat skin sores.

In respect to its anti-inflammatory properties a review by S. Bengmark et al. from the London Medical School compiled several studies that have demonstrated a number of beneficial properties on inflammatory chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, gastric, hepatic, pancreatic, intestinal neurodegenerative, ocular and respiratory diseases as well as on tobacco smoke-induced injuries. In addition showed that curcumin is able to prevent carcinogen activation.


One of the things that are going to help overweight people very much is getting rid of toxic metals in their bodies. We live a lifestyle that not only promotes sedentarism and unhealthy diets but toxicity also.

Most of the toxics we ingest our bodies cannot excrete, specially heavy metals so our liver stores them in fat deposits as an emergency measure. That’s why when overweight people start to lose weight they experience depression, joint pain and general fatigue, those are the symtomps of toxic syndrome. The metals are released to the blood stream when the stored fat is burned.

To avoid that we need to use chelators, substances that help our body to get rid of those heavy metals. Better natural chelators, as the ones used in hospitals are dangerous to use if the doctor isn’t experienced. Besides they only use them in extreme cases of intoxication like mining and chemical accidents, etc.

I’ll talk more in depth about a good method to get rid of heavy metals in your body but for now let’s do a quick mention of three good plants, that apart from being healthy diet foods, will help with metal toxicity among other beneficial effects.

Coriander

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Fresh coriander leaves, great chelating effect

Also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley grows wild over southern Europe and western Asia and is has been used since the Neolithic. All parts of this plant are edible but fresh leaves and dried seeds are the most traditionally used in cooking making it excellent among healthy diet foods for its versatility and ease of preparation and consumption. Its nutritional value per 100g (3.5 oz.) are:

  • 92,21 g. of water.
  • 295% of vit. K, 42% A and 33% of C.
  • ~15% of vit. B2, B5, B6, B9, E and
  • ~6% of B1 and B3.
  • 20% of Manganese, 14% Iron, 11% of Potassium, <7% Calcium, Magnesium, phosphorus, Sodium and Zinc.

One preliminary study found that coriander essential oil inhibit harmful and dangerous bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli involved in serious intestinal and pulmonary diseases among others.
Another study found another relevant property . It was found that fresh coriander leaves and dried seeds have a potent chelating effect, this is, mobilization of heavy metals within our bodies, releasing them from fat deposits and connective tissue.

But is has to be used with a binding agent in our intestines. Healthy diet foods like Chlorella, Spirulina or Bentonite Clay or the released metals will be reabsorbed. Properly used Coriander may be a good supporting treatment for neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s since it targets the metals stored in the nervous system.

Chlorella

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Powdered chlorella tablets, perfect for binding toxic metals excreted in your bile

A potential food source for its high protein content and nutrients present great advantages as a supplement to our diets but also present some inconveniences like its safe preparation. 100 g (3.5 oz.) contain:

  • 45% protein content, 20% fat and carbohydrate, 5% fiber and 10% vitamins and minerals.
  • A whooping 1026% dv of vit. A, 113% B1, 253% B2, 119% B3 and 70% of B6.
  • 17% vit. C, 11% B5, 24% B9, 2% B12, 8% E.
  • 22% dv of Calcium, 722% Iron, 79% Magnesium, 90% phosphorus and 473 of Zinc.

As you see its advantages are the huge amounts of essential nutrients packed in just a few quantity of this algae. Other alleged properties like weight control, cancer prevention, immune system support are being researched but the results on this claims are inconclusive yet.

Also it is a very potent chelator, that is, it has good metal binding properties so it is being used in conjunction with Coriander to help clean heavy metals from people who have been poisoned with metals, which is likely the case if you have old dental mercury fillings for example.

Lastly Chlorella has a special additional property among healthy diet foods. It has shown good properties for improving the growth of lactic bacteria in our intestine which is good if you’re taking fermented products or supplements which contain this type of bacteria, for example if you’re recovering from a gastroenteritis or a treatment with oral antibiotics.

This is a great property but it is a source of concern too since there have been reports of chinese contaminated Chlorella algae being grown in vats using contaminated river water.

If you decide to incorporate it to your diet be very careful about its growing and cultivation process and place of origin. Also be aware of the hypervitaminosis dangers such a highly nutrient packed food has and measure well your daily doses of Chlorella.

Spirulina

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Powdered spirulina, another good binding agent

Spirulina was one of the healthy diet foods sources for the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans until the 16th century; they harvested it from Lake Texcoco and subsequently saled it as cakes. They were described by one of Cortés’ soldiers. Used as a dietary supplement as well as a whole food, is also available in tablet, flake and powder form. 100g (3.5 oz) of this algae dried contains:

  • About 60% dv of protein. It is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids, with slightly lower amounts of methionine, cysteine, and lysine compared to certain animal-derived products.
  • 5% content of water, 23,9g of carbohydrates and 8g of fat with a total of 290 kcal. A fat or lipid content providing gamma-linolenic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, stearidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, and arachidonic acid.
  • 207% dv of vitamin B1, 306% B2, 85% B3, 70% B5, aprox. 30% of E and B6 and less than 25% of vitamins B9, Choline, C and K. Its content in vit B12 should be disregarded as is not in a form assimilable by human body.
  • 219% dv of Iron and 90% Manganese, 70% Sodium, 55% Magnesium, 30% of Potassium, and less than 20% of Calcium, Phosphorus and Zinc.

Now what means that about a complete protein and all those different kinds of lipidic acids? Those components and their interaction with its vitamins reside the wide variety of beneficial health effects Spirulina has. For example one of them is, as same happens with Chlorella, Spirulina also stimulates the growth of lactobacilli in our gut.

Also within the last 20 years of research on animal models have shown antioxidant, immunomodulatory, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, antiobesity, antiviral, anticarcinogenic, antigenotoxic, antibacterial, hepato-protective, and antiparasitic effects, among others.

Also there have been no harmful side effects from its regular consumption during a period of six months. Notable among beneficial effects are immune boosting, effectiveness in rhinitis cases, anticarcinogenic, cholesterol lowering effects and last but not least its effectiveness in treating arsenic poisoning in conjunction with Zinc.

Another research paper proved is chelating effect on many other highly toxic substances; Spirulina showed a protective effect against hexachlorohexane and carbon tetrachloride, regardless of its dose, route of administration, and animal model. Such beneficial effect of Spirulina has been attributed to its antioxidant capacity.

Because of this capacity heavy-metal contamination of spirulina supplements has also raised concern lowering its standing among healthy diet foods. The Chinese State Food and Drug Administration reported that lead, mercury, and arsenic contamination was widespread in spirulina supplements marketed in China for using contaminated water when growing it. One study reported the presence of lead up to 5.1 ppm in a sample from a commercial supplement.

So again as with Chlorella exert careful judgment when choosing a Spirulina supplier, that is, try it not to be from China or a country know for its lax environmental laws.


List of Supplements and Herbs

Glucomannan

Three RCTs suggest that gluco-mannan in dosages of 3 to 4 g (0.1 oz) per day may be well tolerated and yield modest weight loss. However, these trials were small (n = 20 to 50) and had methodological limitations.

Psyllium

Psyllium is the common name used for several members of the plant genus Plantago whose seeds are used commercially for the production of mucilage.

People use psyllium as a dietary fiber to relieve symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea and occasionally as a food thickener. More than healthy diet foods psyllium husks are a healthy additive.

Although psyllium improved glucose and lipid parameters significantly more than placebo in 125 overweight patients with type 2 diabetes, there were no differences in weight loss.

Pyruvate

Six weeks of pyruvate, in a dosage of 6 g per day, was associated with a weight loss of 1.2 kg (2 lb, 10 oz), compared with placebo.

Guggul (Commiphora Mukul)

Commiphora or guggul, more than among healthy diet foods or supplements, is among healthy aromatizers. It is actually the resin obtained from the Mukul myrrh tree. The guggul plant grows from northern Africa to central Asia, but is most common in northern India. It prefers arid and semi-arid climates and is tolerant of poor soil.

In a research an open comparative trial was conducted in 58 adult obese patients one group of 27 people was advised diet (1200-1600 cals) and a brisk walk for 30 minutes but no Guggul. The other group in addition, received 3g (0.1oz) of Guggulu (Medohar) for 30 days.

The difference in weight loss between Guggulu and non-drug group was 0.32 kg (0.7 lb) on day 15 and 0.58 kg (1.28 lb) on day 30. The mean weight reduction in patients (> 90 kgs) was 1.92 kg (4.23 lb) and 2.25 kg (4.96 lb) higher in Guggulu group. All patients weighing > 90 kg (198 lb) lost weight in Guggulu group whilst 3 in non-drug group did not lose weight.

White Rice, Mulberry, Apple Cider Vinegars (Fruit based vinegars)

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Apple cider vinegar, good detoxifier, better for weight loss. Be sure to buy it with the mother and unpasteurized!

Vinegar is a traditional remedy for ailments including diabetes. Is more a condiment for salads or a beverage than is among healthy diet foods. A review about the research on these fermented products indicates numerous reports of health benefits from the consumption of vinegar components.

Oral intake of WRV improved fasting hyperglycemia and body weight loss through attenuating insulin deficiency, pancreatic beta-cell deficit, and hepatic glycogen depletion and fatty changes in diabetic rats.

Its bioactive components include acetic acid, gallic acid, catechin, ephicatechin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, and ferulic acid. Therapeutic effects of consuming vinegar components cause antioxidative, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antitumor, antiobesity, antihypertensive effects. Also responses of increased vigor after exercise and lowering of cholesterol.

Products proven ineffective for weight loss

If you see these products on your local natural shop don’t put your money on them. Try to get more effective options.

Among these ineffective and sometimes dangerous products are:

  • Chitosan
  • Guar gum
  • Avoid ephedra-containing products, they have serious safety concerns.

Other products whose efficacy is inconclusive are:

  • Chromium
  • Conjugated Linoleic Acid CLA
  • Ginseng
  • Glucomannan
  • Green tea
  • Hydroxycitric Acid HCA
  • L-carnitine,
  • Psyllium
  • St. John’s wort

With a holistic approach to health,  anyone can integrate these healthy diet foods that have a detoxifying effect and that promote weight loss, good cholesterol and glucose levels. Then have a proper and complete nutrition with moderate exercise. Anyone who make this not only will see an improve in their own weight and fitness but an overall improvement in health, mood and energy levels, longevity and most importantly, quality of life.

Good luck, as I said in the first part on health and nutrition, take small steps and don’t try to change too much too suddenly. Patience and perseverance is the key to success in any endeavour.