Power Foods for Better Health
Broccoli Fights Cancer Even Better with Spice
We’ve all heard about broccoli’s amazing properties for fighting cancer. Now a new study from the University of Illinois shows that broccoli’s cancer-fighting power can be enhanced by pairing the vegetable with spicy foods like mustard, horseradish, watercress, arugula, or wasabi. These peppery additions, the scientists report, contain myrosinase, an enzyme that is necessary to form sulforaphane, broccoli’s main cancer preventative. Myrosinase also ensures that broccoli’s cancer-fighting nutrients are absorbed in the upper part of the digestive system, so we can reap their maximum health benefits. In the study, fresh broccoli sprouts were eaten along with broccoli powder, and scientists were able to measure the cancer-fighting compounds in the blood within 30 minutes. Reaching their peak after three hours, these bioactive compounds were much higher when the broccoli was eaten with a spicy food. Urine samples corroborated the blood results. For maximum benefits, broccoli should be steamed lightly for two to four minutes. But even if our broccoli ends up a bit overcooked, we now know we can boost its benefits and add some flavor by spicing it up.
How Greens Can Change Bad Heart Genes
Here’s some great news about heart disease from researchers at McMaster and McGill Universities: the gene that is the strongest marker for heart disease can be modified by consuming generous amounts of fruit and raw vegetables. The research, which represents one of the largest gene-diet interaction studies ever conducted on cardiovascular disease, involved the analysis of more than 27,000 individuals from five ethnicities — European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American, and Arab — and the effect that their diets had on the 9p21 gene, a variant that increases the risk of heart disease in those who carry it. To the researchers’ surprise, the study results showed that individuals with the high-risk genotype who consumed a diet composed mainly of raw vegetables, fruits, and berries had a low risk of heart attack similar to those with a low-risk genotype. Future research is necessary to understand more about the interaction between genes, disease, and the foods we eat. For now, we can assume that diet can have an effect on gene expression and that eating generous amounts of fruits and vegetables can make a big difference in our health — no matter the genes we’ve inherited.
Use Nuts, Not Pills, to Keep Metabolic Syndrome in Check
Metabolic syndrome is the name for a cluster of symptoms, including obesity and insulin resistance, that affects about 25 percent of our adult population and is intimately linked to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Nuts, like walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts, have been shown to reduce these inflammatory processes, and now a study from the University of Barcelona, published in the Journal of Proteome Research helps explain why. In the study, a group of patients ate a nut-rich diet, while a control group received no nuts. The scientists then analyzed the wide spectrum of compounds excreted in the patients’ urine and found evidence of significant changes following nut consumption. Patients given the nut-rich diet produced a higher level of metabolites derived from the metabolism of tryptophan and serotonin, fatty acids, and polyphenols, giving more weight to their hypothesis that these molecules could be at the root of the health benefits observed in other studies. The researchers conclude that adding nuts to your diet could be an easy and drug-free intervention to help deal with metabolic syndrome.
- By Monika Rice