| Superfood No. 1: Açaí Nature's
It may seem odd to start this list of superfoods with one you’ve likely never even heard
of. But studies have shown that this little berry is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world! Açaí (ah-sigh-ee)
is the high-energy berry of a special Amazon palm tree. Harvested in the rainforests of Brazil, açaí tastes like a vibrant
blend of berries and chocolate. Hidden within its royal purple pigment is the magic that makes it nature's perfect energy
fruit. Açaí is packed full of antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Although açaí may not be available in your
local supermarket, you can find it in several health food and gourmet stores (often in juice form). A new product featuring
the unsweetened pulp is now also available, and I highly recommend that you choose this form of açaí.
A remarkable concentration of antioxidants that help
combat premature aging, with 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine.
A synergy of monounsaturated (healthy) fats, dietary fiber and phytosterols
to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health. An almost
perfect essential amino acid complex in conjunction with valuable trace minerals, vital to proper muscle contraction and regeneration.
The fatty acid content in açaí resembles that of olive oil, and is
rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. Oleic acid is important for a number of reasons. It helps omega-3 fish oils penetrate
the cell membrane; together they help make cell membranes more supple. By keeping the cell membrane supple, all hormones,
neurotransmitter and insulin receptors function more efficiently. This is particularly important because high insulin levels
create an inflammatory state, and we know, inflammation causes aging.
Superfood No. 2: The Allium Family
Onions, Garlic, Chives, Leeks, Shallots and ScallionsIf açaí is the most exotic food on this list, the Allium family of foods is perhaps the most humble. Garlic, onions,
leeks and chives contain flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione (the tripeptide that is the liver's most
potent antioxidant). Glutathione enhances elimination of toxins and carcinogens, putting the Allium family of vegetables at
the top of the list for foods that can help prevent cancer. Here are just a few benefits from members of this family.
Lowers total cholesterol (but raises HDL—"good"—cholesterol)
Lessens the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of
Lowers blood pressure
Reduces the risk of blood clots (cause of the majority
of strokes and heart attacks)
Destroys infection-causing viruses and bacteria
Reduces the risk of certain cancers, in particular,
Produces more "natural killer" cells in the blood
to fight tumors and infections
Helps fight against neurological diseases such as
Enhances detoxification by reducing toxins
For optimum effect, eat garlic raw. Cooking can
destroy some of the allicin compound, which is the active constituent.
Inhibit the growth of cancerous cells
Increase in HDL cholesterol (especially when eaten
Reduce total cholesterol levels
Increase blood-clot dissolving activity
Help prevent colds
Stimulate the immune system
Fights joint inflammation
Reduce the risks of diabetes
Have antibacterial and antifungal properties
Reduce the risk of certain cancers
Help relieve stomach upset and other gastrointestinal
Onions contain two powerful antioxidants, sulphur
and quercetin—both help neutralize the free radicals in the body, and protect the membranes of the body's cells from
Leeks have all of the healthy properties of the Allium family as described above. However leeks
also contain these nutrients:
This particular combination of nutrients makes
leeks particularly helpful in stabilizing blood sugar, since they not only slow the absorption of sugars from the intestinal
tract, but help ensure that they are properly metabolized in the body. Remember, the stabilization of blood sugar is one of
the most important goals of the Perricone Promise. Spikes in blood sugar accelerate aging, wrinkles and a host of degenerative
diseases. We all know that onions and garlic are important for imparting delicious flavor to a meal. However, when we
include leeks, we raise the flavor of the meal from delicious to "sublime." They are particularly delicious with fish such
as halibut, chicken and fish and chicken soups.
Superfood No. 3:
Beans and Lentils
There are good reasons that beans occupy two places on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Food Guide Pyramid: the first is with high-protein foods such as meat, eggs, poultry and fish, and the second is with vitamin-rich
vegetables. The beneficial phytochemicals found in beans offer other preventive health attributes not reflected in the USDA’s
Pyramid. The multi-faceted nutrition and prevention powers of beans—a category that encompasses common beans (e.g.,
kidney, black, navy, pinto), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soybeans, dried peas, and lentils—make them an anti-aging dietary
Beans are low in fat (except for soybeans), calories, and sodium, but high in complex carbohydrates and
dietary fiber, and they offer modest amounts of essential fatty acids—mostly omega-6s (only soybeans have significant
amounts of omega-3 fatty acids). They are also an excellent source of protein, needing only to be combined with grains such
as barley or oats to provide all the amino acids necessary to make a complete protein for vegetarians who do not have other
sources of protein for their meals.
Beans are extremely beneficial in an anti-diabetes diet because they rank low on
the glycemic scale, which means that they do not cause the inflammatory, hunger-inducing spike in blood sugar levels associated
with refined grains and baked goods. Beans offer ample fiber (one cup of cooked beans can provide as much as 15 grams of dietary
fiber, more than half the recommended “daily value” of 25 grams and are released into the bloodstream slowly,
providing energy and satiation for a sustained period. However, I recommend no more than 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked beans per meal.
beans and lentils are a staple of many cuisines worldwide. For thousands of years, beans and lentils have been and continue
to be one of the most nutritious foods available. In addition, beans and lentils are extremely versatile. They can be combined
with fragrant herbs and vegetables and made into delicious soups. They can be used in salads, or puréed and served as a dip
or spread. Chickpeas and lentils can also be ground into a high protein, low glycemic flour.
Healthy Benefits of
Beans are heart-healthy for a number of reasons in addition to their fiber content:
They are a good source of potassium, which may help
reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. More than 80 percent of American adults do not consume the daily value
for potassium (3,500 mg), and just 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans contains as much as 480 mg, with no more than 5 mg of sodium.
Dry beans are a good source of folic acid, which protects
against heart disease by breaking down an amino acid called homocysteine. (One cup of cooked dry beans providing about 264
mcg of folate, or more than half the recommended daily intake of 400 mcg.) High levels of homocysteine in the blood, or inadequate
amounts of dietary folate, can triple the risk of heart attack and stroke. Folate is also key in preventing birth defects,
and may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer because it plays an important role in healthy cell division and is
crucial to the repair of damaged cells.
In a large study of almost 10,000 men and women, those
who ate beans four or more times a week cut their risk of coronary heart disease by about 20 percent, compared with those
who ate beans less than once a week. It appears that this health benefit was independent of other health habits, since adjustments
to account for other important cardiovascular disease risk factors produced minimal change in the risk estimates.
Other studies show that within two to three weeks,
diets high in either canned or dry beans (3 to 4 ounces per day) reduce blood cholesterol levels by 10 percent or more: an
effect that can result in a 20 percent decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease.
Beans and lentils have the same potent anti-inflammatory
antioxidants—flavonoids and flavonals—found in tea, fruits, grapes, red wine and cocoa beans. In particular, the
reddish flavonal pigments in bean and lentil seed coats exert antioxidant activity 50 times greater than vitamin E, protect
against oxidative damage to cell membrane lipids, promote healthy collagen and cartilage, and restore the antioxidant powers
of vitamins C and E after they’ve battled free radicals.
Beans are among the richest food sources of saponins,
chemicals that help prevent undesirable genetic mutations.
Generally speaking, the larger the bean, the longer they need to soak: and the longer you soak beans, the faster they
cook. Dried chickpeas, beans and whole dried peas need about eight hours of soaking.
If you forget to soak them the
night before, just do it before you leave in the morning and they’ll be ready to cook when you get home. Or, add three
times the amount of water as beans, bring them to a boil for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and let sit for an hour.
Throw out the soaking water, and cook as normal. You can also use a pressure cooker, which will reduce the cooking time by
more than half, and reduce nutrient loss. (Of course, you can just drain and rinse canned beans, and add them directly to
salads, soups or curries.) You can also prepare large batches to freeze in meal-sized portions, as cooked beans freeze well.
beans take 45 minutes to an hour to cook, depending on the variety. Cook beans until soft, and then rinse them thoroughly,
because the residual starch on the surface feeds the harmless bacteria in your gut, which then release gas. Some of the gas-producing
starch stays in the soaking water so don’t cook with it.
You can prevent gas by adding beans to your diet gradually,
eating just a bite or two per day to start until your body adjusts period. Drinking ample fluids also helps. You can also
try an enzyme supplement such as Beano, sold in most supermarkets, which will digest the gas-producing sugars. Just put a
few drops on the first bite of food.
Like other legumes, lentils are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, but they have the added advantage of cooking
quickly. Lentils do not need pre-soaking. Simply remove any debris, then rinse and boil them. Red lentils take only twenty
minutes, green lentils take 30 to 45 minutes, and brown lentils cook in 45 to 60 minutes. Do not add salt to cooking lentils,
as this may toughen them. Like beans, lentils will keep almost indefinitely in a cool, dry place. Their colors may fade slightly
after long storage, but their flavor and nutrition won’t. Lentils are the perfect way to add protein, fiber and all
the antioxidant benefits of this food group to any meal. And they taste wonderful, adapting themselves to a wide range of
aromatic spices and herbs—particularly turmeric and ginger.
Superfood No. 4: Barley Grass, Wheat
Grass and Other Green Foods
When we talk about "green foods," we’re referring to a group of foods that includes young cereal grasses like
barley grass and wheat grass, as well a blue-green algae known as BGA. Nutritionally, they are close cousins to dark green
leafy vegetables, but offer far greater levels of "nutrient density." In other words, an ounce of these concentrated green
foods contains much more of the beneficial phytonutrients found in an ounce of green vegetables.
The results of many
experimental studies show that green foods have marked beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, immune response
and cancer prevention. These effects are attributed in part to their high concentrations of chlorophyll.
the phytochemical that gives leaves, plants and algae their green hues, is the plant equivalent of the oxygen-carrying red
pigment hemoglobin in red blood cells. Dietary chlorophyll inhibits disease bacteria and exerts therapeutic effects on bad
breath and internal odors.
Wheat and Barley Grasses
Young cereal grasses—especially wheat and barley grass—are distinguished by their brilliant emerald green
hues. Before World War II, drug stores throughout the country, but especially in the grain-belt states of the Midwest, sold
tablets of dried wheat or barley grass as a kind of primitive vitamin supplement. Today, young wheat and barley grasses are
dried and powdered to make dietary supplements, or picked fresh to process in juicing machines.
At the early grass
stage of their growth, wheat and barley are closer to vegetables than grains in composition. This is important to note because
while I strongly discourage eating wheat and wheat products, I believe wheat grass is an excellent addition to your diet.
nutrient profiles of green cereal plants change quickly as they grow. As the plant grows, the chlorophyll, protein, and vitamin
content of cereal grasses declines sharply and the level of cellulose (indigestible fiber) increases. Over a period of several
months, the green leafy cereal grasses become amber waves of grain bearing the kernels we harvest to make into flour—an
unhealthy, pro-inflammatory food.
There is very little nutritional difference between wheat grass and barley grass,
although it is important to note that barley grass acts as a free radical scavenger that also reduces inflammation and pain,
and wheat grass contains P4D1, a "gluco-protein" that acts like an antioxidant, reducing inflammation. It is also thought
to be able to help the body attack cancer cells.
You can get cereal grasses in powder or tablet form. Dried cereal
grasses are certainly easier to handle than fresh, which must be juiced. However, fresh grass juice contains healthful enzymes
not found in dried grass powder, and is likely to be higher in just about every phytonutrient found in cereal grass. Many
juice bars and health-oriented markets offer these juices on their menus.
Blue-Green Algae (BGA): Spirulina, Chlorella
The single-celled plants known as blue-green algae (BGA) are sold in health food stores as superior sources of protein,
chlorophyll, carotenoid antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and disease-preventive phytonutrients. There are several types of
BGAs, the most popular being spirulina and chlorella.
The existing research, while lacking in many regards, suggests
that BGAs exert some significant and perhaps unique preventive-health effects, most likely due to their polysaccharides, antioxidants,
nucleic acids, and peptides. Preliminary evidence suggests that they have the following benefits:
Spirulina inhibits the infectious power of many viruses—including
HIV, flu, mumps, enterovirus, measles, and herpes—probably because a sulfated polysaccharide called calcium spirulan
prevents viruses from entering human cells.
Chlorella helps prevent cancer and the growth of tumors,
probably because its glycoproteins enhance the migration of T cells to tumor sites
Chlorella binds to toxic heavy metals and dioxin and
helps eliminate them from the body.
Chlorella protects the intestinal lining against peptic
ulcersBoth Spirulina and Chlorella:
Help diminish allergies such as hay fever
Help protect the liver from toxins
Reduce blood pressure and cholesterol
Help control symptoms of ulcerative colitis
Exert strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
BGAs are rich in essential fatty acids, phenolic antioxidants, chlorophyll,
B vitamins, carotenoids and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. BGAs—especially spirulina—are
also good sources of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid with many healthful properties, which some people’s
bodies have trouble producing, and which is lacking in the standard American diet.
Superfood No. 5: Hot Peppers
term "peppers" encompasses a diverse group of plants, ranging from the popular sweet green or red bell pepper to the fiery
hot habañero or the even more lethal Scotch bonnet. When Columbus tasted the small, hot red "berries" he found on his Caribbean
voyages, he believed he had reached India—where Europeans obtained black pepper—and called them red pepper. In
truth, the native peoples of the Americas had been growing and enjoying sweet and chili peppers for an estimated 7,000 years.
Soon after Columbus's ships brought them back to Spain, traders spread them around the world, transforming cuisines—and
people's preventive health prospects—from Morocco to Hungary, and India to China.
bell or hot chili—are members of the plant genus "capsicum" (cap-sih-kum), a term that comes from the Greek word kapto,
which means "to bite."
All peppers contain compounds called capsaicinoids. This is especially true of chili peppers,
which derive their spicy heat—as well as extraordinary anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-cancer, heart-healthy effects—from
very high levels of capsaicinoids, the most common form of which is capsaicin.
In addition to capsaicin, chilies are
high in antioxidant carotenes and flavonoids, and contain about twice the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits. Almost
any dish, from homemade soups, stews and chili to stir fries, salads, and salsas, can benefit from small amounts of hot peppers.
Superfood No. 6: Nuts and Seeds
you want to dramatically decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, control your weight with no hunger pangs
and reduce the visible signs of aging like wrinkles and sagging skin, I recommend that you "go nuts." Here's how:
When thoughts turn to food between meals, enjoy a handful of raw, unsalted nuts. They're extremely
filling and satisfying—and healthful.
Add some nuts to regular meals—a tablespoon of chopped almonds on your oatmeal, a tablespoon
of walnuts in your lunchtime salad. Nuts are so versatile they can take the place of flour and breadcrumbs—with
a lot more flavor and health benefits. Just remember, as with all things, to use moderation.
Learn more about the benefits of nuts and seeds:
Nuts, Seeds and Heart Health
Nutty, Seedy Cancer Foes
Superfood No. 7: Sprouts
Sprouts are a highly nutritious
food. Grown locally year round, sprouts are a good source of protein and vitamin C. A sprout is produced when a seed starts
growing into a vegetable. Sprouts can grow from the seeds of vegetables, grains, legumes, buckwheat, and beans. Sprouts vary
in texture and taste. Some are spicy (radish and onion sprouts), some are hardy and often used in Asian cuisines (mung bean),
while others are more delicate (alfalfa), and add texture and moistness to salads and sandwiches.Why Sprouts?
There are a great many reasons to eat sprouts. As we age, our body's ability to produce enzymes declines. Sprouts are
a concentrated source of the living enzymes and "life force" that is lost when foods are cooked or not picked fresh from your
own garden. Additionally, due to their high enzyme content, sprouts are also much easier to digest than the seed or bean from
which they came.
All nutrients necessary for life are contained in seeds—a food category that includes grain
kernels, beans, legumes, and nuts. Because sprouts are so fresh, and do not sit for days or weeks in warehouses, we know that
we are getting optimum nutrition.Great Ways to Serve Sprouts
Add to tossed salads
Use in coleslaw (cabbage, clover, radish)
Try in wraps and roll-ups (alfalfa, sunflower, radish)
Stir-fry with other vegetables (alfalfa, clover, radish, mung bean, lentil)
Blend with vegetable juices (cabbage, mung bean, lentil)
Mix with soft cheeses, tofu, yogurt of kefir for a dip (mung bean, radish)
Stir into soups or stews when serving (mung bean, lentil)
Eat them fresh and uncooked in a sprout salad (salad mixes)
Top omelet or scrambled eggs (alfalfa, clover, radish)
Combine in oat, barley or buckwheat dishes (fenugreek, lentil, mung bean)
Add to sushi (radish, sunflower)
Sauté with onions (mung bean, clover, radish)
Puree with dried peas or beans (mung bean, lentil)
Add to baked beans (lentil)Where to Find Sprouting Supplies
Inexpensive sprouting kits and seeds are available online and at some health food stores and supermarkets. Buy only certified
organic seeds, grains, legumes or beans for sprouting, purchase them in small quantities, and keep them refrigerated prior
A partial list of seeds, beans, legumes and grains appropriate for sprouting includes alfalfa, cabbage,
clover, fenugreek, mustard, radish, sesame, sunflower, adzuki beans, chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, green peas, wheat, rye
and triticale. If you grow your own sprouts, harvest them within four to eight days for maximum enzymatic activity.
you do not have the time to grow your own sprouts, purchase them at a local fruit and vegetable market, or in the fresh vegetable
department of your supermarket. Health food stores that sell produce often offer sprouts as well.
Sprouts are fresh
when their roots are moist and white and the sprout itself is crisp. Caution: Regardless of the source, do not use seeds that
have been treated with a fungicide. Treated seeds are not edible and can be recognized by the coating of pink or green dust
on the seed coat. Seeds sold for planting purposes fall under this category. Use only seeds sold for sprouting or eating not
Store sprouts in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator, and use them as soon as possible. Rinsing
daily under cold water can extend their life. Mung bean sprouts can be frozen in an airtight bag for several months, if they
are to be used in cooking.
Superfood No. 8: Yogurt and Kefir "Probiotic" Partners in Health
The origin of fermented foods and cultured milk products goes so far back that it is rumored to predate recorded history.
This is perfectly in keeping with my philosophy that the most ancient foods have survived for a reason—they continue
to be instrumental to the survival of our species. Fermented and cultured foods may well represent our first experience with
what researchers now call "functional" foods—foods that actively promote optimal health.
The fermented foods
scientists consider "probiotic" are primarily fermented vegetables, soybeans, coconut water and kefir.