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Superfoods combat numerous ills naturally August 4, 2009

Posted by Dreamhealer in Diet.
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By Patrick McDonough
from WillametteLive, Section Wellness

The word “superfood” seems to be everywhere recently.

From Oprah to MSNBC to the New York Times, it is a term that has gained the attention of the media and the public.

But what exactly is a superfood?

While the answer to that question varies somewhat from source to source, many experts agree that superfoods are often ones high in antioxidants or Omega-3 fatty acids.

Antioxidants are substances that act as inhibitors against detrimental oxidation processes and perform protective functions within the human body. They have been touted by many sources as having the ability to fight cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, among other ailments.

The USDA lists foods such as artichokes, beans, and apples high on the antioxidant list.

The food that rates highest on the list, however, is blueberries.

According to Dr. Tim Murbach of Salem Natural Medicine, who is a naturopathic physician with certification in micronutrient therapy, blueberries have a wide spectrum of benefits for the body and definitely fall into the category of superfood.

“Blueberry has anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-cancer properties and properties that stimulate nerve regeneration in the brain, preserve stem cells, and block radiation effects,” he said.

Most berries are high in antioxidants, Murbach said, adding that many berries are excellent sources of nutrition.

“Some of the berries and fruits by which I have been most impressed, in addition to the blueberry, are gogi, acai, hawthorn, and pomegranate.”

Omega-3s are a class of fatty acids found primarily in fish that, among other benefits, act to lower cholesterol.

Dr. Murbach states that there are many readily available sources of Omega-3s.

“The best (or at least most concentrated) sources of Omega-3 oils are fish oil and krill oil. These are far superior to plant sources in medicinal value. Of course, you would need to eat the fish itself to consider it as a superfood. Fish high in Omega-3 are sardines, anchovies, salmon, halibut, mackerel, tuna, krill, etc.,” Murbach said.

He warned of potential drawbacks to this source of Omega-3’s, but commented that fish contains far greater quantities of the substance than other foods.

“The down side to consuming fish, especially the larger species, is, of course, ocean pollution,” he said, “with most containing unacceptable levels of mercury and PCB.”

Plants high in Omega-3 fatty acids are chia seed, flax seed, and walnut. While these are beneficial and should be consumed, they can never, in any quantity, provide the same benefits as the fish and algal oils.

Ultimately, Dr. Murbach said that there are many elements to a superfood besides antioxidants and Omega 3’s.

“Superfoods are good for you because they contain phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and protein,” he said. “They may provide anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-aging, cholesterol lowering, blood pressure lowering, digestive, detoxification, cardiovascular, metabolic (i.e. anti-diabetic, weight loss), memory and anti-dementia, mental health, and a host of other positive health benefits.”

“The good news is that, for many of these foods, you do not have to go to the ends of the earth to find them; they can be found in the local supermarket,” Dr. Murbach said. “The fact is, most chronic diseases of the western world are fundamentally linked to diet and may be benefited by superfoods.”

The use of any food varies individually depending on dietary needs.

For assistance in deciding what is best, see a physician trained in nutrition or visit a local health food store.

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