The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Perhaps Popeye had it right. He pounded spinach for super-human strength and loved olive oil (although granted, it was a girl, not the healthy fat Rachel Ray is always harping on about!). But is spinach really good for your muscles and can it give you the boost you need to take on ol’ Bluto?
Let’s start with the most basic stuff: Calorie for calorie, spinach is perhaps one of the most nutrient dense vegetables out there (and it’s no slouch in the flavonoid department, but we’ll talk about that in a minute). In the vitamin department, it logs literally off-the-charts levels of vitamin K and vitamin A, providing 1110% and 234%, respectively, per 1 cup serving of boiled spinach (or 6 cups of raw spinach). Why would this be important? Well, vitamin K is important for bone health (especially when combined with calcium and magnesium, spinach’s other bone-building nutrients) and vitamin A is important for reducing the amount of free-radicals in the body as well as preventing cholesterol from oxidation – which is the process whereby cholesterol can cause damage to arteries. This effect is further amplified when the vitamin A is combined with vitamin C – which spinach also has in spades – a combination that is also thought to reduce inflammation, particularly among patients suffering from asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Ever had the debate about whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable? Well, perhaps next time you could back up your argument for tomatoes being a fruit by noting that the eggplant, which is widely perceived to be a vegetable, is actually a fruit, and a berry at that!
Counting tomato, sweet peppers and potatoes among its relatives, this member of the nightshade family was once feared in some European cultures. According to reports, early versions of the eggplant were so bitter that people believed that they must also have a bitter disposition, earning the poor eggplant (or aubergine as it is called in France and much of Europe) a reputation as a cause of insanity, leprosy and cancer.
Looking to add a little spice to your life? Then look no further than hot peppers! A favorite food of Hillary Clinton as she moves along the campaign trail (if an article in the New York Times is to be believed!) hot peppers are easy to find, relatively cheap, and can be teamed with just about anything! (And that wasn’t a tacit endorsement in case you were wondering. Just a bit of trivial trivia.)
But what makes this fiery little morsel smart fuel? Well, in addition to being low in calories and seriously high in taste, hot peppers contain a compound called capsaicin that is thought to convey anti-inflammatory properties, relieve the pain associated with headaches and arthritis – which is why it’s a popular ingredient in over the counter analgesics – and may even reduce the risk of certain cancers (although admittedly, this is when capsaicin was injected directly into cells as opposed to eaten). However, it should be noted that in areas of South America, where consumption of capsaicin-laden foods is common, rates of intestinal, stomach, and colon cancer rates are considered far lower than that of the United States. In addition, a study published in a 2006 edition of the journal Cancer Research suggests that hot peppers – and capsaicin in particular – prompts human prostate cancer cell apoptosis (cell death) and may also inhibit prostate cancer cell proliferation. Further proof of their position as a smart fuel? Hot peppers contain several important nutrients, including beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and pack twice the amount of vitamin C, pound for pound, than most citrus fruits!
Also know as lycium barbarum, lyceum fruit, fructus lycii, wolfberry and gou qi zi, type Goji berries into a search engine and your computer screen will quickly fill with warnings about how not to be scammed by this fruit.
A fruit con artist? We were intrigued…
But before we dig into the sordid world of Goji berries, let’s first learn a little more about them:
It might be called Swiss chard, but would you believe that it doesn’t even hail from Switzerland? In fact, Swiss chard got its name from a Swiss botanist named Koch who in the 19th century, named the vegetable in honor of his homeland (even though it originally hails from the Mediterranean region).
Available year round, Swiss chard is related to belongs to the same family as kale, mustard greens, beets and spinach, a fact that is reflected in its taste, with the bitter side reminiscent of its beet roots (see what we did there?) and the slightly salty taste unmistakably a characteristic of the spinach.
Once relegated to the Asian foods section of grocery stores, shiitake mushrooms have emerged a prominent contender in the produce aisle, promising to add a little extra oomph – and even some medicinal benefits – to vegetable socks, soups and noodle dishes.
Although this fungi is an excellent source of selenium and a good source of iron, protein, dietary fiber and vitamin C, shiitake mushrooms are much more revered for their combination of antioxidants and other compounds, so much so that they have been used in Asian medicine for the past 6,000 years!
Of all the nut oils, walnut oil is clearly one of the healthiest. In the olden days, it was used to cure many ailments including stomach and skin problems, tuberculosis (although, admittedly, the jury is out on just how successful that might have been!), hair loss and diabetes.
Today, however, walnut oil is more revered as a healthy source of fat. Walnuts are high in alpha-linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that is converted to EPA and DHA (long-chain omega-3s) in the body. Furthermore, walnut oil is also a great source of omega-9, which helps maintain artery health, as well as omega-6 (you gotta have some of ’em), which is important for skin and hair growth as well as maintaining a healthy reproductive system.
Remember in the movie Runaway Bride when Julia Roberts’ character could never decide how she liked her eggs? We say, don’t worry about it Ms. Roberts, with so many health benefits associated with the consumption of eggs, you should eat ’em however you can get ’em!
On the most superficial level, eggs are an excellent source of protein, providing 5.5 grams per 68 calorie serving and all 9 essential amino acids (all for less than 0.5 grams of carbs!)
Love radishes? Turns out you’re not alone. In fact, radishes were once so prized in Greece that they were immortalized in gold!
Although we certainly appreciate the radish’s beauty – often attacking them with a few skillfully placed knife slices to create a beautiful rose garnish for dress-to-impress dishes – this cruciferous vegetable is held in higher esteem today for its health benefits.
Specifically, radishes are an excellent source of vitamin C, packing about 30% of the recommended daily allowance per one cup serving. In addition to shoring up the immune system, vitamin C has been found to reduce asthma symptoms among pediatric patients as well as a decrease susceptibility to bruising and other forms of inflammation. Other beneficial nutrients found in radishes include potassium, which can reduce the risk of kidney stones, folate and magnesium. Finally, radishes contain a number of sulfur-based chemicals that increase the flow of bile, helping to improve digestion and maintain a healthy gallbladder and liver.
Haven’t been eating your beets? Don’t beat yourself up (see what we did there), because technically they’re out of season right now. But with spring fast approaching, perhaps it’s time to dig deeper and examine what these little purple monsters have to offer!
Hailing from South Africa, the beet – which is a relative of Swiss chard and a member of the Chenopodiaceae family – was initially cast off in Northern Europe as nothing more than animal chow. However, in the 16th century, Romans began eating the green leaves of the root vegetables and by the 19th century, they had become less picky and began eating the whole darn thing! In doing so, it was discovered that beets were an excellent source of natural sugar – so much so that Napoleon declared them Poland’s primary source of sugar after the British put the squeeze on other sugar sources during the war!