It is a scientifically tested fact that - other factors such as exercise, genetics, habits being equal - people eating a diet rich in antioxidants suffer less from heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and the degenerative diseases associated with ageing.
This has led to food corporations marketing some such foods as superfoods. They are labelled superfoods because their antioxidant levels have been established, and the content level is good.
However, research into the healthy antioxidant content of many common berries shows that the best sources have been overlooked and not marketed to the same degree.
The league table of antioxidants in berries looks like this:
antioxidants in common berries
lower down. raspberries.
At present, I cannot find the analysis of gooseberries, tayberries or loganberries.
A second study measured the level of antioxidants in volunteers'' blood while they were eating one type of berry every day. The same daily weight of their berry as the other groups.
The result of this trial was that each group showed the same levels of antioxidants in their blood, irrespective of the type of berry.
The conclusion - eat whichever you fancy, regularly!
Freezing berries for out-of-season consumption seemed to do little damage to the antioxidant levels. Thawing slowly - e.g. overnight in a cool place - does least damage to the appeal of the berries. Even strawberries (notorious for becoming mushy after freezing) are fine when I defrost them - mixed with oats, ready for breakfast, so they defrost even more slowly and don''t dehydrate.
Nutrition in cooked foods
Some foods are more nutritious when cooked. Carrots and tomatoes are notable examples. This is good news for fans of tinned tomatoes and tomato puree, because these are typically grown in much warmer countries than U.K. Scandinavia, Canada, ... so they are grown outdoors and picked ripe.
In contrast, cooler countries grow tomatoes under glass, nearly all hydroponically grown, and they are picked slightly green for the several trips by lorry and standing in supermarket shelves and warehouses.
Boiling vegetables and fruit for more than a few minutes leaches both vitamins and minerals into the water. Steaming and stir-frying is better, but best of all - consume the water.
Vegetables cooked with rice lose goodness to the water, but the water is absorbed into the rice (measure the amount of water before cooking!)
If you fancy traditional British meat or fish with 3 (or more) vegetables, use the water to make gravy or white sauce.
Fat and sugars (non-Superfoods) in food
There''s an interesting video by a GP in favour of a vegan diet.
However, several of the ''facts'' stated in the video are inaccurate.
Not all meat and fish is fat:
lambs liver less than 2% fat; less than 1% saturated fat.
beef - silverside and top rump ~ 2% fat; 1% saturated fat.
If you don''t want to ''harden'' fats from mono or poly-unsaturated into saturated fat, steam or simmer them
(100C), rather than roasting or frying (typically ~ 200C).
White fish such as Cod, Coley and Pollock is very low in fat, and more easily digestable than red meat.
Not all vegetarian foods are healthy:
cocoa (I.e. real chocolate) is ~ 22% fat, 14% saturated fat.
peanuts are ~ 50% fat, 7% saturated - if you have lots of exercise, eat some; if you don''t exercise, either don''t eat many peanuts or start to exercise!
Dietary Superfoods Rules of Thumb
Fresh fruit and vegetables are the best and most natural human diet.
Oats is better than wheat for most people because:
It hasn''t been bred to be high gluten, which is what food corporations demand for their fluffy ''bread''.
It has soluble fibre, which aids digestion and bowel health without aggravating leaking bowel problems.
It has more unsaturated fat than wheat, so you don''t need to coat it with butter or margarine to make it palatable.
It is good to eat raw, which is not the case with most grains.
Toxic Foods v Superfoods
The food corporations in the U.S.A. now control nearly 50% of the agricultural land. And they grow only two crops. Soya and maize.
Maize is one of the least nutritious grains, and soya is toxic to humans until it is treated, either by fermentation, or chemically.
The principal products of these two crops are:
1. animal feed for junk food manufacturers - the livestock being fed in yards, with anti-biotics, rather than allowed to graze grassland, and,
2. Fructose for the junk drink manufacturers - the profit margin of which is around 90%. Compare that to the profit margin on FairTrade bananas (probably less than 10% ) which have come thousands of miles to your table, and are cheap.
The impact of the junk food ''industries'' (which don''t do any justice to the word industrious) on U.S.A citizens (and western Europe isn''t far behind) is that nearly 40,000 Americans are diabetic, and nearly 80,000 are pre-diabetic. They will become diabetic unless they change their habits. There are poor districts in American cities where people cannot buy fresh fruit and vegetables at their local shops because the political clout of huge food corporations has ensured massive subsidies for the two crops - maize and soya.
Parallels to the decline of the Roman Empire are hard to ignore ...
The facts relating to longevity and diet highlight the toxic properties of some foods, and of excess food.
The largest statistical sample, and thus the most dependable evidence, wasn''t an experiment or trial, but forced on a large population (over 100 million people) by economic circumstances. During the Great Depression ~ early 1930s, the life expectancy of Americans increased by 6 years.
Cronies - Calorie-Restrictors on Optimum Nutrition - have a one in a million likelihood of succumbing to heart disease, cardio-vascular problems, diabetes and some cancers. This compares to the norm for USA and Western Europe of 40%; that''s 400,000 in a million.
Personally, I think if such a diet is so good, 5 or 6 days a week would be plenty! There is evidence that occasional fast days (600 calories rather than nil) confers other benefits that continual calorie retriction does not.
Inspiring Examples of Optimum Nutrition - real Superfoods
The world''s oldest man (116) and the world''s oldest woman (115) (circa 2013) are both Japanese. Japan has over 40,000 centenarians.
The typical Japanese diet is fresh fruit and veg, rice and fish.
The reason the oldest man gives for his longevity (and health) is simple, and exactly the same as that of the world''s oldest marathon runner (London Marathon, 2012, aged 101 years): they eat simple, plain food, and don''t eat too much. No mention of superfoods, diets, fads or fasting.
The food corporations aim is to make a profit for shareholders.
They will stock good food if their customers demand it. There are two ways of influencing the corporations:
1. Choose only good food for yourself, family, friends.
2. Campaign collectively to influence such corporations. A fine example of this is British customers campaigning to get FairTrade bananas into the supermarkets. Nearly all supermarkets now stock FairTrade bananas, and the best supermarkets don''t even charge more for them.
When you shop in supermarkets, read the labels. Large supermarkets are obliged to display the analysis on packaged foods. They might try to mislead you, by quoting the amount of fat in a teaspoon of the food, but the amount in 100 grams means the same as %.
30% less fat, sometimes means the food is diluted with water! Slimmers'' margarine is a common example of this practice.
The Real Superfoods
All fresh fruit and vegetables.
quickly frozen veg and fruit.
Lean meat from real grassland.
Lean fish, and oily fish high in Omega 3 oils, from the sea.
Frozen berries (''savers'' berries at Sainsburys are 35% each blackberries and strawberries; 15% each blackcurrants and redcurrants). 85% of this product has more antioxidants than blueberries. There''s nothing wrong with blueberries - I love them, and even grow a few! But they are currently hyped by big business, and so is the price.
When edible eye-candy (or should it be stomach-candy?) takes your fancy in the shops, read the contents. It is often a disappointment.
If you are tempted to buy a cheap ''meat and potato'' pasty, do so once, and take it apart. It is high-fat pastry, fat, potato, onion, and maybe 20 grams of cheap fatty meat. Then go home and make something better. We feel we''ve already got too much to do, but cooking is no more effort than watching "reality" TV, and considerably more real.
P.S. I can compare the quality (nutritional value) and cost of a typical "advertised" diet, such as ensnares the most vulnerable customers, with a healthy alternative, if there is sufficient interest.
Feedback from Simon
Your summary is informative and useful. As you show, most of this stuff is fairly straightforward and non-fadish. I think most of us feel whether a food is doing us good or not. Presumably, we may have evolved an instinct for nutritious foods built on the back of our forbears'' mistakes (but don''t ask me to tell an edible mushroom from an hallucinogen!). Do we know instinctively what is going to do us good, (I''m thinking of the pregnancy cravings thing) or is this wishful thinking, and processing has educated us out of our instincts for what is good?
I think our feelings about food are half healthy instinct (sometimes you know what you need), and half un-healthy conditioning. Our evolution through times of scarcity, mixed with seasonal abundance, seems to have created a binge tendency, especially for meat and sweetness. The only solution to that is to educate our habits. Personally, I''d struggle to eat sensibly if the kitchen was full of junk food, so I wear my sensible hat whilst shopping for the larder!
nutrition / education for best diet on a budget
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