My Problem with Top Ten Food Lists – Part 2

By Suzanne W. Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
Last week we brought you the first five foods on our Top Ten Healthiest Foods to Eat Now list. We also detailed why most top ten food lists fall short.

A quick review of several top ten healthy food lists shows a failure to focus on the most well-researched healthy foods, a focus on the ‘superfood’ of the moment while skipping over tried and true nutritional superstars (apples anyone?), completely missing the boat on entire food categories we all need to eat, and lacking the explanations for why these foods deserve the top spot on the plate.

In short, top ten lists usually fail you. Ours doesn’t. Our Top Ten Healthiest Foods to Eat Now is the real deal. We give you everything you need to make the smartest food choices. Add these foods to your diet and you’re sure to look and feel your best.

Below you’ll find Part 2 of our Top Ten Healthiest Foods to Eat Now. This includes foods six through ten. Combine this with last week’s list of foods (one through five) and you’ll be on your way to an optimal, health-promoting, disease-beating way of life.

Garlic and Onions

Garlic and onions pack flavor and powerful health benefits too. Onions, like apples, are rich in quercetin. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer activities.

Garlic is loaded with sulfur-based nutrients. These may cause bad breath, but their actions in the body deserve attention. These pungent compounds lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.1 They ward off stomach and colon cancers too.2,3

Garlic has anti-microbial actions.4 In fact, garlic is so effective at taming infectious microbes that it seems to help the body rid itself of a stomach infection called h. pylori.5 H. pylori is a nasty little number that can exacerbate heart burn and lead to cancerous changes in the cells lining the stomach.

Nuts

You may be surprised to learn that despite their copious calories, nuts actually seem to enhance weight loss! Several studies support that nut eaters gain fewer pounds with age compared with non-nut eaters.6

Nuts also lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the blood clotting that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.7 Nuts may further protect us from cardiovascular disease through their ability to decrease blood vessel reactivity. They induce greater relaxation in the smooth muscles of the vascular system.8

Walnuts have been shown to slow the growth of existing breast tumors,9 reduce markers of prostate cancer risk,10 and even prevent gallstones!6

Beans

Beans, or legumes, don’t get the accolades they deserve. Besides lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of colorectal, stomach, and breast cancers, beans can improve blood sugar levels. Whether you’re diabetic or simply at risk for the disease, beans can improve your health.

When eaten alone or in combination with other foods, beans regulate the movement of simple carbohydrates from the digestive tract into the blood stream.11,12 This blunts unhealthy spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels that can occur after a meal.

And beans are prebiotic.13 They provide fuel for the healthy bacteria, called probiotics, in the digestive tract. Having a healthy gut bacteria population aids body weight regulation and immune system function.

Artichokes

Artichokes are the only food source of silymarin. You can get silymarin from milk thistle herbal supplements, but other than artichokes, you won’t be eating it.

What’s so special about silymarin? It protects against liver damage from a host of natural and manmade toxins.14 From liver-damaging aflatoxins (produced by molds and fungi in our food) to acetominophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) and alcohol, silymarin appears to minimize the damage of liver-toxic substances.

No other naturally occurring food and herbal nutrient has the liver-protective effects of silymarin.

Olive Oil

When it comes to health, olive oil is king among edible oils. This oil is the only commonly eaten source of squalene (squaw-lean) and oleocanthal (oh-lee-oh-can-thal).

Oleocanthal has non-steroidal anti-inflammatory actions in the body.15 In essence, it appears to provide the benefits of drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, without the stomach-churning side effects.

Squalene is no slouch either. This nutrient enhances immune function and may improve the effectiveness (“kill power”) of cancer medications used in humans.16

Squalene also offers antioxidant protection to normal cells, but does not seem to do the same thing for cancer cells.17 This is one explanation for why squalene may turn out to be such a great addition to cancer treatment approaches.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions for healthy foods that didn’t make our top ten

include salmon, avocados, oats, turmeric, and dark chocolate. If you add these to the ten we’ve already discussed, you can feel good knowing your body is functioning at the optimal level. When you feed yourself right, the health benefits you reap will be clear now and for years to come!

Author's Bio: 

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, is an internationally recognized expert in nutrition, chronic disease, cancer, health and wellness as well as the Executive Editor of Nutrition Intelligence Report, a free natural health and nutrition newsletter. For more information, past issues or to sign up for a free subscription, visit http://www.appleboost.com/.