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101 Foods That Could Save Your Life

101 Foods That Could Save Your Life
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When it comes to food, nature provides a wealth of delicious choices. But each one also supplies unique health benefits. Leading nutritionist David Grotto reveals a wealth of power foods, from apples to yogurt, and explains why
 
• A handful of cherries before bed can help you sleep better
• Hot peppers may fight skin cancer
• Potatoes may reduce the risk of stroke
• Grape juice may be as heart-healthy as red wine
• Honey can help wounds heal faster
 
Each entry features a history of a food’s origin, a list of therapeutic benefits, information on scientific research, tips for use and preparation, and an appetizing recipe from a leading chef or nutritionist. Prepare to awaken your taste buds, lose weight, and let the healing begin!
Random House Publishing Group; December 2007
465 pages; ISBN 9780553904512
Download in secure PDF format
Excerpt
Chapter One


Açaí (Euterpe oleracea)

ORAC ATTACK!

Did you know . . . the antioxidant capacity or “ORAC” value for a four-ounce portion of Açaí is 6576? That is more than blueberries, strawberries, and red wine combined!

What’s the Story?

Açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berries are produced by a palm tree grown in the floodplain areas of the Amazon River in Brazil. It has a unique taste—like wildberries with a hint of slightly bitter chocolate —yum! The berry, about the same size as a blueberry, is ninety-five percent seed. The seeds are discarded, leaving the skin alone for açaí products.

A Serving of Food Lore . . .


In the Amazon, açaí palms cover an area equivalent to half the size of Switzerland. Açaí is a primary food staple of Amazon River communities. It is served as a beverage and is a main part of the meal, much in the same way as bread or rice in other cultures. In the city of Belém in Brazil, more of the fruit is drunk than milk—an estimated 200,000 liters of açaí juice is consumed daily among a population of 1.3 million.

Where Is Açaí Grown?


Açaí is unique to the Amazon rainforests of Brazil and commercial production of the berry is found mainly near the city of Belém.

Why Should I Eat Açaí?

Surprisingly for a fruit, the vast majority of the calories come from fat: A four-ounce serving of pure açaí contains about 100 calories and six grams of fat. However, it is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-9 fats and also contains little sugar. Açaí contains essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin A, and other antioxidants.

Scientists have discovered that açaí is rich in anthocyanins, a special group of plant chemicals believed to have many health benefits. In fact, açaí contains ten times more anthocyanins than found in an equal serving of red wine. Anthocyanins in açaí make up only about ten percent of the total antioxidants contained within this amazing little berry.

Açaí also contains phytosterols, a plant component known to reduce cholesterol, treat symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (swollen prostate), and help protect the immune system from physical stress.

Home Remedies


Sexual performance: Açaí combined with guarana syrup is a popular drink in Brazil. One of the reported benefits from drinking the concoction is improved sexual performance.

Beauty: Dr. Nicholas Perricone mentions in his anti-aging books that açaí has beautifying properties.

Throw Me a Lifesaver!

Cancer: Utilizing a test tube study, University of Florida researchers found powerful antioxidant compounds in açaí that greatly reduced cell proliferation and enhanced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in human leukemia cells.

Tips on Using Açaí

Selection and Storage:

• Açaí comes in juice, frozen pulp, bottled smoothies, and powder forms that are all readily available at most health food stores and grocery markets. Due to their highly perishable nature, fresh açaí berries are only available in Brazil.

• Look for flash-pasteurized açaí products which preserve açaí’s antioxidants and beautiful purple color.

Preparation and Serving Suggestions:

• Heating açaí may diminish some of its antioxidants.

• Açaí can be used to make sauces and jams.

• The pulp can be added into smoothies or beverages, spooned over cereal added to yogurt, or eaten alone.

Brazilian-Style Açaí Bowl

by Royce Gracie


Servings: 2 • Prep time: 5 minutes

Royce Gracie is an international star in the sport of jujitsu and has a long family history of using açaí for improved performance. Royce’s grandfather, Carlos, opened Brazil’s first jujitsu academy and began to incorporate açaí into his own diet and those of his students many years ago. Our family loves this recipe over yogurt, ice cream, pancakes . . . you name it! All four ingredients are powerhouse foods.

Ingredients:



Directions:

Blend all the ingredients in a blender until thickened. Top with organic granola and additional organic honey to taste.

Break it down . . .

Calories: 190; Total fat: 5g; Saturated fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 10mg; Total carbs: 44g; Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 34g; Protein: 3g.



Agave (Agavaceae)

¿DÓNDE ESTÁ, AGAVE?

Did you know . . . at the turn of this century, tequila production had risen so dramatically that the blue agave plant (also used to make agave nectar) was on the verge of extinction?

What’s the Story?


There are over three hundred species of agave plants. Tequilana, or blue agave, is the most widely known and available. The name agave is of Greek origin and means “noble” or “illustrious.” Agave goes by many other names including maguey, mescal, lechuguilla, amole, and century plant. Though over 200 million blue agave plants are grown in several regions of Mexico, only a small percentage of them are used for agave nectar production.

The heart of the plant is often referred to as the “piña,” or pineapple, which holds the naturally sweet juice used for both tequila and nectar production. The juice can either become “dark,” “amber,” or “light,” depending on the processing. Unfiltered dark agave has a stronger flavor, while the light variety, which has had the solids removed, has a more refined flavor. The liquid is then heated to make concentrated syrup, much like maple sap is heated to create maple syrup, with a consistency a little thinner than honey.

A Serving of Food Lore . . .


Agaves were cultivated for centuries by Native Americans. In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese and Spaniards brought agaves back to Europe from the Americas. The Spaniards are actually credited with fermenting the juices from the agave and creating what we now know as tequila. Another fermented beverage made from agave was called pulque, made by Native Americans for use in religious ceremonies. Agave nectar has become increasingly popular as an alternative sweetener to sugar in the United States.

Where Is Agave Grown?


The agave plant is native to arid and tropical regions from the southern United States to northern South America, and throughout the Caribbean. The agave has long been cultivated in hilly regions of Mexico.

Why Should I Eat Agave?


Agave syrup (or nectar) is about ninety percent fructose, a form of natural sugar found in fruit. Fructose does not impact blood glucose (glycemic) levels as dramatically as other sweeteners such as cane sugar. Even better, because fructose is sweeter than table sugar, less is needed in your recipes. Agave also contains a complex form of fructose called inulin. A type of friendly bacteria called bifidobacteria, digests inulin to produce short-chain fatty acids that have been shown to fight colon cancer. Agave also contains sapogenins which have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.

Home Remedies

Mexican folklore has revered agave and considered it sacred for its ability to purify the body and soul. Ethopians have used agave branches as natural toothbrushes, while the Aztecs treated wound infections with concentrated sap.

Throw Me a Lifesaver!


Anti-inflammatory: An animal study found those who were treated with an extract from agave leaves orally and topically had less inflammation than the control group.

Antimicrobial: Agave has been found to contain special substances that greatly reduce the growth of yeasts, mold, and life-threatening

bacteria.

Cancer-killing activity: Human cell studies have found that saponin and other compounds in agave can interrupt the life cycle of cancer cells.

Tips on Using Agave

Selection and Storage:


• This sweetener is sometimes called “nectar” and sometimes called “syrup.” It is one in the same.

• Agave comes in light, amber and dark syrup sold in bottles.

• Unopened, agave syrup has approximately a three-year shelf life.

Preparation and Serving Suggestions:

• In recipes, use about twenty-five percent less of this nectar than of table sugar. 3D4 cup of agave nectar should equal 1 cup of table sugar. For most recipes this rule works well.

• Reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees.

• When substituting this sweetener in recipes, reduce your liquid slightly, sometimes as much as one-third less.

• Agave nectar can be combined with artificial sweeteners to lessen their aftertaste.

• It can be used as a substitute for honey or sugar in baking.

Sharon’s Simple Berry Sauce

by Sharon Grotto


Servings: 4 • Prep and cooking time: 35 minutes

Our kids love to pour this berry sauce on their toaster waffles and pancakes or use it as an easy way to add fruit and sweetness to a smoothie. Simple to make but oh so good! This recipe contains two powerhouse ingredients.

Ingredients:



Directions:

Combine frozen berry blend, agave syrup, vanilla extract, and water in a sauce pan. Cook over low heat until the frozen berries are defrosted. Bring to boil. Let simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve over pancakes, waffles, French toast, or anything that you want to taste “berry good.”

Break it down . . .

Calories: 95; Total fat: 0g; Saturated fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 75mg; Total carbs: 24g; Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 21g; Protein: 0g.



Almonds (Prunus dulcis)

WEDDED ALMOND BLISS

Did you know . . . the traditional wedding favor of five candied almonds (Jordan almonds) originated in Italy in the 1350s? They represent the five attributes of a happy marriage: health, wealth, happiness, fertility, and longevity.

What’s the Story?


Almonds are the seeds of a fruit tree that is a relative of the rose family. Most commercially grown almond trees are grafted to the stumps of peach trees (rootstock), making them more resistant to pests. Prunus dulcis, meaning “sweet almond” is the commonly consumed version of almonds. “Bitter” almond contains a toxic chemical called hydrocyanic acid that can be deadly to humans if eaten raw. When heated, this chemical is destroyed, making the bitter almond safe to consume. Sweet almonds, the most consumed tree nut in the United States, comprises sixty-two percent of the nut market.

A Serving of Food Lore . . .

Almonds originated in Central Asia and have been cultivated in the Mediterranean since Biblical times. The Bible spoke of Aaron’s rod that blossomed and bore almonds, using them as a symbol to represent divine approval by God. The almond also symbolized virginity and was often used as a marriage blessing. The Egyptians left almonds in King Tut’s tomb to provide nourishment to him in the afterlife. In 1700, Franciscan Padres brought the almond tree to California from Spain. By the turn of the twentieth century, the almond industry was firmly established in the Sacramento and San Joaquin areas of California.

Where Are They Grown?


The United States provides eighty-eight percent of worldwide almond production with California growing the bulk of the U.S. supply. They are also grown in Spain, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

Why Should I Include Them?


A small handful of almonds (one ounce or 23 almonds) contains 160 calories and is a good source of protein and fiber. This same amount supplies thirty-five percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin E and twenty percent DV of magnesium, and is a good source of calcium and iron. Almonds contain a variety of antioxidants including the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which may prevent cancer cell growth and oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, attributed to increased risk for heart disease.

Home Remedies


Almonds have been used in hopes of curing cancer, ulcers, and corns, and reducing symptoms associated with consuming too much alcohol.

Throw Me a Lifesaver!

Obesity: A 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who had eaten a serving of almonds had higher levels of cholecystokinin (a hormone associated with satiety from eating fat- containing foods) in their systems than men did. In practical terms this means that while almonds may leave both women and men with a feeling of “satisfaction,” women may stay full longer. There is ongoing research into the effects of the act of “chewing” on satiety hormone release. For example, researchers at Kings College in London found that almonds appear to help block absorption of carbohydrates, block their own fat from being absorbed, and improve satiety in both men and women. According to a 2003 study in the International Journal of Obesity, subjects who added eighty-four grams (about three handfuls) of almonds to a low-calorie diet enhanced weight loss when compared to a low-fat, low-calorie diet alone. The diet that included almonds produced greater and longer sustained weight loss.

Heart health: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) showed that eating a combination of heart-healthy foods that includes almonds can help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels as much as a first-line statin drug. Loma Linda University was the first to demonstrate that eating almonds raises vitamin E levels in the bloodstream. Participants who ate almonds reduced their total cholesterol by five percent and lowered their LDL or “bad” cholesterol by nearly seven percent. In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration approved a limited health claim for almonds saying that consuming them may reduce the risk of heart disease. Doctor David Jenkins of the University of Toronto found that eating a healthy diet that included almonds reduced inflammation by about the same level as taking Lovastatin, a popular statin drug for fighting heart disease. The almond-rich diet not only lowered cholesterol but it also lowered C-reactive protein, a leading marker of inflammation and an independent risk factor for heart disease.

Alzheimer’s: Mice with an Alzheimer’s-like disease were fed an

almond-rich diet. After four months, those animals who ate the almond- rich diet did much better on memory tests than those fed the usual chow. The diet also reduced the number of Alzheimer deposits in the rodent brains.

Colon Cancer: A study from the University of California, Davis, found that almonds had a significant effect on the prevention of colon cancer in rats.

Tips on Using Almonds

Selection and Storage:

A KERNEL OF TRUTH?


Consumer, beware! Make sure you are buying “the real McCoy.” Many imported almonds are not almonds at all—they’re apricot kernels! They may look similar but the taste and health benefits of real almonds are second to none.

• Look for almonds in the shell that don’t rattle when you shake them. Rattling may be a sign that the almonds are old.

• Fresh almonds are white throughout. One that is yellow or has a honeycomb look to it may mean the nut has turned rancid.

• Green almonds are available for three weeks in the spring. They have a fuzzy green hull and a jelly-like center. They are great on a salad or plain with a dash of sea salt.

• Look in the baking aisle, the snack aisle, and the produce section of the supermarket for many types of almonds. Look for one-ounce snack packs of whole almonds, or other on-the-go containers. Choose slivered, sliced, chopped, or ground almonds to use in recipes.

• Store in a cool, dry, dark place.

• Unopened, almonds can be kept in the refrigerator or a cool pantry for up to two years. Once opened, almonds should be kept in an airtight container and consumed within three months.

Preparation and Serving Suggestions:

• Roasting almonds before serving them brings out their rich flavor.

• Sprinkle sliced almonds on granola, cold cereal, or yogurt for breakfast or for a healthy anytime snack.


From the Trade Paperback edition.