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September 25, 2016

The 5 Superfoods that Belong in just about Every Diet.

vegetables mushrooms knofe chop happy face

Full disclosure: I realize “superfood” carries a bit of hype, but some foods do earn that status.

After all, I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of food as medicine. Food is one of the most powerful tools we have to create optimal health, and can be used as the first step to heal patients.

I’ve discussed numerous superfoods and we how to get them into our diet in The 10-Day Detox, Eat Fat, Get Thin, and my other programs. Here, I want to share five superfoods we should regularly incorporate into our eating plan.

1. Seeds. My three favorite seeds are chia, hemp, and flaxseeds. We can add all three super seeds to smoothies, puddings, or sprinkled on top of coconut yogurt with berries. Among their benefits:

>> Chia seeds provide an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that have numerous benefits, including glowing skin and mental clarity. Just one ounce of chia seeds packs a whopping 10 grams of fiber. Its insoluble fiber acts as a prebiotic that feeds friendly gut bacteria and ferments into short-chain fatty acids to support gut health. Chia seeds also contain more protein than most plant foods.

>> Hemp provides healthy fat, protein, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and iron.

>> Flaxseeds are another great source of omega-3 fats, dietary fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Flaxseeds have powerful, anti-cancer, hormone-balancing phytonutrients called lignans. Freshly ground flaxseed sprinkled into a smoothie becomes an excellent way to ease constipation.

2. MCT oil. Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are a special type of fatty acid derived from coconut oil. We can get them in coconut oil or as a stand-alone oil. MCT oil can help with weight loss, cognitive ability, and much more. This super fuel becomes an instant-energy source because MCTs get rapidly burned and metabolized very efficiently, absorbing directly into the gut and then liver, so MCTs don’t get stored as fat. Add MCT oil to smoothies, coffee, or veggies. They provide powerful antioxidant support to strengthen the immune system. Animal studies show MCTs also benefit liver and gut function.

3. Glucomannan. Fiber is vital for so many reasons, including feeding our friendly gut bacteria. Studies show fiber can prevent obesity, reduce our risk for chronic diseases, and decrease aging. That’s because fiber slows the rate food enters our bloodstream and increases the speed with which food exits through the digestive tract. Dietary fiber also helps balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels, aids in quick release of toxins from our gut, and curbs our appetite.

Glucomannan is a soluble, fermentable, and highly viscous dietary fiber from the root of the elephant yam, also known as konjac. The konjac tuber has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy and to make traditional foods like konjac jelly, tofu, and noodles. Glucomannan comes as a supplement called PGX that mixes easily into water for an easy, effective fiber source.

4. Mushrooms. While visiting China, I discovered folks there knew more about food’s medicinal properties than I did even after many years of research. Medicinal foods are a part of their everyday diet, and mushrooms play a huge staple within Chinese medicine. Reishi, shitake, and cordyceps contain powerful healing properties that boost our immune system and support healthy hormone production. Mushrooms are anti-viral and anti-inflammatory to support healthy liver function, optimized cholesterol levels, and provide anti-cancer benefits.

5. Plant foods. Vegetables’ vast colorful array represents over 25,000 beneficial chemicals. Research shows the synergistic balance of these chemicals provide numerous health benefits. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate well over 800 varieties of plant foods. Today we don’t consume anywhere near this amount. Eat from the rainbow: every fruit and vegetable color represents a different family of healing compounds. Red foods like tomatoes contain the carotenoid lycopene, which helps eliminate free radicals that damage our genes. Green foods contain the chemicals sulforaphane and isocyanate as well as indoles that inhibit carcinogens to protect against cancer. Simply put: More color equals more health benefits.

 

Functional medicine ultimately rests on one central principle: Taking out the bad and putting in the good. The tremendous power at the end of our forks becomes far more powerful than anything we find in a pill bottle.

I know you’ve got one to add: What superfood would you include? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.

 

Author: Dr. Mark Hyman

Image: Pamlovespie/Flickr 

Editor: Emily Bartran

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Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality—and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That’s why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. Dr. Hyman and his team work every day to empower people, organizations, and communities to heal their bodies and minds, and improve our social and economic resilience.
Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician, a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show.
Dr. Hyman works with individuals and organizations, as well as policy makers and influencers. He has testified before both the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Senate Working Group on Health Care Reform on Functional Medicine. He has consulted with the Surgeon General on diabetes prevention, and participated in the 2009 White House Forum on Prevention and Wellness. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa nominated Dr. Hyman for the President’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. In addition, Dr. Hyman has worked with President Clinton, presenting at the Clinton Foundation’s Health MattersAchieving Wellness in Every Generation conference and the Clinton Global Initiative, as well as with the World Economic Forum on global health issues.
Dr. Hyman also works with fellow leaders in his field to help people and communities thrive—with Rick Warren, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Dr. Daniel Amen,he created The Daniel Plan, a faith-based initiative that helped The Saddleback Church congregation collectively lose 250,000 pounds.  He is an advisor and guest co-host on The Dr. Oz Show and is on the board of Dr. Oz’s HealthCorps, which tackles the obesity epidemic by educating American students about nutrition. With Drs. Dean Ornish and Michael Roizen, Dr. Hyman crafted and helped introduce the Take Back Your Health Act of 2009 to the United States Senate to provide for reimbursement of lifestyle treatment of chronic disease. Dr. Hyman plays a substantial role in a major documentary, produced by Laurie David and Katie Couric, called Fed Up (Atlas Films, September 2014)which addresses childhood obesity. Please join him in helping us all take back our health at his website, follow him on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.