February 27, 2012

HEALTH, NUTRITION AND WELLNESS: Superfoods: The Superheroes of Our Bodies

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There is some similarity between regular consumption of Dr. Pratt’s “Superfoods” and the life-saving qualities possessed by superheroes. Naturally, such food only combats internal bodily insults rather than rescuing us from being thrown off a building or robbed by a villain. We are subjected to various attacks to our internal systems daily by pathogens, toxins, free radicals, LDL-cholesterol, fat, and possibly a genetic-predisposition to certain health problems. Nutritional experts, such as Dr. Pratt, focus on ways to minimize the accumulation of the damaging effects of poor lifestyle choices, general daily living, and genetic-predispositions by encouraging the consumption of foods that are rich in nutrients but low in calories.

His coin term for such foods is “Superfoods,” which is a list of 25 fruits, veggies, spices/additives, and lean proteins that have protective properties against metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, athersclerosis/arteriosclerosis, and many other nutritional villains that we are at the risk of encountering throughout life. Dr. Pratt developed four principles in the classification of his “superfoods” indicating that such foods are unprocessed, simple, and provide nutrients with a high level of bioavailability.

Examples of foods that Dr. Pratt classified as our dietary saviors include – apples, avocados, beans, blueberries, broccoli, pomegranates, garlic, low fat yogurt, and cinnamon. I personally didn’t find most of the listed foods as much of a surprise, but cinnamon triggered my interest.

Whoa, wait a minute; spices have more value than adding flavor and dimension to a dish? Studies have shown that daily cinnamon consumption is linked with decreased fasting glucose levels, triglyceride levels, LDL and total cholesterol levels, and increased insulin-sensitivity. This indicates that cinnamon may protect against cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type II diabetes. Cinnamon has also been found to have antibacterial properties effective even against E. coli. The mere smell of cinnamon has been linked with increased memory and cognitive function. Overall, while cinnamon disguises itself as a simple, delicious-smelling spice, evidence has revealed its true identity as one of our internal superheroes.

So, when you order your next Chai latte or espresso beverage at Libe Café, consider adding a dash of cinnamon to enhance your memory and your body’s defense against disease and infection!

Elise McVeigh is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. She may be rerached at emcveigh@cornellsun.com. The Missing Link: Health, Nutrition and Wellness appears on Tuesdays.

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Original Author: Elise McVeigh