12 Foods With Super-Healing Powers

12 Foods With Super-Healing Powers

Caring.com, supporting caregivers

As part of a healthy diet, whole foods play a significant role in helping our  bodies function optimally. There are hundreds of extremely nutritious whole  foods, but the dozen on this list do more than contribute healthy nutrients —  they help you heal. In fact, every food on this list boasts multiple healing  effects, from fighting cancer to reducing cholesterol, guarding against heart  disease, and more. Eat these super-healing picks and start feeling pretty super  yourself.

1. Kiwifruit This tiny, nutrient-dense fruit packs an  amazing amount of vitamin C (double the amount found in oranges), has more fiber  than apples, and beats bananas as a high-potassium food. The unique blend of  phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals found in kiwifruit helps protect against  heart disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory disease. Kiwifruit’s natural  blood-thinning properties work without the side effects of aspirin and support  vascular health by reducing the formation of spontaneous blood clots, lowering  LDL cholesterol, and reducing blood pressure. Multiple studies have shown that  kiwifruit not only reduces oxidative stress and damage to DNA but also prompts  damaged cells to repair themselves.

Kiwifruit is often prescribed as part of a dietary regimen to battle cancer  and heart disease, and in Chinese medicine it’s used to accelerate the healing  of wounds and sores.

How much: Aim to eat one to two kiwifruit a day while  they’re in season, for the best taste and nutrition. California-grown kiwifruit  are in season from October through May, and New Zealand kiwifruit are available  between April and November.

Tips:

  • Kiwifruit contains enzymes that activate once you cut the fruit, causing  the flesh to tenderize. So if you’re making a fruit salad, cut the kiwifruit  last.
  • The riper the kiwifruit, the greater the antioxidant power, so let them  ripen before you dig in.

2. Cherries Cherries boast a laundry list of healing  powers. For starters, they pack a powerful nutritional punch for a relatively  low calorie count. They’re also packed with substances that help fight  inflammation and cancer. As if that weren’t enough, in lab studies, quercetin  and ellagic acid, two compounds contained in cherries, have been shown to  inhibit the growth of tumors and even cause cancer cells to commit suicide —  without damaging healthy cells. Cherries also have antiviral and antibacterial  properties.

Anthocyanin, another compound in cherries, is credited with lowering the uric  acid levels in the blood, thereby reducing a common cause of gout. Researchers believe anthocyanins may also  reduce your risk of colon cancer. Further, these compounds work like a natural  form of ibuprofen, reducing inflammation and curbing pain. Regular consumption  may help lower risk of heart attack and stroke.

In Chinese medicine, cherries are routinely used as a remedy for gout,  arthritis, and rheumatism (as well as anemia, due to their high iron content).  Plus they’re delicious.

How much: Aim for a daily serving while they’re in season  locally. And keep a bag of frozen cherries in your freezer the rest of the year;  frozen cherries retain 100 percent of their nutritional value and make a great  addition to smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal.

Tips:

  • Buy organic, since conventionally grown cherries can be high in  pesticides.

 

3. Guavas Guavas are a small tropical fruit that can be  round, oval, or pear-shaped. They’re not all that common, so they might be hard  to find, depending on where you live. But if you can track them down, it’s more  than worth it. Guavas contain more of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene  than any other fruit or vegetable, and nearly 20 percent more than tomatoes. Our  bodies can’t process much of the lycopene in tomatoes until they’re cooked; the  processing helps break down tough cell walls. However, guavas’ cell structure  allows the antioxidant to be absorbed whether the fruit is raw or cooked, and  the whole fruit offers the nutrition without the added sodium of processed  tomato products.

Lycopene protects our healthy cells from free radicals that can cause all  kinds of damage, including blocked arteries, joint degeneration, nervous system  problems, and even cancer. Lycopene consumption is associated with significantly  lower rates of prostate cancer; in addition, men with prostate tumors who  consumed lycopene supplements showed significant improvements, such as smaller  tumors and decreased malignancy. Lycopene has also been found to inhibit the  growth of breast cancer cells, and research suggests that this antioxidant may  also help protect against coronary heart disease.

This strange-looking little fruit is also packed with vitamin C and other  antioxidants. Serving for serving, guava offers more than 60 percent more  potassium than a banana, which can help protect against heart disease and  stroke. In fact, the nutrients found in guavas have been shown to lower LDL and  boost HDL cholesterol, reduce triglycerides, and lower blood pressure.

How much: Aim to eat fresh guavas as often as you can when  you can find them in stores. They’re not commonly available in the freezer  section; and most guava juices are processed and sweetened, so they don’t  provide the same superior nutrition that the whole, fresh fruit does. One to two  guavas a day is a good goal.

Tip:

  • Opt for the red-fleshed variety if you can; both are loaded with  antioxidants, but the red type has more than the white-fleshed apple  guava.

4. Beans Beans are a miracle food. They lower  cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and insulin production, promote digestive  health, and protect  against cancer. If you think of fiber, protein, and antioxidants and  immediately think whole grains, meat, and fruit, think again — beans offer all  three in a single package.

An assortment of phytochemicals found in beans has been shown to protect  cells from cancerous activity by inhibiting cancer cells from reproducing,  slowing tumor growth. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health  reported that women who consumed beans at least twice a week were 24 percent  less likely to develop breast cancer, and multiple studies have tied beans to a  reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast  and colon cancers.

Beans deliver a whopping amount of antioxidants, which help prevent and fight  oxidative damage. In fact, the USDA’s ranking of foods by antioxidant capacity  places three varieties of beans (red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans)  in the top four — and that’s among all food groups. Beans are a great source of  dietary fiber, protein, and iron. They also contain the amino acid tryptophan;  foods with high amounts of tryptophan can help regulate your appetite, aid in  sleep, and improve your mood. Many are also rich in folate, which plays a  significant role in heart health. And depending on the type of bean you choose,  you’ll also get decent amounts of potassium, magnesium, vitamin B1 and B2, and  vitamin K. Soybeans are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

In Chinese medicine, various types of beans have been used to treat  alcoholism, food poisoning, edema (particularly in the legs), high blood  pressure, diarrhea, laryngitis, kidney stones, rheumatism, and dozens of other  conditions.

How much: Aim for a minimum of two servings of beans per  week.

Tips:

  • Adzuki and mung beans are among the most easily digested;  pinto, kidney, navy, garbanzo, lima, and black beans are more difficult to  digest.

5. Watercress Not only is watercress extremely  nutritious, it’s about as close as you can get to a calorie-free food. Calorie  for calorie, it provides four times the calcium of 2 percent milk. Ounce for  ounce, it offers as much vitamin C as an orange and more iron than spinach. It’s  packed with vitamin A and has lots of vitamin K, along with multiple antioxidant  carotenoids and protective phytochemicals.

The nutrients in watercress protect against cancer and macular degeneration,  help build the immune system, and support bone health. The iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to  your body’s tissues for energy. The phytochemicals in watercress battle cancer  in three ways: killing cancer cells, blocking carcinogens, and protecting  healthy cells from carcinogens. They’ve also been shown to help prevent lung and  esophageal cancer and can help lower your risk for other cancers.

In Chinese medicine, watercress is thought to help reduce tumors, improve  night vision, and stimulate bile production (improving digestion and settling  intestinal gas). It’s used as a remedy for jaundice, urinary difficulty, sore  throat, mumps, and bad breath.

How much: Eat watercress daily if you can. In some regions,  it’s more widely available during the spring and summer, when it’s cultivated  outdoors. But since it can also be grown hydroponically in greenhouses, you can  find it year-round in many grocery stores and at your local farmer’s market.

Tips:

  • You can cook it, but watercress is better for you when you eat it raw. Tuck  it into a sandwich in place of lettuce.
  • Toss it with your favorite vegetables and eat it in a salad.
  • Watercress is great in pesto — just replace the basil with watercress — and  soups.
  • Use watercress as a wonderfully detoxifying ingredient in a juice or  smoothie.

6. Spinach You already knew spinach was good for you,  but did you know just how good? Spinach protects against eye disease and vision  loss; it’s good for brain function; it guards against colon, prostate, and  breast cancers; it protects against heart disease, stroke, and dementia; it  lowers blood pressure; it’s anti-inflammatory; and it’s great for bone health.  Spinach has an amazing array of nutrients, including high amounts of vitamin K,  calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and iron.

A carotenoid found in spinach not only kills prostate cancer cells, it also  prevents them from multiplying. Folate promotes vascular health by lowering  homocysteine, an amino acid that, at high levels, raises the risk of dementia  and cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. Folate has also  been shown to reduce the risk of developing colorectal, ovarian, and breast  cancers and to help stop uncontrolled cell growth, one of the primary  characteristics of all cancers. The vitamin C and beta-carotene in spinach  protect against colon cancer in addition to fighting inflammation, making them  key components of brain health, particularly in older adults.

Spinach is loaded with vitamin K (one cup of cooked spinach provides 1,111  percent of the recommended daily amount!), which builds strong bones by helping  calcium adhere to the bone. Spinach is also rich in lutein, which protects  against age-related macular degeneration, and it may help prevent heart attacks  by keeping artery walls clear of cholesterol buildup.

How much: Fresh spinach should be a daily staple in your  diet. It’s available in practically every grocery store, no matter where you  live, it’s easy to find year-round, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more  nutritionally sound, versatile green. So do yourself a healthy favor and aim for  a few ounces, raw or lightly steamed, every day.

Tips:

  • Add a handful of fresh spinach to your next fruit smoothie. It’ll change the  color but not the taste.
  • Conventionally grown spinach is susceptible to pesticide residue; stick to  organic.

7. Onions Onions get a bad rap for their effect on the breath, but  that’s not the only part of the body where they pack a wallop. Onions contain  potent cancer-fighting enzymes; onion consumption has been shown to help lower  the risk of prostate and esophageal cancers and has also been linked to reduced  mortality from coronary heart disease. Research suggests that they may help  protect against stomach cancer. Onions contain sulfides that help lower blood  pressure and cholesterol, as well as a peptide that may help prevent bone loss  by inhibiting the loss of calcium and other bone minerals.

Onions have super antioxidant power. They contain quercetin, a natural  antihistamine that reduces airway inflammation and helps relieve symptoms of  allergies and hay fever. Onions also boast high levels of vitamin C, which,  along with the quercetin, battles cold and flu symptoms. Onions’ anti-inflammatory properties  help fight the pain and swelling associated with osteo- and rheumatoid  arthritis. Onions are also extremely rich in sulfur and they have antibiotic and  antiviral properties, making them excellent for people who consume a diet high  in protein, fat, or sugar, as they help cleanse the arteries and impede the  growth of viruses, yeasts, and other disease-causing agents, which can build up  in an imbalanced diet.

 

How much: For all the health benefits onions provide, it  would be ideal to eat one a day. However, if that’s not doable for you, add a  few onions to your weekly grocery list and try to eat a little bit every day.  All varieties are extremely good for you, but shallots and yellow onions lead  the pack in antioxidant activity. Raw onions provide the best nutrition, but  they’re still great for you when they’re lightly cooked. And cooking meat at  high temperatures (such as on a grill) with onions can help reduce or counteract  carcinogens produced by the meat.

Tips:

  • Onions should be stored at room temperature, but if they bother your eyes  when you cut them, try refrigerating them for an hour beforehand.

8. Carrots Carrots are a great source of the potent  antioxidants known as carotenoids. Diets high in carotenoids have been tied to a  decreased risk in postmenopausal breast cancer as well as cancers of the  bladder, cervix, prostate, colon, larynx, and esophagus. Conversely, diets low  in carotenoids have been associated with chronic disease, including heart  disease and various cancers. Research suggests that just one carrot per day  could reduce your risk of lung cancer by half. Carrots may also reduce your risk  of kidney and ovarian cancers. In addition to fighting cancer, the nutrients in  carrots inhibit cardiovascular disease, stimulate the immune system, promote  colon health, and support ear and eye health.

Carrots contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin C,  and an incredible amount of vitamin A. The alpha-carotene in carrots has shown  promise in inhibiting tumor growth. Carrots also contain the carotenoids lutein  and zeaxanthin, which work together to promote eye health and prevent macular  degeneration and cataracts. In Chinese medicine, carrots are used to treat  rheumatism, kidney stones, tumors, indigestion, diarrhea, night blindness, ear  infections, earaches, deafness, skin lesions, urinary tract infections, coughs,  and constipation.

How much: Eat a serving of carrots each day if you can, and  enjoy them year-round. Carrots are good for you whether they’re raw or lightly  cooked; cooking helps break down the tough fiber, making some of the nutrients  more easily absorbed. For the best nutrition, go for whole carrots that are firm  and fresh-looking. Precut baby carrots are made from whole carrots and, although  they’re convenient, they tend to lose important nutrients during processing.

Tips:

  • Remove carrot tops before storing them in the fridge, as the tops drain  moisture from the roots and will cause the carrots to wilt.
  • Buy organic; conventionally grown carrots frequently show high pesticide  residues.

9. Cabbage Cabbage is a powerhouse source of vitamins K  and C. Just one cup supplies 91 percent of the recommended daily amount for  vitamin K, 50 percent of vitamin C, good amounts of fiber, and decent scores of  manganese, vitamin B6, folate, and more — and it’ll only cost you about 33  calories. Calorie for calorie, cabbage offers 11 percent more vitamin C than  oranges.

Cabbage contains high levels of antioxidant sulforaphanes that not only fight  free radicals before they damage DNA but also stimulate enzymes that detoxify  carcinogens in the body. Researchers believe this one-two approach may  contribute to the apparent ability of cruciferous vegetables to reduce the risk  of cancer more effectively than any other plant food group. Numerous studies  point to a strong association between diets high in cruciferous vegetables and a  low incidence of lung, colon, breast, ovarian, and bladder cancers.

Cabbage builds strong bones, dampens allergic reactions, reduces  inflammation, and promotes gastrointestinal health. Cabbage is routinely juiced as a  natural remedy for healing peptic ulcers due to its high glutamine content. It  also provides significant cardiovascular benefit by preventing plaque formation  in the blood vessels. In Chinese medicine, cabbage is used to treat  constipation, the common cold, whooping cough, depression and irritability, and  stomach ulcers. When eaten and used as a poultice, as a dual treatment, cabbage  is helpful for healing bedsores, varicose veins, and arthritis.

How much: The more cabbage you can include in your diet, the  better. A study of Polish women found that those who ate at least four servings  of cabbage per week as adolescents were 72 percent less likely to develop breast  cancer later in life than their peers who consumed only one weekly serving or  less.

Tips:

  • Try raw sauerkraut. It has all the health properties of cabbage, plus some  potent probiotics, which are excellent for digestive health.
  • Use the whole cabbage; the outer leaves contain a third more calcium than  the inner leaves.
  • Both are nutritional stars, but red cabbages are far superior to the white  variety, with about seven times more vitamin C and more than four times the  polyphenols, which protect cells from oxidative stress and cancer.

10. Broccoli You’ll find it difficult to locate another  single food source with as much naturally occurring health-promoting properties  as broccoli. A single cup of steamed broccoli provides more than 200 percent of  the RDA for vitamin C (again, more than oranges), nearly as much of vitamin K,  and about half of the daily allowance for vitamin A, along with plentiful  folate, fiber, sulfur, iron, B vitamins, and a whole host of other important  nutrients. Calorie for calorie, broccoli contains about twice the amount of  protein as steak — and a lot more protective phytonutrients.

Broccoli’s phytochemicals fight cancer by neutralizing carcinogens and  accelerating their elimination from the body, in addition to inhibiting tumors  caused by chemical carcinogens. Studies show evidence that these substances help  prevent lung and esophageal cancers and may play a role in lowering the risk of  other cancers, including gastrointestinal cancer.

Phytonutrients called indoles found in broccoli help protect against  prostate, gastric, skin, breast, and cervical cancers. Some research suggests  that indoles also protect the structure of DNA and may reduce the risk of  prostate cancer. Extensive studies have linked broccoli to a 20 percent  reduction in heart disease risk. In Chinese medicine, broccoli is used to treat  eye inflammation.

How much: If you can eat a little broccoli every day, your  body will thank you for it. If you can’t swing it, aim for eating it as  regularly as possible. Like many other vegetables, broccoli provides fantastic  nutrition both in its raw form and when it’s properly cooked. Cooking reduces  some of broccoli’s anticancer components, but lightly steaming it will preserve  most of the nutrients. Broccoli is available fresh year-round in most areas, but  if you can’t find it where you live, frozen broccoli is a good substitute.

Tip:

  • Steaming or cooking broccoli lightly releases the maximum amount of the  antioxidant sulforaphane.

11. Kale Kale is highly nutritious, has powerful antioxidant  properties, and is anti-inflammatory. One cup of cooked kale contains an  astounding 1,328 percent of the RDA for vitamin K, 192 percent of the RDA for  vitamin A, and 89 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. It’s also a good source of  calcium and iron.

Kale is in the same plant family as broccoli and cabbage, and, like its  cruciferous cousins, it contains high levels of the cancer-fighting compound  sulforaphane, which guards against prostate, gastric, skin, and breast cancers  by boosting the body’s detoxification enzymes and fighting free radicals in the  body. The indoles in kale have been shown to protect against breast, cervical,  and colon cancers. The vitamin K in kale promotes blood clotting, protects the  heart, and helps build strong bones by anchoring calcium to the bone. It also  has more antioxidant power than spinach, protecting against free-radical damage.  Kale is extra rich in beta-carotene (containing seven times as much as does  broccoli), lutein, and zeaxanthin (ten times the amount in broccoli). In Chinese  medicine, kale is used to help ease lung congestion.

How much: Like cabbage, the more kale you can eat, the  better. A daily serving is ideal. Eat it as much as you can, as long as you can  find it fresh at your local grocery or farmer’s market. In some areas, it’s  available all year; in others, it only makes an appearance during summer and  fall.

Tips:

  • Kale’s growing season extends nearly year-round; the only time it’s out of  season is summer, when plenty of other leafy greens are abundant.
  • Steam or saute kale on its own, or add it to soups and stews. Cooking helps  tenderize the leaves.
  • Kale is also a great addition when it’s blended in fruit smoothies or  juiced with other vegetables.

12. Dandelion The same pesky weed known for ruining  lawns has a long history of being used as a healing herb in cultures around the  globe. One cup of raw dandelion greens provides 535 percent of the RDA of  vitamin K and 112 percent of the RDA for vitamin A. Dandelion greens are also a  good source of vitamin C, calcium, iron, fiber, and potassium. Among all foods,  it’s one of the richest sources of vitamin A; among all green vegetables, it’s  one of the best sources of beta-carotene.

Dandelion has been used for centuries to treat hepatitis, kidney, and liver  disorders such as kidney stones, jaundice, and cirrhosis. It’s routinely  prescribed as a natural treatment for hepatitis C, anemia, and liver  detoxification (poor liver function has been linked to numerous conditions, from  indigestion and hepatitis to irritability and depression). As a natural  diuretic, dandelion supports the entire digestive system and increases urine  output, helping flush toxins and excess salt from the kidneys. The naturally  occurring potassium in dandelions helps prevent the loss of potassium that can  occur with pharmaceutical diuretics.

Dandelion promotes digestive health by stimulating bile production, resulting  in a gentle laxative effect. Inulin, a naturally occurring soluble fiber in  dandelion, further aids digestion by feeding the healthy probiotic bacteria in  the intestines; it also increases calcium absorption and has a beneficial effect  on blood sugar levels, therefore being useful in treating diabetes. Both the  dandelion leaves and root are used to treat heartburn and indigestion. The  pectin in dandelion relieves constipation and, in combination with vitamin C,  reduces cholesterol. Dandelion is excellent for reducing edema, bloating, and  water retention; it can also help reduce high blood pressure. On top of all  that, dandelion contains multiple antidiarrheal and antibacterial  properties.

In Chinese medicine, dandelion is used in combination with other herbs to  treat hepatitis and upper respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and  pneumonia. The sap from the stem and root is a topical remedy for warts. Imagine  — all this from a lowly weed!

How much: How much dandelion to incorporate into your diet  boils down to two factors: availability and personal preference. Dandelion  greens are considered a specialty item in some areas and therefore can be  difficult to find. They also have a pungent taste, and people tend to love or  hate the flavor. If you can find fresh dandelion greens and you enjoy the taste,  make them a regular part of your diet.

Tips:

  • Use the root in soups or saute it on its own.
  • If the raw leaves are too bitter for you, try them lightly steamed or  sauteed.

 

Natural Remedies for Lowering Blood Pressure

Natural Remedies for Lowering Blood Pressure

  • Shelley Stonebrook

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is an incredibly common condition, and millions worldwide take pharmaceutical drugs to treat it. While you should always consult with your health care practitioner before changing any treatment plans, two natural remedies to consider are garlic (or other alliums) and hibiscus.

Various studies reported in the Indian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics concluded that both onions and garlic in the diet lowered blood cholesterol levels. Studies in Germany and in the United States have produced similar results. Cholesterol builds up in fatty plaques on the artery walls, and so it is believed to be a major factor in the onset of heart disease. Anything that reduces high cholesterol levels helps to keep the heart healthy.

Recent studies show that hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure as effectively as some standard hypertension drugs can. Hibiscus is widely consumed around the world as a ruby-colored, lemony beverage (it’s the main ingredient in Red Zinger tea). Hibiscus is safe and, unlike most blood pressure drugs, rarely causes side effects.

An added bonus about these two remedies? Garlic and hibiscus plants can be grown in much of the United States, so you can actually grow your own blood pressure medicine.