We all know we're supposed to eat a balanced diet. Most likely you can remember your mother telling you "you have to eat your vegetables" and "you are what you eat". Hopefully at some point in our lives those words of wisdom take hold.
Did you know that some healthy foods are considered more superior than others? Superfoods, usually extremely high in vitamins, antioxidants, or other beneficial properties, can help promote all over good health. Some examples of superfoods are nuts, seeds, dried fruits, dark green vegetables like leafy greens and brussel sprouts, fatty fish (like salmon and trout), citrus, and vegetables or fruits with bright, dark intense colors and legumes such as lentils.
Why am I talking about this you may ask? Last week I was invited to visit City of Hope Hospital and Research Center in Duarte, CA (not far from Los Angeles), one of the only not for profit institutions in the US to offer comprehensive support and care for patients and families with cancer. It was an incredible opportunity and I jumped at it, joining fellow food bloggers Elise Bauer (Simply Recipes), Jaden Hair (SteamyKitchen), Cheryl Lee (BlackGirlChefWhites), Carrie Forrest (CarrieonVegan) and Jeanette Chen (JeanettesHealthyLiving) along with BlogHer president Lisa Stone. I feel like I am constantly reading about and hearing what foods are good for me and my family, but that afternoon I got to hear first hand from some of the country's top doctors and researchers about their thoughtful research and practices we all can implement into our diets in order to prevent diabetes and cancer. We were lavished with incredible information throughout the day about the correlation between the foods we eat and certain diseases, prevention, and studies supporting the facts.
We spent hours being educated by David Horne, Ph. D (Interim Director of Beckman Research Institute), James V. Lacey (Associate Professor Division of Cancer Etiology), Jr., Ph.D, Shiuan Chen (Professor and Chair, Department of Cancer Biology), PH.D, John H. Yim (Associate Professor, breast and endocrine surgery), and touring the hospital and tranquil facility where patients receive support in a variety of ways such as yoga, nutritional classes, therapy, support groups and more.
Below are a some of the recommendations from the day that really resonated with me. I feel like my family already tries to adhere to most of them, but there is always room for improvement_
* Eat a rainbow! That means regularly consuming an array of different color fruits and vegetables. Experts recommend eating five or more servings a day, and the more variety the better.
* Eat seafood in place of meat two times a week. Fatty fish like salmon and trout are high in beneficial omega 3 fatty acids.
* Even a few hours of exercise a week can lower your risk of cancer.
* Less than 10 minutes of exercise per day can extend your life by 2 years.
For people with diabetes or a family history certain diseases_
* Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and proteins
* Avoid refined sugars
* Be mindful of your consumption of carbohydrates (including corn, beans and grains)
* Don't drink your calories
* Adding cinnamon into your diet is showing promising results
For cancer patients_
* Some superfoods contain compounds that suppress aromatase, needed by 70% of breast cancers to grow.
* Research is showing that grape seed extract and mushrooms (any variety) have an ability to block aromotase
* There is promising cancer fighting potential in pomegranate, blueberries and cinnamon
At the end of our day, we all sat down for a late lunch. Having had my share of hospital food, I didn't have high hopes for our meal, but when we were all presented with superfood salads (inspired by much of what we learned during the day about the correlation between superfoods reducing the risks of disease and improving over all physical health) with our choice of grilled chicken, salmon or a gluten-free/vegan quinoa cake, I was thrilled. The food was bright and featured multiple textures from the vegetables, nuts, seeds and greens. After eating that nutrient packed midday meal I felt as good as I had in a long time. Having been so inspired by those amazing doctors and researchers I could have totally been imagining the effects of lunch, but I actually felt like I left with a little spring in my step and believed my body was moving and working at it's peak. I guess that's really why they're called superfoods!
Look at all those vibrant colors!
Holding up our circles about what give us hope.
Superfood Salad (serves 4)
- 2 cups grated brussels sprouts
- 2 cups shredded kale
- 1/4 cup Almonds
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup Dried Cranberries
- 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1 Bell Pepper, chopped
- 2 small cucumbers, chopped
- 2 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed
- 4 salmon filets, broiled
1. Combine all ingredients and divide between four salad bowls.
2. Top with your favorite dressing, if desired.