SOCKO! BAM! Superpowers from mild-mannered edibles, such as spinach, beans, barley and blueberries, protect your health in ways that’ll knock your socks off, according to a recent stack of scientific research.
If you’re like most Americans, you need more of these high-powered goodies. Three out of four Americans don’t hit government-backed recommendations for consuming 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of veggies daily (we think you should aim for 9 servings of fruits and veggies daily) and fall short on whole grains. Get inspired to up your intake with this latest news:
Fruit, veggies and beans
Breathe easy. University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers recently checked on the diets and lung health of 1,921 adults and found that 68 percent of those who ate 17.5 grams of fiber or more every day from fruit, vegetables and beans had normal lung function, compared with just 50 percent of those who got 10 grams of fiber or less! Superpower: Fruits, veggies and beans are loaded with fiber, which pampers lung tissue by damping down inflammation. Easy eats: You’ll get 17.5 grams total of fiber from a large apple (4.5 grams), a half-cup of black or white beans (8-9 grams), a half-cup of steamed carrots (3.4 grams) and a handful of berries.
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Better blood sugar and appetite control. In a recent Swedish study of 20 middle-age people, eating barley increased insulin sensitivity by 25 percent and raised levels of hunger-stopping hormones called glucagon-like peptides by 13 to 56 percent. Superpower: It contains soluble fibers, including cholesterol-lowering beta glucans, that stimulate the release of those appetite-controlling hormones and feed gut bacteria called Prevotella copri, which help keep blood sugar low and steady. Easy eats: Even quick-cooking barley is bursting with fiber (3 grams per one-half cup of cooked barley); it’s ready to eat in 10-12 minutes.
Blueberries, pears and peppers
Stay slim. In a new Harvard study that looked at the eating habits and weight of 124,086 people over 24 years, those who ate more fruits and veggies rich in plant compounds called flavonoids were less likely to gain weight than those who passed over these goodies. Superpower: Produce packed with flavonoids called flavonols, anthocyanins and flavones, can help control appetite and send more energy from the food you eat to your muscles to be burned, rather than to fat cells for storage. Eating just a few milligrams of anthocyanins (the amount in a couple of blueberries) can make a difference. The more you eat of these slimming foods, the bigger the benefits, according to the researchers. Easy eats: Get flavonols from strawberries, blueberries, onions, apples, pears, peppers, green and black tea and cacao (the key ingredient in real dark chocolate).
Healthy blood pressure. A recent study from Boston University School of Medicine that tracked tens of thousands of women and men for 18 to 30 years revealed that sugar-free low-fat or fat-free yogurt could cut your risk for high blood pressure by 20 percent and by up to 31 percent if you also eat plenty of produce and whole grains. Superpower: Yogurt’s a great source of pressure-soothing calcium, potassium and magnesium, though experts suspect it may harbor as-yet-undiscovered nutrients, because it’s better at preventing high blood pressure than milk or cheese. Easy eats: Aim for five servings of plain yogurt a week; dress it up with fresh fruit or frozen berries.
More good gut bugs. Spinach and kale, lettuce and collards — they’re all great at feeding good-for-you intestinal bacteria that keep your digestive system healthy and protect you by helping shut out bad bacteria. Superpower: Leafy greens are packed with an unusual sugar called sulfoquinovose that good gut bacteria love because it contains sulfur they use to build proteins. Easy eats: Start dinner tonight with a spinach salad; toss greens into soups, stir-fries, pasta sauces. Aim for at least one serving of leafy greens every day.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.