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Top 8 Foods to Eat Every Week

September 19, 2018

 

This blog is the first of a three-part series on meal planning. For anyone looking to create more organization and improved quality of their weekly meals, it's important to have a solid place to start from. Have a colorful plant-based list of foods that all of the meals each week will be based around. The list below will give you enough color, variety, and flexibility to choose from seasonally. These staple ingredients are part of a Mediterranean diet, the most well researched diet, showing benefits for many of the chronic diseases the Western world faces today, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and mental illness.  Keep reading to see examples of how to apply the science into a weekly meal plan.

 

KEY INGREDIENTS

 

Berries

As it turns out, the vibrant colors projected by berries don’t simply exist to add a nice blue, purple or red hue to our plates. The attention-grabbing color of fresh berries can be attributed to their plant pigments, termed anthocyanins, which are also known for their incredible cancer-fighting and heart-protective capabilities. Blueberries, specifically, are known as one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits readily available in our country. In fact, these pigments are so powerful, scientists are currently researching how we can use them in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

 

Sweet Potatoes & Other Orange Foods

If you’ve ever heard the term, “eat the rainbow”, it’s because there is plenty of science proving the wide range of benefits that each color can provide. Carotenes, the yellow-orange pigments giving foods such as sweet potatoes and carrots their color, have anti-inflammatory capabilities. These orange foods are so powerful that they can actually stop pro-inflammatory genes from expressing themselves! By making these foods a regular part of our diet, we are taking simple steps toward promoting our overall health and preventing diseases of inflammatory causes.

 

Broccoli & Other Cruciferous Vegetables

A staple in any healthy household, these vegetables can be easily incorporated into meals. They are known for their ability to prevent an array of different cancers and reduce markers of inflammation. The compounds in this class of veggies have even been shown to effectively detoxify the body from environmental pollutants, making them increasingly important. 

 

Alliums

Garlic, onions, and other alliums:  the perfect accompaniment to the flavors of any dish. Beyond their ability to provide pungent flavor, they boast extensive health benefits, including anticancer, heart protective anti-inflammation, antimicrobial, and neuroprotective. In other words, these foods are working overtime to ensure your body fights off unwanted germs and disease.

 

Nuts & Seeds

An easy, healthy, and filling snack that even serves as a way to protect our brain health – the healthy fats and other compounds found in nuts have a positive effect on our mood and keep our brains healthy as we age. Eating both nuts and seeds can also have a heart protective effect and reduce inflammation.

 

Whole Grains (Wild Rice, Quinoa, Amaranth, Millet)

Whole grains are no secret to the health community – boasting characteristics such as decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, and prevention of chronic diseases including diabetes – characteristics that cannot be said for their refined-grain counterparts. Quinoa has even displayed antioxidant capabilities!

 

Legumes (Beans & Lentils)

These fiber-filled, plant-based protein sources can transform into creative and easy meals, all while protecting us from a number of chronic ailments, including heart disease and diabetes. Legumes help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, and prevent high blood pressure, giving them a heart-protective effect on the body.

 

Herbs & Spices

Herbs and spices have long been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practices for their powerful effects on human health, much of which is attributed to their phytochemical and antioxidant properties. This allows herbs and spices to naturally defend the body from oxidative stress and inflammatory responses. Simply adding herbs and spices to meals, provides another means of preventing disease and maintaining overall wellness.

 

PUTTING THE SCIENCE TO THE PLATE

Meal ideas for these top 8:

 

Breakfast 

  • Berry smoothie with greens, cinnamon, chia, hemp, and flax seeds

  • Individual egg cups with greens, onions, thyme, and roasted sweet potatoes

Lunch

  • Arugula salad with chickpeas, fennel, beets, avocado and a citrus dressing

  • French lentil soup with spinach

Dinner

  • Black bean bowl with brown basmati rice, avocado, and cabbage slaw

  • Pan seared lemon chicken with sauteed garlicky greens, and roasted squash

 

Snacks

  • Yogurt with homemade granola and berries

  • Hummus with vegetable sticks 

 

References:

Lin, B., Gong, C., Song, H., & Cui, Y. (2017). Effects of anthocyanins on the prevention and treatment of cancer. British Journal of Pharmacology, 174(11), 1226–1243. http://doi.org/10.1111/bph.13627

 

Huang, W., Zhang, H., Liu, W., & Li, C. (2012). Survey of antioxidant capacity and phenolic composition of blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry in Nanjing . Journal of Zhejiang University. Science. B, 13(2), 94–102. http://doi.org/10.1631/jzus.B1100137

 

Wang, L.-S., & Stoner, G. D. (2008). Anthocyanins and their role in cancer prevention. Cancer Letters, 269(2), 281–290. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.canlet.2008.05.020

 

Egner, P. A., Chen, J.-G., Zarth, A. T., Ng, D. K., Wang, J.-B., Kensler, K. H., … Kensler, T. W. (2014). Rapid and Sustainable Detoxication of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial in China. Cancer Prevention Research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 7(8), 813–823. http://doi.org/10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0103

 

Higdon, J. V., Delage, B., Williams, D. E., & Dashwood, R. H. (2007). Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiologic Evidence and Mechanistic Basis. Pharmacological Research : The Official Journal of the Italian Pharmacological Society, 55(3), 224–236. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.009

 

Jiang, Y., Wu, S.-H., Shu, X.-O., Xiang, Y.-B., Ji, B.-T., Milne, G. L., … Yang, G. (2014). Cruciferous Vegetable Intake Is Inversely Correlated with Circulating Levels of Proinflammatory Markers in Women. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(5), 700–8.e2. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.12.019

 

Lin, T., Zirpoli, G. R., McCann, S. E., Moysich, K. B., Ambrosone, C. B., & Tang, L. (2017). Trends in Cruciferous Vegetable Consumption and Associations with Breast Cancer Risk: A Case-Control Study. Current Developments in Nutrition, 1(8), e000448. http://doi.org/10.3945/cdn.117.000448

 

Paur I, Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, et al. Antioxidants in Herbs and Spices: Roles in Oxidative Stress and Redox Signaling. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 2. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92763/

 

Bai, S.K., Lee, S.J., Na, H.J., Ha, K.S., Han, J.A., Lee, H., Kwon, Y.G., Chung, C.K., Kim, Y.M. (2005). Beta-Carotene inhibits inflammatory gene expression in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated macrophages by suppressing redox-based NF-kappaB activation. Experimental & Molecular Medicine. 37(4): 323-334.

 

Hu, P., Reuben, D.B., Crimmins, E.M., Harris, T.B., Huang, M.H., Seeman, T.E. (2004). The effects of serum beta-carotene concentration and burden of inflammation on all-cause mortaility risk in high-functioning older persons: MacArthur studies of successful aging. Journal of Gerontology. 59(8), 849-854.

 

Karlson, M., Ellmore, G., McKeown, N. (2016). Seeds—Health Benefits, Barriers to Incorporation, and Strategies for Practitioners in Supporting Consumption Among Consumers. Nutrition Today. 51(1): 50-59.

 

O’BRIEN, J., OKEREKE, O., DEVORE, E., ROSNER, B., BRETELER, M., & GRODSTEIN, F. (2014). LONG-TERM INTAKE OF NUTS IN RELATION TO COGNITIVE FUNCTION IN OLDER WOMEN. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 18(5), 496–502. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-014-0014-6

 

Zeng, Y., Li, Y., Yang, J., Pu, X., Du, J., Yang, X., … Yang, S. (2017). Therapeutic Role of Functional Components in Alliums for Preventive Chronic Disease in Human Being. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 9402849. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/9402849

 

Aune, D, et al. “Whole Grain Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Cause and Cause Specific Mortality: Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies.” Bmj, 2016, p. i2716., doi:10.1136/bmj.i2716.

 

Park, J. H., Lee, Y. J., Kim, Y. H., & Yoon, K. S. (2017). Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) Seeds Cultivated in Korea. Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, 22(3), 195–202. http://doi.org/10.3746/pnf.2017.22.3.195

 

Polak, R., Phillips, E. M., & Campbell, A. (2015). Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clinical Diabetes : A Publication of the American Diabetes Association, 33(4), 198–205. http://doi.org/10.2337/diaclin.33.4.198

 

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