Last week we covered the importance of detoxing the body from contaminants in our food, water and air; how to prep your kitchen for a 10-day detox; and what foods you need to stay away from during a detox.
Once you’ve started eliminating the toxins from your body, the next step is to make sure your diet consists of organic, nutrient-rich, and information-dense superfoods, which confer special health benefits. A diet rich in superfoods helps eliminate your risk for Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases of civilization.
Scientists have found that plants are master regulators of gene expression in humans. (Gene expression refers to the process by which DNA makes the proteins that make up the body.) MicroRNAs—single strands of plant genetic material—actually circulate through our bloodstream, switching genes on and off. These microscopic strands regulate our cholesterol levels and direct the destruction of invading viruses and bacteria. MiRNAs are the ultimate social networkers, sending messages quickly to individual genes. They have the power to switch on the genes that create health and to switch off the genes that create cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many of the other ailments of civilization
In over 30 years of clinical research at the University of California Medical Center, researchers found that a primarily plant-based diet will activate more than 500 disease-preventing genes and deactivate more than 200 disease-causing genes.
Which foods are considered superfoods?
Some plants are considered superfoods because of their high phytonutrient content and the high quality of the information they provide to your DNA. Phyto comes from the Greek for plant; phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are the naturally occurring compounds in plants that protect them from bad bacteria, fungi, pests, and other invaders, and account for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other healing properties. Phytonutrients are the reason the tribes I met along the Amazon did not suffer from the four greatest maladies of modern life: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
As a rule, the more colorful a fruit or vegetable is, the richer it is in phytonutrients and the greater its power as a superfood. Be aware that much of the produce found in supermarkets is relatively deficient in phytonutrients compared to produce sold at farm stands and farmers’ markets or picked from your kitchen garden. Supporting local farmers not only ensures that our produce will be fresh but also reduces the carbon footprint of transporting foods long distances.
If good, fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t available locally, the best alternative is frozen organic produce: frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the height of freshness and immediately flash-frozen. Canned fruits and vegetables should be avoided at all costs: processed foods contain all sorts of chemicals and other unhealthy additives, and much of the nutritional value has been lost. Whenever the opportunity to gather wild foods presents itself, go for it. Nothing tastes quite like a salad of wild dandelion greens!
Cruciferous vegetables are among the healthiest of the superfoods. High in fiber and antioxidants as well as phytonutrients, cruciferous vegetables activate the Nrf2 detox system inside cells and turn on the longevity genes. Nrf2 is a powerful protein and transcription factor able to protect every organ in the body and every kind of tissue against diseases like cancer, heart disease, dementia, lung injury, and autoimmune disease. Cruciferous vegetables include bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, celery, kale, and mustard greens. You can steam, bake, roast, grill, chop up and eat raw, or add to a (non-creamy) soup or casserole.
Other phytonutrient-rich vegetables and herbs to add to your diet are arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce (for maximum nutrition, choose darker, loose-leafed varieties), parsley, cilantro, and basil. Kelp is high in calcium and an excellent source of vitamins C and K, riboflavin, and folic acid (be warned, it’s also high in sodium).
Turmeric is a spice that is loaded with health benefits. It is important for detoxification and brain repair, and is an extremely powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, and antimicrobial. (In India, where turmeric is a staple of the diet, the rate of Alzheimer’s disease is less than a quarter of what it is in the U.S.) Its active ingredient, curcumin, is used for cancer prevention, reduction of free radicals, and support for the heart, liver, and gastrointestinal system. Curcumin also helps lower cholesterol and is known to treat infections and reduce harmful flora in the gut and on the skin. Curcumin activates the genes that turn on BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and glutathione, powerful antioxidants produced by the brain. It also activates the SIRT1 gene, the so-called longevity gene. The best form of curcumin is in liposomal (fat based) form, as nanoparticles.
Nuts and seeds are xcellent sources of healthy, plant-based fats. Oils from coconuts, walnuts, almonds, and flaxseeds are, like extra virgin olive oil, concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids and confer a long list of health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to lifting depression.
Walnuts are phytonutrient superstars; almonds are high in fiber; Brazil nuts contain selenium, a cancer fighter; cashews are rich in iron, zinc, and magnesium, a brain booster. Pecans help prevent plaque from forming on the arteries; Macadamia nuts contain the most monounsaturated (good) fat of any nut, helping lower cholesterol. Hemp seeds, with ten essential amino acids, are an excellent protein source, and they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in an ideal ratio. Sesame seeds are high in calcium and other minerals. Sunflower seeds promote healthy digestion. Pumpkin seeds contain cholesterol-lowering lignans and aid digestion by regulating the passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine.
Avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats including oleic acid, which lowers the risk of breast cancer and increases nutrient absorption in the gut. They are a good source of lutein, a carotenoid that prevents macular degeneration, and of folic acid, a B vitamin that prevents heart disease and strokes. High in fiber with a low glycemic index, avocados help regulate blood sugar. Guacamole, made with avocados, tomatoes, parsley, and a little lime, salt, and onion, makes a phytonutrient-rich dip. Just don’t grab a bag of tortilla chips for dipping: cut up some raw vegetables instead.
Blueberries are phytonutrient rock stars, containing pterostilbene, which lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and protects against cancer and dementia. If you can find the wild variety, grab them; their nutrient value is even higher.
Fish—if it’s not a part of your diet, it should be—even if all that’s available to you is the canned variety. Packed with the omega-3 essential fatty acid DHA, fish is superior brain food. Avoid farmed fish, which are often pumped full of antibiotics and supplements to enhance color, and fed soybeans and grain that they would never eat in the wild. The wild varieties—especially cold-water fish like Alaskan wild salmon, sardines, and herring—are lower in toxins. But bear in mind that the larger the fish, the more likely it is to be contaminated with mercury, so avoid tuna and swordfish.
We invite you to participate in our 10-Day Detox program and experience the potent supplements, superfoods and neuro-nutrients that detox the body and bring us to a higher level of neural networks where we can chart the course of our own destiny. Contact Rayvin Dennis at [email protected] to register!