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Boosting the Diet with “Superfoods”

SuperfoodsJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

The superfood claim is often cited and not always accurate, as there is no regulatory definition nor set criterion for determining what is and what is not a superfood. The term is often used to describe a highly nutritious or nutrient dense food that can provide a host of science-backed health benefits beyond basic nutrition. As consumers have become more aware of foods that constitute a healthful diet, superfoods, also known as functional foods, have grown in popularity. The global shift to a more plant-based diet is largely fueled by millennials who are more likely to consider food sources, food safety and the issues of animal welfare, as well as the overall environmental footprint of their dietary choices. Most superfoods are plant-based, however, some fish and dairy also make the list.

While millennials may be driving the plant-based movement, the shift away from animal products and towards a heathier, more sustainable relationship with food appears to be gaining strength among other generations as well. For those who adhere to an already balanced, colorful and varied diet, the addition of foods that have a very high density can provide substantial amounts of nutrients and very few calories, elevating already healthy diets to a more targeted level of wellness. Rich in phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, essential fatty acids and fiber, a superfood’s nutrient composition surpasses the body’s basic nutritional requirements for survival.

As the consumer drive for long-term health continues to focus on eating responsibly and sustainably, many expect the largely plant-based dietary trend to continue to steadily rise. Research shows that a healthy lifestyle, that includes diet, regular exercise and healthy sleep, provides multiple life supportive health benefits, while reducing the risk of certain chronic health conditions. Kaiser Permanente, the largest healthcare organization in the U.S., and the American Institute for Cancer Research both recommend a plant-centric diet to combat heart disease, chronic inflammation, diabetes and other preventable health conditions.

The best advice appears to be to consume a ‘super diet’ that is largely plant-based and contains a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthful animal products, rather than add one or two individual superfoods to a nutrient poor diet. Although superfoods may pack a nutritional punch, they are not a panacea unto themselves, and should be eaten to further enhance a healthy eating pattern, while also paying attention to calorie limits. When incorporated into a healthy well-balanced diet, nutrient dense foods can promote heart health and weight loss, as well as improve energy and reduce the effects of aging. Some foods commonly recognized as superfoods include:

Berries: While acai and goji berries have gained fame as superfoods, widely available and often less expensive blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries also provide a rich cache of disease-fighting phytochemicals, including anti-inflammatory compounds, such as  anthocyanins, procyanadins, and ellagitannins. Numerous studies suggest that eating berries may lower the risk of developing certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and age-related cognitive decline.

Fatty fish: Fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, rainbow trout and mackerel are rich in unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Evidence suggests that omega-3’s help protect against neurodegenerative Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, as well as arthritis, depression and type 2 diabetes.

Quinoa: Quinoa provides high quality, gluten-free protein, including all nine essential amino acids, as well as fiber, B vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, zinc, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and iron. Quinoa provides antioxidants known as flavonoids, believed to fight aging and many chronic diseases. As well, low-glycemic quinoa may improve metabolic health by supporting healthy blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels.

Cruciferous vegetables: Sulfur-rich cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radishes and turnips, are great sources of fiber, as well as synergistic vitamins and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, including indoles, thiocyanates and nitriles.

Whole grains: Whole grains are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as B vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Whole grains, such as steel cut oats, bulgur wheat and brown rice, have been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease and diabetes.

Leafy greens: Nutritious leafy greens, such as kale, spinach and collards, are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that support cardiovascular health and cognitive function. Eating just one half cup of chlorophyll-rich greens daily can help to prevent nutrient deficiencies and serious illness.

Avocados: High in monounsaturated fats and vitamins E and B6, avocados promote skin health, protect tissues from free radical damage and support healthy cholesterol levels, energy production and red blood cell formation.

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality products for nutritional support:

PaleoGreens Powder ...PaleoGreens® Powder by Designs for Health®: This unflavored, unsweetened powdered formula provides a healthy blend of vegetables, fruits and berries. Ingredients are harvested at the peak of potency, then immediately concentrated and dried, to preserve the energetic and nutritional integrity of the natural enzymes and beneficial phytonutrients. Gluten free, Non-GMO, 93% organic ingredients.

Power Greens BerryPower Greens® Berry by NuMedica®: This easy mixing, great tasting, energizing phytonutrient powdered formula provides certified organic whole food plant extracts, natural vitamins, ionic trace minerals, plant enzymes, fiber, antioxidants and probiotics in support of maximum energy metabolism, fat burning, digestion, detoxification, immunity, repair, recovery, revitalization and longevity. Natural flavors. Free of milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Vegetarian formulation. Contains soy.

Green SuperFood...Green SuperFood® Berry by Amazing Grass®: This powerful blend provides nutritious greens, phytonutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, cereal grasses, digestive enzymes, fiber and probiotics. In support of overall wellness, Green SuperFood® Berry contains many organic ingredients, including acai and goji berries. Natural organic flavors. Kosher, Non-GMO vegan formulation.

NewGreens BerryNewGreens™ Berry by Iagen Naturals: Perfect for those on-the-go or those with insufficient daily intake of fruits and vegetables, this superfood formula provides an antioxidant-rich divine berry blend, an energizing herbal blend, a power veggie blend, a gentle fiber blend and a healing enzyme blend in support of daily nutrition. Natural berry flavors. Gluten, soy, sugar, dairy and artificial ingredient free, vegan formulation.

Field of GreensField of Greens® by Vibrant Health®: This purely green food energizing formula provides domestically-sourced, nutrient-rich, raw, freeze dried, certified organic, kosher cereal grasses, leafy greens and botanicals in support of good nutrition and overall wellness. Free of gluten, dairy and soy. Non-GMO, kosher, vegan formulation.

References:
Get Smart About Superfoods Infographic. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/get-smart-about-superfoods-infographic
Millennials Are Driving The Worldwide Shift Away From Meat. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelpellmanrowland/2018/03/23/millennials-move-away-from-meat/#12e30002a4a4
10 superfoods to boost a healthy diet. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/10-superfoods-to-boost-a-healthy-diet-2018082914463
The Health Benefits of Superfoods. https://integrisok.com/resources/on-your-health/2019/march/the-health-benefits-of-superfoods

Is Fruit Important to a Healthy Diet?

FruitDietJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

As no single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients necessary to support health, daily consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables is universally promoted to be part of a healthy diet. Often lumped together as a food group, fruits and vegetables provide fiber and a wide array of nourishing health promoting compounds vital for health maintenance and overall healthy function. On their own, fruits are considered to be particularly nutrient dense foods. High in soluble fiber and low in calories and sodium, fruits also provide simple sugars, vitamins and minerals, along with beneficial plant sterols, polyphenols, flavonoids and other antioxidants. These compounds help to boost immune defense, as well as safeguard cellular health by protecting against oxidative stress.

Consuming a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables helps to ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients and helps prevent deficiencies. Those who regularly include fruit as part of a healthy eating plan generally have a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes, age-related macular degeneration and certain cancers. The USDA recommends consuming at least two cups or two pieces of fruit daily. The healthiest choices are fresh or frozen fruits without added sweeteners or sauces. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fruits provide fiber that can assist weight management and digestive health, as well as support healthy cholesterol levels. To receive the benefits of diverse phytochemicals, choose from a wide variety of colorful fruits.

Orange: Beta-carotenes found in orange fruits are converted by the body into vitamin A, a nutrient particularly important for healthy vision, as well as immune, skin and bone health. Oranges, for example, contain flavonoids such as hesperidin, which supports healthy cholesterol and arterial function. Orange fruits contain antioxidants and vitamin C, which promote immune and cellular health, as well as D-limonene, a compound that may help prevent certain cancers including lung, breast and skin cancers.

Red: Particularly nutritious red fruits contain components such as lycopene, ellagic acid, hesperidin, quercetin, fiber and vitamins A and C. Benefits of consuming red fruits like cherries, tomatoes, apples, and berries include support for proper blood pressure and cholesterol levels, gastrointestinal health and collagen formation in arthritic joints. Red fruits also provide protection against heart disease, oxidative stress and inflammatory conditions.

Yellow: Those looking to support healthy bones, skin, and teeth, as well as heart, digestive and immune health, should look to packing their diet with yellow fruits. These sunny colored fruits are teeming with carotenoids, antioxidants and vitamin C. Heart healthy yellow fruits support heathy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as proper pH balance.

Blue/Purple: Richly hued blue and purple fruits provide anthocyanins that support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, ramp up free radical defenses and soothe inflammation. Fruits such as blueberries, plums, grapes and elderberries act as anti-carcinogens to limit the activity of cancer cells, while boosting immune activity and improving calcium and mineral absorption.

Green: Green fruits, such as apples and melons, support retinal health and vision, fight harmful free radicals, boost immune activity, normalize digestion, and help lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.

White: White fruits such as pears, bananas and stone fruits provide beta-glucans and lignans, as well as a chemical known as EGCG, that has been shown to reduce colon and breast cancer risk. Beta-glucans boost immune health and encourage the formation of T cells, lymphocytes that defend the body against illness and harmful infection-causing invaders.

As a result of the disease-supportive typical American diet filled with too many processed foods, sugars, refined grains and unhealthy fats, the need for fruit consumption has increased. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to incorporate fruit into the diet. Frozen fruits are an excellent alternative when certain fruits are unavailable or out of season. Healthy powdered fruits are convenient for smoothies or when traveling. Choose a variety of brightly colored fresh fruits when in season. Fresh fruits may also be frozen or preserved at home to be enjoyed at a later date.

Seasonal fruits purchased locally, when possible, are rich sources of beta-carotenes, polyphenols and anthocyanidins. To get the full fiber benefit, consume the entire fruit as well as the peel and membrane. To enjoy the true flavor and receive the maximum nutritional benefits, make whole fresh or frozen fruit a regular part of your daily diet. Many think of fruits as nature’s gift to mankind. Packed with life-enhancing and health supportive components, fruits can be enjoyed not only for nutrition but for the sheer joy of their natural sweetness and deliciousness!

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality health-supportive nutrients:

Power Greens BerryPower Greens® Berry by NuMedica: This easy mixing, energizing phytonutrient powdered formula offers certified organic, whole food plant extracts in support of powerful antioxidant protection and healthy immune function. Formula includes individual blends of fiber, digestive ingredients, antioxidants and vegetables as well as a fruit blend containing natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients. Wheat, dairy, egg, shellfish, tree nut, peanut and artificial ingredient free, vegetarian formulation. Also available in Mint, Expresso and Chocolate flavors.

Ultra Greens pHUltra Greens pH by Nutra BioGenesis®: This powdered superfood greens formula provides phytonutrients, antioxidants and broad spectrum supportive enzymes for healthy digestion, circulation, pH balance and optimal nutritional status. Gluten free.

Organic Greens Reds...Organic Greens and Reds by Douglas Laboratories®: This concentrated, all natural phytonutrient powdered blend is formulated with organic grasses, fruits, vegetables and botanicals to provide nutritional support for digestive and overall health. Soy free, vegan formulation.

PaleoRedsPaleoReds® by Designs for Health®: This formula provides all the nutritional goodness of high quality, antioxidant-rich red/purple fruits, vegetables, phytonutrients and digestive enzymes in support of  healthy aging and common chronic disease risk reduction. Contains more than 70 percent certified organic ingredients. Natural strawberry flavored.

References:
Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases. https://www.who.int/elena/titles/fruit_vegetables_ncds/en/
Why 5 A Day? https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/why-5-a-day/
Why is it important to eat fruit? https://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruits-nutrients-health
Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649719/
Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5084020/
Using Color as a Guide to a Better Diet: 9 Health Benefits of Red Fruits and Vegetables. https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2011/03/22/using-color-as-a-guide-to-a-better-diet-9-health-benefits-of-red-fruits-and-vegetables/
Color Chart of Healthy Fruits and Vegetables. https://www.disabled-world.com/fitness/nutrition/fruits-veggies/colored.php