BBC Science Focus – The Scientific Guide to a Healthier You 2019
The term ‘superfood’ is not used by most scientists because the implication is that one can expect quick and high-end health benefits.
By all means, sprinkle some chia seeds on your oatmeal. You’ll get a nutritional boost, but you won’t instantly become an Olympian athlete.
What matters is the habitual eating pattern over years
So, rather than spend a fortune and hero-worship particular superfoods, think of your diet as being more like the Avengers – a diverse assortment of colourful characters with different powers that have to work together to achieve the best possible outcome. And the largest part of it should be green.
1-LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE
Substances called flavanols in cocoa work like blood pressure-lowering drugs called ACE inhibitors. Flavanols stimulate the body to produce nitrous oxide in the blood, which helps open up blood vessels. Researchers found regularly eating cocoa lowered blood pressure.
2-PREVENTS LIVER DAMAGE
The beneficial effects of chocolate on blood pressure come from the high flavanol content, and the nitrous oxide that dilates blood vessels. High blood pressure in the veins of the liver is thought to be linked with liver damage and chronic liver disease.
3-BOOSTS ‘GOOD CHOLESTEROL’
Cocoa contains polyphenols. Eating chocolate with high polyphenol levels (found in dark chocolate) could improve ‘good’ cholesterol levels. Cocoa consists mainly of stearic acid and oleic acid. Stearic acid is a saturated fat, but doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels. Oleic acid doesn’t raise it [either] and may even reduce it.
4-KEEPS YOUR HEART HEALTHY
All the effects of chocolate on the circulatory system (lowering blood pressure, opening up the blood vessels and reducing inflammation) can help keep our hearts healthy and ward off heart disease and strokes.
5-MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
The improvement in mood that people can get from eating chocolate comes from the release of serotonin and endorphins – the feel-good chemicals – in the brain.
6-BOOSTS BRAIN POWER
Better cognitive performance
7-RENOVATES BLOOD VESSELS
70g of dark chocolate a day had healthier blood vessels as a result. The dark chocolate appeared to help make arteries more flexible and reduce the stickiness of white blood cells, two factors that would help reduce the risk of them getting clogged up.
8-PROTECTS YOUR SKIN
Some compounds in cocoa can actually help protect your skin from the Sun.
The amount of coffee you can safely drink without side effects, such as a temporary rise in blood pressure or insomnia, may be down to your genes, and in particular how much of the liver enzyme CYP1A2 you have. CYP1A2 helps determine the speed at which caffeine is cleared from your body. This could explain why you can drink coffee in the evening with no problems, while one cup in the afternoon has your mate twitching. VERDICT: Two to five cups of coffee a day are fine, but side effects may be dictated by your genes.
A meta-analysis of 17 studies published in the BMJ in 2013 concluded that “higher consumption of eggs is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke”. Whether scrambled, boiled or poached, eggs are a superb source of protein, are rich in vitamins and minerals and make a great start to the day. As long as you’re not frying them or smothering them in fat, eggs are an excellent choice for breakfast.
Red meat looks darker thanks to higher levels of haemoglobin and myoglobin, which are the iron- and oxygen-binding proteins you find in blood and muscle. Has been linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer. Red meat is an excellent source of micronutrients. A low – but not a zero – consumption of meat might be beneficial for health. This is understandable as meat is an important source of nutrients, such as protein, iron, zinc and several B-vitamins, as well as vitamin A and essential fatty acids. The EPIC study found that eating processed meat, like sausages, bacon and ham, did have a negative effect on health, over 40g a day (fewer than two slices of bacon) and deaths from heart disease and cancer began to climb.
Raw milk comes from grass-fed cows and is full of nutrients, including beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus. This ‘good’ bacteria produces vitamin K2, improves absorption of nutrients and normalises gut function. Raw milk contains high levels of vitamins, enzymes and calcium. But it can also contain bacteria that cause food poisoning and can be particularly harmful to children, people who are unwell and pregnant women. Pasteurisation is a process where heat is applied to milk to destroy harmful PASTEURISED MILK bacteria. Unfortunately, it kills the beneficial ones too. Still, according to a 2015 analysis by Johns Hopkins University, consumers are 100 times more likely to get food-borne illnesses from raw milk than pasteurised.
If you can stretch to seven portions of fruit and vegetables you’re doing yourself some real favours. Risk of disease development over the course of the study reduced by 42 per cent for seven or more portions of fruit and veg. The government’s current advice sticks at five daily portions. Start the fruit habit early, but eat it in its natural form rather than squished into juices and smoothies.
Spicy food may curb salt cravings, as spice increases activity in brain regions activated by salt, probably making people more sensitive to salt.
Eating fried potatoes twice a week increases the risk of death.
Always eating food in an 8-to-11-hour window in the day prevents so-called ‘METABOLIC JET LAG’ caused by eating late at night.
The NHS recommends that adults should consume max 6g of salt a day. A whopping 75 per cent of salt we eat comes from foods like bread, baked beans and biscuits.
Running has been shown to release endorphins and aid with sleep. Running – no matter how fast, far or often – is linked to a significantly lower risk of earlier death, according to new research. src
Exercise can trigger a series of chemical reactions that influence the your hormonal response and brain activity. Back in the 1990s, researchers began to identify links between exercise and feelings of euphoria that stem from the release of hormones. “The ‘runner’s high’ as we now know it stems from the creation in the body of endorphins, designed to ease pain in the body.”. These endorphins are opioid neuropeptides – chemicals that numb pain, similar to opioids such as morphine or codeine. As a result, exercise and the release of endorphin substances may contribute to pain relief and relaxation.
Walk a minimum of 150 minutes a week to lower your risk of heart disease. Hypertension, or high blood pressure issues, can be combated through exercise. Aerobic activity, even at moderate levels through regular walking, has been shown to trigger vascular adaptations, developing the capillaries, easing constrictions in peripheral circulation, and reducing pressure. Exercise stimulates the production of mood-lifting serotonin. Neuroscience shows raised levels of tryptophan in athletes, especially in endurance runners (tryptophan raises levels of the mood-elevating neurotransmitter known as serotonin).
Research from the US and Nigeria shows that for men with erectile dysfunction, aerobic exercise can provide a natural alternative to the little blue pills.
Exercise may reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as 25 per cent.
They found that both regular aerobic exercise and some forms of resistance training improved hippocampus-related memory and slowed down cognitive decline.
Resistance training helps in neurone (brain cell) growth and longevity.
Consume high levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that act as fuel for microbes. Examples are nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, brassicas, coffee and tea – especially green tea.
Women need around 20 minutes extra sleep at night compared to men.
Hot bath increases your metabolic rate slightly. As your core temperature rises, your heart has to pump harder to send warm blood to your skin in an attempt to stay cool, and your body also uses energy manufacturing special ‘heat-shock’ proteins that try to reduce damage to your cells from the higher temperatures.
The goji berry boasts (origin Himalayas) more vitamin C than oranges, more beta carotene than carrots and more iron than spinach, daily serving is only 10 to 30 grams. https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/goji-berry1.htm
Chia is variety of mint. It’s a complete protein with all the amino acids required to build muscle, plus more omega-3 than salmon and more fibre than flaxseed, as well as being rich in antioxidants and minerals.
Quinoa (origin Chile)
Avocados contain carbs, vitamins, minerals, fats and the key 22 amino acids needed to build proteins.