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Food Pharmacy - A Hype-Free Look at Seven Healthy Foods
Some foods seem to have it all. They’re nutritious, medicinally potent and great tasting. Magazines and newspapers sing their praises and urge us to eat our fill. But no food is perfect, and even those with a host of medicinal properties can have their shortcomings. Since none of these super foods come with disclaimers, here’s the flip side of seven highly touted medicinal foods. Garlic In addition to warding off vampires, one to three cloves of garlic daily can help lower cholesterol and protect against cancers of the stomach, prostate and colon. Garlic’s antibacterial and antifungal properties also boost the immune system. But before you start popping cloves, realize that they’ve got to be crushed to make their benefits available. The key healthful ingredient, allicin, only forms when exposed to air. Similarly, when you cook with garlic, let the crushed or chopped cloves stand for 10 minutes first. And if you’d rather take a garlic supplement, make sure it contains allicin.
Not everyone’s gonzo about garlic. Ayurveda, the traditional Indian healing system, cautions that garlic heats the body, so it could aggravate problems with digestion, hot flashes, excessive body heat or tendencies to be impatient or angry. And although garlic thins the blood, which can help lower blood pressure, it also increases the risk of bleeding if you’re having surgery or are taking blood thinners, including aspirin.
Leafy Greens When measured on the good-for-you scale, kale, collards, mustard greens and spinach reign supreme in the vegetable world. High in calcium, antioxidants and the phytonutrient lutein, leafy greens may help prevent cancers of the breast, colon and prostate. And a recent study shows that lutein may even help reverse macular degeneration. Of the four, kale contains the most antioxidants and has high levels of easily absorbed calcium.
That’s all good, but spinach poses a potentially painful problem. Though rich in potassium, folic acid and carotenoids, its green leaves contain high levels of oxalate, which can contribute to kidney stones. If you’re prone to calcium oxalate stones (the most common), limit your spinach intake.
Also, long journeys from field to table and warm temperatures can destroy up to half of these greens’ phytonutrients. So buy local-grown greens whenever you can, and eat them soon thereafter.
Salmon The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings weekly of cold water, fatty fish such as salmon for a good reason. High in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon may lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. However, not all salmon warrants unqualified praise. Ninety percent of the salmon eaten in the United States is farmed rather than wild, and it contains higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a probable carcinogen. Farmed salmon is also more likely to be raised in polluted water and to face diseases not typically found in wild stock. Wild salmon may contain...
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