A new study has shown that adding a handful of blueberries to your daily diet could decrease the possibility of heart disease. One cup of the fruits every day could reduce blood pressure and stiffening of arteries, which have strong links to heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers from Florida State University blindly and randomly gave a daily dose of blueberry powder or dummy placebo powder to 48 women who were over the age of menopause. They all had early stage high blood pressure or were at risk of developing it in the near future. After eight weeks, the women who received the blueberry powder had significantly lower blood pressure results than before whereas the women on the placebo showed no changes.
"Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States," said Dr Sarah Johnson, lead author of the study. "Once women go through menopause, this puts them at an even greater risk for it. Our findings suggest that the addition of a single food, blueberries, to the diet may mitigate the negative cardiovascular effects that often occur as a result of menopause."
Blueberries have received lots of praise in recent years because of their nutritional value and high levels of antioxidants and vitamin K. There’s no denying that fruit of any sort is good for you, but with every ‘superfood’ there has to be suspicion over whether adding them to your diet will change your life or if it’s all just a fad.
“There’s no real suggestion about what a ‘superfood’ really is or isn’t,” says Dietician Priya Tew. “What we can say is that all fruits and vegetables should be considered ‘superfoods’ because they are all packed full of vitamins, minerals and essential chemicals and they’re the things that people generally make claims about.”
The healthy eating trends of 2015
The healthy eating trends of 2015
1/10 Acai bowls are the new green juice
Who ever thought we’d have been ok with adding spinach to our smoothies? Yet even virtuous green juices started to get something of a bad rep, as the ‘juice fast’ backlash grew and it turned out that some shop-bought juices contained as much sugar as a can of fizzy drink. Bring on Acai bowls, the new darlings of Instagram. Like a gloopier smoothie, these are made with antioxidant-rich acai berries (they are hard to come by - search for powdered or dried berries or frozen puree), which are said to aid weight loss. Blend with frozen bananas, berries and a little nut milk and top with whatever you like - seeds, nuts, cacao nibs, goji berries. A picture-perfect purple powerhouse for breakfast.
Ella Grace Denton, www.weneedtolivemore.com
2/10 Bone broth is the new Miso soup
Remember back in the day when the word ‘broth’ would conjure up visions of Dickensian orphanages? Then miso came along, Gwyneth embraced it, and we all followed suit, lauding how filling and protein rich with little wonder broth was. We’ve come full circle now, as bone broth is back on the radar. The glowing-with-health Hemsley sisters seem to use bone broth in most of their recipes, and rave about its nutritional benefits. “Bone broth is a nourishing all rounder packed with vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin which makes it amazing for skin – including the dreaded cellulite! The healthy fats in the broth help you to assimilate important vitamins including Vit D.” There you go, something to stew over...
Food Loves Writing, Flickr
3/10 Bee pollen is the new Manuka honey
Every health hipster has a jar of manuka honey on their shelves - if they can afford it that is, a jar can cost about £15. But many claim it is worth its weight in gold, due to its unique antibacterial properties. Traditionally it was used on wounds, but many also claim that it performs miracles combatting cholesterol, diabetes, cancer and digestive problems (although the science is limited). Now bee pollen is the latest ‘superfood’ out there - thought to ward off colds, limit food cravings, improve skin tone, ward off allergies like hay fever (although some caution that it may exacerbate them) and, of course, fight cancer. Again, the science behind these claims is dubious - but it certainly adds a nice sweetness to your morning porridge.
4/10 Kelp is the new kale
Last year saw the emergence of an unassuming green leaf that was previously barely used beyond cattle feed. Now, we have kale chips in Pret, kale juices, ‘massaged’ kale salads - it’s even on the menu in fine dining restaurants. Yawn. Introducing kelp. This seaweed is high in iodine, which is said to improve thyroid function and control metabolism. It is also thought to have anti-aging properties for skin and hair. Try it in salads or add to asian-style soups.
5/10 Matcha is the new green tea
Yes, yes, yes, green tea, weightloss, yadda yadda yadda, boosts metabolism, etc etc. For 2015, though, it’s not about just any old green tea - this is matcha green tea. Made from finely milled high-grade matcha leaves, which are grown in the shade, matcha boasts 130 times more anti-oxidants than your bog standard green tea and is supposed to boost energy levels, lower stress, improve your mood and aid metabolism. It can be consumed as a regular tea, added to steamed milk for a matcha latte or even used to add a pleasant green shade and flavour to ice-cream.
6/10 Whole 30 is the new Paleo diet
Thought you were a culinary champ with your caveman-style eating plan? Well, think again, paleo is for wimps! Ok, not quite, but while people on the paleo plan cut out grains, legumes, sugar and processed foods, there is an increasing trend to paleo-fy your treats, with almond-flour pancakes, banana bread and a lot of brownies. The Whole 30 plan is a purer, stricter version of Paleo and really takes you back to basics when it comes to eating natural foods. The 30-day plan bans scales as well as sugar and alcohol, so that you can concentrate on nourishment rather than weight.
7/10 Fermenting is the new sprouting
Just when we thought we were ahead of the game by starting to sprout our own seeds and with sprouted flours creeping on to the market, the health set had to kick it up a notch. Now it’s all about making your own kombucha (fermented tea), sauerkraut or kimchi (both kinds of pickled cabbage). Fermented foods are said to aid digestion thanks to the creation of enzymes and probiotics in the process. Plus they tend to be high in B-vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids. Think of it as the new jam-making, and break out those mason jars.
8/10 Banana flour is the new coconut flour
Coconut flour was one of the coolest baking ingredients of the year, beloved by Paleo fans. Its highly absorbent qualities mean you only need a tiny bit for baking, keeping your creations low carb but resulting in the odd dry-crumbly-mess baking fail. Banana flour is the next flour to experiment with. Made from green bananas (and no, not banana-flavoured), it is gluten free and light in texture, so ideal for baking. High in resistant starch, which is effective against colon cancer, obesity, and diabetes, it is already being lauded for its nutritional benefits in Africa and South America, and will surely start to become much more visible on health-food shop shelves in the near future.
9/10 Bulletproof coffee is the new soy latte
Nowadays it is possible to walk into almost any cafe and order a soy latte without being eyeballed as a lunatic by the person behind the counter. But would you have the guts to request a stick of butter in your morning brew? Well, some coffee shops are offering exactly that. Bulletproof coffee is a paleo-friendly invention which involves a black coffee with a dollop of coconut oil or butter. Bleurgh. But advocates say it gives you more slow-release energy, sharpens your brain and helps you to focus - and even that it is delicious. Now the theory has been expanded into a whole ‘Bulletproof’ diet plan, rich in fat. Who wants to bet on when Starbucks will give it a shot?
10/10 Tiger nuts are the new almonds
2014 was a good year for almonds. Gym-goers and raw foodists alike carried around a stash for healthy, protein-rich snacking, almond-milk lattes were quaffed, and almond flour featured in so many paleo and gluten-free treats. Now tiger nuts, or ‘earth almonds’ (yes, really), are about to vie for snacking superiority. Tiger nuts are not nuts, but the tubers of the sedge plant. Originally a key food source for Paleolithic Indians, they have until recently been used as animal feed or a side dish in South America, Africa and the Middle East, or in Hispanic companies made into a sweet, milky drink called horchata. But now the hipsters have got their hands on it, drying, roasting and flavouring with the likes of sweet chilli for an on-the-go snack. High in healthy fats, protein and natural sugar, it is rich in energy content, and thought to help prevent heart disease and improve circulation.
Nevertheless, The North American blue fruits have picked up a lot of interest in particular in the fight against cancer and heart disease because of the antioxidants they contain, which are molecules that halt a chemical process called oxidation. Free radicals are produced in oxidation which are damaging to our cells and can cause cancer. This leads to the belief that more antioxidants in the diet could mean less chance of developing these diseases.
However, there has been little evidence to support this theory, as clinical trials have shown that an increase of antioxidants in the diet has no real effect on the risk of cancer. It has also been suggested that humans can’t absorb the antioxidant compounds from eating blueberries anyway, meaning they wouldn’t have any protective effect from this free-radical damage.
Cancer Research UK points out that no food is a miracle cure. “Eating any one specific food is unlikely to have a major impact on preventing cancer, or any other diseases for that matter.” They warn. “But eating a healthy and varied diet is a great way of helping to reduce your risk.”
One study from 2012 did show that the risk of heart attacks in young and middle-aged women was reduced when they ate three or more portions of blueberries and strawberries a week. 93,600 women were questioned every four years about how much of the fruit they ate in a week for 18 years and there was a 32 per cent drop in heart attacks between the people who ate the least and the most berries.
Unfortunately, it can’t be said that the blueberries were directly responsible for this. The women who ate more of the fruits were found to generally be non-smokers, they had lower intakes of fat and they exercised more – all of which will decrease your risk of having a heart attack. They could even have adopted this healthier lifestyle after being invited to take part in the study.
There are too many other factors to determine whether eating blueberries actually saved people’s lives. Whatever the evidence, no food on its own should start replacing everything else that you eat.
“What can happen is that people get fixed on a certain thing like eating blueberries, but they then eat those more than they eat other types of fruit and vegetables,” warns Priya Tew. “I have blueberries every morning for my breakfast; they’re not a bad thing to be having. But you don’t want people to be only eating blueberries and not be eating other fruits and vegetables.”
The health claims about blueberries being the cure we’ve been looking remain dubious at best. Ultimately, the ‘superfood’ term is simply good marketing and was probably responsible for the rise in quinoa and pomegranate juice sales in 2014. According to dieticians like Tew, no nutritional textbook will contain the term. Of course, blueberries will be better for you than a Mars Bar, but that doesn’t mean they will cure you of all ills.Reuse content