July 24, 2013

Food: Black is Beautiful

A recent article in the e-journal Everyday Health reminded readers that a plate of colorful fruits and vegetables is a good thing. Those richly-hued foods – dark green kale, orange carrots, purple potatoes – pack powerful doses of disease-fighting phytochemicals.

We’ve heard the warnings about white foods: white sugar, white flour, white pasta, white cereals, polished white rice. They’ve been stripped of their nutrients for “cosmetic” reasons.

But . . . what about black foods? They’ve been hailed as the latest “superfoods,” since they contain high concentrations of various antioxidants. We know that antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and combat the dangerous, disease-inducing free radicals in our bloodstreams.

So . . . what ARE these powerful black foods?

Black beans are phytochemical-rich, fiber-filled energy boosters. A recent Harvard study showed that eating more black beans and less rice lowered diabetes risk by as much as 35%.

Blackberries offer a hefty low-calorie dose of polyphenols, an inflammation–reducing antioxidant. An eight-week Tufts University study showed that rats that received blackberry supplements showed better balance, coordination, and short-term memory than their rodent counterparts in the control group.

Black soybeans are a nice change from the wildly popular green variety, edamame. Among other benefits, they provide cancer-fighting isoflavones, saponins, and phytosterols. A South Korean study revealed that black bean extract helped improve circulation and lowered cardiovascular risks.

Black lentils may not offer benefits much different from the brown or green variety, but they’re a nice change. Fiber-rich lentils help lower cholesterol. When eaten with a wholesome rice variety (not white!), they pack great nutrition. My domestic partners and I enjoy the combination often in the Nepali staple, dal bhat.

Black mushrooms – those delicious shiitakes – provide nutritional and cancer-fighting benefits similar to most mushroom varieties. They’re versatile, and may lower risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

Black tea may reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. A Boston University School of Medicine study showed that drinking black tea seemed to protect blood vessels in people with heart disease. Scientists think tea’s flavonoids help prevent plaques from developing in artery walls.

Black rice – did you know rice came in black? – may ease allergies and reduce inflammation. A rodent study suggested those findings for black – but not brown – rice.

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Here’s the "black foods" slide show from Everyday Health.
Check out the benefits of antioxidants from the “Fit Day” site.

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