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Foods, with benefits
Adding these items into your shopping cart may help you combat disease

By AMY SIEWERT

 

They reportedly do everything ó from boosting brain power, preventing cancer and reducing belly fat ó but what role should certain foods, dubbed "super foods," play in our everyday diet?

Kim Flannery, nutrition director at the Wisconsin Athletic Club and registered dietician, says super foods can help improve your diet, but cautions that people should vary their choices and focus on balance, not on particular foods. Donít forgo things like calcium and protein, she says, especially for children. Gender, age and exercise levels also play a part in our daily food intake, she says.

Taking vitamins on a daily basis is also a smart choice, according to Flannery. Vitamin D3 is currently the "in" vitamin as researchers have discovered added benefits such as bone and heart health. It aids in maintaining a healthy mood and boosts immune function. "Itís definitely something that is important for a lot of things," says Flannery.

Here are six "super foods" that are easy to find and incorporate into your daily diet.

1. Berries ó Rich in antioxidants, fiber and Vitamin C. The nutrients found in berries are known to promote cancer prevention and control blood pressure and cholesterol. "A variety of fruits and vegetables is a good idea," Flannery says. "Itís better than focusing on one type of food. If you get a variety of them, then you get different types of nutrients."

2. Broccoli ó High in antioxidants, fiber and betacaratine. "Itís practical and available so people will eat it," says Flannery. Leafy green vegetables have folate, which is good for heart disease prevention, and phyto, which adds pigment and is particularly good for cancer prevention. "The darker the green, the more nutrients in it." The same holds true for the color of fruit. "If someone doesnít like vegetables, then I try to get them to eat fruit," Flannery says.

3. Wild Salmon ó Rich in Omega 3 oils. "Wild salmon is good for the Omega 3 fats, which are anti-inflammatory and great for heart disease prevention," Flannery says.

4. Soybeans ó Rich in vitamins and minerals, including folate and potassium; recognized for its cholesterol-lowering benefits. Also touted to boost bone health and reduce cancer risks. "Itís high quality protein with fiber and is a good way to cut back on your meat intake and still get nutrients," says Flannery.

5. Dark Chocolate ó Contains heart-healthy flavonoids. "People like something sweet," says Flannery. "It should be 70 percent cocoa or higher. Itís very high in antioxidants." Just because you received the green light on eating chocolate does not mean itís a free pass to eat unlimited quantities. Flannery advises that you should eat no more than 1 ounce a day.

6. Red Grapes ó Contain the flavonoid Resvereprol, thought to prevent heart disease. Flannery is aware of the information out there saying that red wine is good for you in moderation. Although that may be true because the wine is made from red grapes, there is a flip side. "Studies say that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer," warns Flannery.