Americans have a significant gap in their consumption of fruits and vegetables1, which leads to suboptimal levels of vitamins and minerals. As important is the reduced level of phytonutrients that are consumed daily. “Superfoods” are comprised of fiber, minerals, protein, phytonutrients, and vitamins that have been associated with improvement in health. Consuming even small amounts of superfoods can fill the gap of the missing phytonutrients which are highly associated with a reduction in chronic diseases.2 Prevalence of chronic conditions among adults aged 45 and over have almost doubled since 2000.3 According to the World Health Organization, diet-related health concerns are among the leading causes of death in adults.4
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine which indicated that even small changes in daily diet could improve health status and reduce the risk of chronic disease.5 These minor changes can be incorporating a superfood like Swiss chard, beets, or Brussels sprouts into the daily routine of Americans. Superfoods can play important role in improving health outcomes.
Four Powerful Superfoods
Swiss Chard and Beet Leaf
Swiss chard and Beet leaf belong to the chenopods botanical family, which also includes spinach and quinoa. The two basic betalains are betacyanins (contains betanins) and betaxanthins.6 Beet greens and Swiss chard are a rich source of phytonutrients, magnesium, lutein, and zeaxanthin, both of which support eye health. Studies have shown that betalains and betanin have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and may also play a role in reducing the risk of oxidative stress and chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.6
Beet root is high in dietary nitrates which supports endothelial function (blood flow) through the production of nitric oxide (NO)7. Consuming beets is a crucial way of improving NO product and support heart health. Beets also contain betaine, also known as trimethylglycine, which serves several functions including acting as a methyl donor to modulate homocysteine levels8.
Brussels sprouts are a member of the brassicas (cruciferous) family that includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, collard greens, mustard greens, turnips, rutabaga, wasabi, and mustard seeds. Brassicas contain unique phytonutrients called glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing molecules that exist almost exclusively in cruciferous plants9. DIM, indole-3-carbonyl, and sulforaphane – all glucosinolates found in crucifers – help to modulate detoxification in the body and down-regulate the expression of NF-κβ210-11. In a recent in vitro study sulforaphane showed to be the potent Nrf2 activator and as we age our NrF2 activations declines with age12.
Spanish Black Radish
Spanish Black Radish is also a cruciferous vegetable which contains high levels of glucosinolates, as well as sulfates and cysteine-rich proteins. Spanish black radish provides four times the level of glucosinolates than broccoli13. In an observational study of 20 healthy males after four weeks of consuming a supplement of 2,200 mg Spanish black radish the subjects, researchers found an activation of detoxification pathways (phase II enzymes) and lowered estradiol-17β to support liver function14.