The Real Superfoods Diet

Last weekend was a little rough.

I drove down to Seal Beach, as I do every Sunday morning, to visit my 89-year-old mother. The minute I walked in, she announced excitedly but nervously (she knows how I feel about infomercials) that she’d picked up the phone late last night while watching TV and purchased $300 worth of “boost” powders, pills, and other "special" nutritional aides.

The Real Superfoods Diet

The real superfoods are in the produce aisle of every market across America.

“Ah geez, Mom,” I told her.

“But Genie,” she countered.  “They’re all made from superfoods, perfect for my health.  That’s what the TV program said.”

Real superfoods

Unfortunately, what my mother and many others like her don’t seem to understand is that real, honest-to-goodness superfoods do not come in bottles or boxes or pills.

And they don’t ratchet up $300 for one small bag of them.

Fruits and vegetables, plain but perfect

The real superfoods are much simpler, and bulkier.  They’re in the produce aisle of every market across America.  They’re fruits and vegetables, plain but perfect.  They’re packed, naturally so, with nearly all the nutritional riches we need.  They can help us live not only longer but better.

And for $300, you can probably buy bags and bags of them.

What science says

What’s more, the huge mountain of data we have that affirms the life-enhancing benefits of fruits and vegetables comes from studies on people who have eaten high amounts of well, fruits and vegetables, not pills, not powders, not even juices, and not any single type of fruit or veggie.

No single star

That’s right, pomegranates alone, or blueberries alone, or any other superfood celebrity of the moment is not what we need.  There’s no such thing as a single silver bullet for good health.  Science has not found that one particular fruit or vegetable rises above all the rest.

Superfoods diet

But time and again, studies have found that there is such a thing as a superfoods diet.  Like the Pritikin Eating Plan, it’s based on whole, naturally-fiber-rich plant foods that include a high intake, every day, of fruits and vegetables.

New research

Just a few days ago, another major study1 was published, a 12-year review, that once again validated the benefits of a daily menu full of fruits and veggies.

Scientists from University College London found that a fruit-and-vegetable-rich diet was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of death from heart disease and cancer.

In fact, the study found that the more vegetables and fruits we eat, the lower our risk of death from any cause and at any age.

Seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily

The study looked at the diets and health outcomes of 65,226 people representative of the British population from 2001 to 2013.  The results showed that for people who ate seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, their mortality rate was reduced by 42% compared to people eating less than one serving a day.

“…the effect is staggering.”

Even Dr. Oyinlola Oyebode, the study’s lead investigator, was surprised by the results, and stated in a university press release:  “We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering.”  

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The study revealed that eating seven or more servings daily of fruits and vegetables reduced death by cancer by 25% and death by heart disease by 31%.

The risk of death by any cause was reduced by 14% for those eating one to three servings of fruits and vegetables daily, by 29% for those consuming three to five portions, by 36% for those eating five to seven servings, and 42% for seven or more.

The Pritikin Eating Plan recommends nine or more servings daily of fruits and vegetables.

Vegetables

The large British study further showed that vegetables had the strongest correlation with a reduction in mortality rates.  Each additional serving of vegetables lowered the mortality rate by 16%.  Each additional portion of fruit reduced the rate by 4%.

While you might choose veggies first for their superior health benefits, Dr. Oyebode pointed out that “if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.” 

The findings of this new report give strong support to the dietary guidelines advocated by the Australian government, which recommends five portions of vegetables and two of fruit each day.

Fruit juice – no beneficial effect

Finally, the newly published 12-year review warns that fruit juice has no beneficial effect and that canned fruits actually increase mortality rates, results that may be explained by the high levels of sugar in these forms of fruit.  The negative health effects of the highly concentrated sugars in juices and the packing syrups in some canned fruits may negate the beneficial powers of fresh fruit, the authors reported.

The recommendations that arise from this study will surely sound familiar to our Pritikin alumni.  So will its reservations about fruit juice, recently echoed in Pritikin’s infographic The Juice Illusion

The really good news, as you learned and experienced at the Pritikin Longevity Center, is that it’s fairly easy to tally up multiple servings of fruits and vegetables, particularly when you consider that just a half cup of cooked veggies is one serving. One cup of raw veggies is one serving.

One serving of fruit is one medium piece, or a portion that fits easily in your hand, like a medium-sized apple or a medium-sized bunch of grapes.

How quickly they add up

So if your day includes a handful of berries on your oatmeal (1 serving), a cup of baby carrots for a mid-morning snack (1 serving), a big Pritikin-sized salad of greens and other veggies for lunch (3 servings), an apple for a mid-afternoon snack (1 serving) and, for dinner, another nice-sized salad (2 servings) and a hefty portion of steamed veggies (3 servings) with your fish or chicken, you’ve totaled up a hugely commendable 11 servings.  Yep, 11!

A true superfoods diet 

In doing so, you’re definitely eating a true superfoods diet, one that will boost your health and longevity far more than any pill or powder “boost” ever could. And you aren’t wasting precious time or money with heavily marketed gimmicks, as portrayed in another Pritikin infographic Are You Losing the Diet Game?

A fruit-and-veggie-rich life.  There are few prescriptions that are so simple and satisfying, and with such positive health benefits.

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Sources

1 http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/03/jech-2013-203500″>Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 31 March 2014 DOI: 10.1136/jech-2013-203500

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