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Superfoods and Nightshades - what's the deal?

A superfood is a food that provides a variety of health benefits in addition to high amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Superfoods can be from all food groups, but most people do not consume enough from the vegetable food group.  In a CDC report from 2017, only 9.3% of the participating adults met the recommendation of consuming 2.5 servings of vegetables per day.  Well-known and easy to find superfoods include beets, avocado, carrots and kale.

Beets stand out not only due to their high content of potassium, magnesium, iron and folate. One cup of cooked beets provides 34% of your daily value for folate and 14% of your daily value of potassium. Beets are also an excellent source of lycopene and anthocyanins: antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body.

Roast beet slices in the oven and toss with spinach, orange pieces, almonds and shredded chicken for a filling salad. Raw beets are a great choice too - julienne beets for a beautiful topping or as an addition to a homemade slaw. 

Avocado, while technically a fruit, is often treated as a vegetable and has a nutrition profile closer to nuts and seeds. Avocados are particularly high in heart healthy unsaturated fats that can help lower your “bad” cholesterol numbers as well as increase your HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). High in potassium and fiber, avocados can help lower blood pressure while maintaining a healthy digestive system. Half an avocado has more potassium than a medium banana!

Mix mashed avocado with tuna in place of mayonnaise for a creamy tuna salad that’s much more heart healthy. When combined with a food source of Vitamin A (carrots or tomatoes), avocados can boost your absorption of Vitamin A by 2 to 6 times! 

While on the topic, carrots are another superfood due to their particularly high amount of Vitamin A, vitamins B6, C, and K, fiber, and potassium.  Carrots come in a variety of colors (purple, yellow, red and white) and each color matches with the type of antioxidants found in the carrot.  Orange carrots provide beta carotene, while red carrots provide lycopene, and purple carrots provide anthocyanins. Each type of phytochemicals provide unique health benefits, however all are associated with the prevention of cancer.

Baby carrots make the perfect easy snack on the go. Combine with guacamole or hummus for heart healthy fats, and to increase your absorption of vitamin A.

Kale earns its superfood status due to its high content of Vitamin K, Vitamin E and magnesium.  Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and bone health.  Vitamin E protects the brain from daily oxidative stress while magnesium helps improve brain plasticity.  Increased brain plasticity improves learning and memory as well as reduces anxiety and depression. Massage chopped kale with olive oil to help reduce its bitterness.

Vegetable superfoods come in all shapes and sizes! Eat the rainbow of colorful produce to ensure that you consume the greatest variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. 

Reducing inflammation in autoimmune diseases is vital to reducing symptoms, including pain. Adding more superfoods is a great place to start!

I get many questions about the benefits and drawbacks of nightshades, continue reading for the scoop:

Nightshade Vegetables: What you Should Know 

~ Nightshade vegetables are the Solanaceae family of vegetables that contain a component called lectins. 

~ Lectins are a component of beans, peanuts, lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, some fruits, and wheat that provide no nutritional value on their own. 

~ Lectins help protect plants during their growth but if consumed without proper cooking can cause symptoms similar to food poisoning. 

~ The nightshade vegetables include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, cayenne pepper and chili pepper.  

~ Some people with Lupus benefit from avoiding nightshade vegetables for their potentially inflammatory process in the body, however, others don't notice a benefit

~ More research is needed to investigate the potential risks and benefits of a lectin-free diet.  

Ready for help with your diet and to finally have a clear path forward to reduce your Lupus symptoms? Contact me today to get started!

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