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The USDA has a searchable data base of nutritional content of various foods.

CPSI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) lists "ten super foods":

  1. ORANGES   for vitamin C, folic acid (a B vitamin), and fiber
  2. WHOLE-GRAIN BREAD   for fiber and a dozen vitamins and minerals
  3. CANTALOUPE   for vitamins A and C
  4. BROCCOLI   for vitamin C, carotenoids, and folic acid (a B vitamin)
  5. SWEET POTATOES   for carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber
  6. WATERMELON   for vitamin C and carotenoids
  7. BEANS   (CSPI means dry, not green) for protein, iron, folic acid (a B vitamin), and fiber
  8. SALMON & OTHER FATTY FISH   for omega-3 fats
  9. KELLOGG'S ALL-BRAN OR POST 100% BRAN   for fiber
  10. SPINACH & KALE   for vitamin C, carotenoids, calcium, and fiber

JUICE   A variety of things have been said pro and con about juice.  The main cons and responses:

  • It provides "jolt" of sugar (even from vegetables, especially the popular carrot juice).  True.  This could be a problem for diabetics and for those drinking fruit juices sweetened with apple or grape.  Otherwise juices in moderation should not be a problem.
  • Juice has less fiber than the whole fruit/vegetable.  True, but stopping juices does not increase fiber intake.
  • Juicing does not provide all the nutrients from the original.  True but misleading.  In the first place, breaking down plant cell walls are often not broken down enough when eaten to release all the nutrients.  In the second place, one typically "eats" a lot more fruit or vegetable in a glass of juice than otherwise and so can get more nutrients (and also more calories and sugars!). Perhaps more to the point, particular nutrients might be in parts of the plant where they are not released by juicing.  To get the most benefit, go for organic and strongly colored produce.

Some Bad Foods and Additives

(See also Environmental Problems)

·         ACID/ALKALINE BALANCE   Modern diets tend to be too high in acid-producing foods, which can lead to osteoporosis and other problems.  The use of drugs exacerbates the problem since most are acid producing.

·         FRUCTOSE   This sugar is present in small quantities in fruits where it is bound with fibers that slow absorption.  Juicing frees the fructose, which is why some people have problems with juices.  Much worse is the widespread use of high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener.  As a result fructose consumption has increased nearly tenfold.

o       Unlike other sugars, it goes directly to the liver and helps form fat storage molecules that can be deposited on artery walls by LDL cholesterol.

o       It may accelerate the aging process because it increases the formation of advanced glycation end products which are thought to play a role in cataract formation, kidney problems and blood vessel blockage.

o       Its stimulation of cortisone production by the adrenals may lead to gland enlargement.

o       Of note to gout sufferers, it increases the production of uric acid.

·         SOY PRODUCTS   American use of soy is different from Asian use.  Processed soy is used in many products as a protein source.  As such, it is a poor choice because it is low in the essential amino acid methionine.  A much better choice is dairy protein (whey and eggs).  For information about good aspects, see soybeans below.  Soy contains compounds that are bad for us:

o        Phytates bind to minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium and prevent their absorption.  Ironically for those who eat soy products for health & fitness, iron deficiency can reduce vitality and lead to weight gain.

o        Protease inhibitors inhibit protein digestion, making soy protein harder to digest and possibly stressing the pancreas.

o        Phytoestrogens, plant estrogen mimics, which can also interfere with thyroid function and testosterone production when eaten in sufficient quantities.

  • ALCOHOL  Kills brain cells (especially in bingers), can cause cirrhosis, and may contribute to breast cancer; but moderate drinking (1-3 drinks/day) with meals has some benefits for middle age and older people:  Boosts HDL (good cholesterol), reduces risk of Alzheimer's and dementia in older people, may reduce risk of macular degeneration, helps diabetes (trial on women; 2 drinks/day best).  (SN 2/2/02 p.67 and 3/8/03 p.155).  Red wine has other advantages.  Acid-producing.
  • APPLES  may have high levels of pesticide residues.
  • AVOCADOS  have low levels of pesticide residues.  High in fat, but mostly monounsaturated, which is good.  Source of glutathione.
  • BANANAS contain vitamin B6.
  • BEANS (dried)  See soybeans. (No info on other beans at present.)
  • BEEF  Grass-fed have a higher proportion of good fats (including omega-3) than do grain-fed, but may be slightly less tender and milder in flavor (Consumer Rpts. 11/02 p.32).  It is claimed that the presence of E. coli bacteria is significantly reduced if cattle are grass-fed for at least 3 days before slaughter.
  • BLUEBERRIES very high in antioxidants. Help prevent urinary tract infections.  Acid-producing (bad), but still good in balance because of antioxidants.
  • BRAZIL NUTS  very good source of selenium.  See also nutsAcid-producing.
  • BROCCOLI  contains folate (a B vitamin) and phytochemicals.  See CRUCIFEROUS below.
  • CAFFEINE  found in chocolate, coffee, and tea.  Generally avoid:  Can raise blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones, so may increase risk of heart disease.  Several cups of coffee per day increase postmenopausal bone loss, prehaps because caffiene is acid-producing.  Also bad for diabetes (
    Vasodilator: less effort to pump blood when exercising (SN 11/25/95 p.360); can also help blood flow to brain.
  • CARROTS  are high in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant.
  • CHERRIES  may have high levels of pesticide residues.  Imported often have lower residues. Very low glycemic index.
  • CHOCOLATE  contains caffeine, but is also contains potent antioxidants (SN 3/18/00 p.188).
  • CINNAMON  1/2 teaspoon per day given to 60 people with type II diabetes after 40 days reduced fasting glucose (18%-29%), triglycerides (23%-30%), LDL cholesterol (7%-27%) and total cholesterol (12%-26%), and higher amounts were no more effective (Agri. Food Chem. 2004, 52(1) p.65 and Diabetes Care 2003, 26(12), p.3215 cited in Alt 6/04 p.92) [no info in Alt on HDL/LDL ratio].
  • COCONUT OIL has a variety of benefits (WBJ 3/03 p.29). It is an excellent choice for cooking because it is stable at high temperatures. It need not be refrigerated.  Apparently pure oil is hard to find but is available (Alt. 7/05 p.7).
  • COFFEE  See CAFFEINE above.  French press, Scandavian, Turkish, and Greek contain diterpenes, which raise cholesterol levels (SN 9/16/95 p.182).  Acid-producing (bad).
  • CRANBERRIES  help prevent urinary tract infections.  Beware of juices; they're high in added sugars.  Dried extract is available in capsule form.
  • CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES  (include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish, mustard, horseradish, wasabi)
    High in glutathione.  Contain glucosinolates, which help detoxification enzymes (HNB 1/99 p.40).
    Sulforaphane inhibits cancer formation and is most concentrated in broccoli sprouts -- about 50 times level in mature broccoli -- but they must be chewed well (SN 9/20/97 p.183).  Sulforaphane also kills H. pylori, which causes stomach ulcers; however, it is unclear now (2002) if food provides enough for this purpose.
  • DAIRY PRODUCTS  See milk or eggs.
  • EGGS  High in lecithin, which is a source of choline, balances out the cholesterol, and facilitates the absorption of lutein from eggs.  There is debate about their effects on bad cholesterol. An excellent source of protein.
  • FERMENTED FOODS  including buttermilk, yogurt, and sauerkraut and other lactic-acid fermented vegetables have a variety of benefits, including bowel motility,  improved pancreatic function and anticancer compounds.  You may have to ferment your own vegetables:  Commercial pickles, fermented with vinegar rather than brine, are useless.  Products pasteurized after fermentation are less useful since the lactobacilli have been killed.  (Alt. special report)
  • FISH  Some provide coenzyme Q-10 Cold water fish tend to be high in omega-3 compared to omega-6.  There is a small table.  Since fish oil can increase LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, one might combine it with garlic oil (SN 2/15/97 p.161).  Acid-producing (bad).  Mercury and other toxins are a concern, especially in albacore tuna, tuna steaks, shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish all of which should be eaten at most once per week according to an FDA recommendation.  As a rule, eat non-scavengers that are low on the food chain.  These are generally smaller fish and plankton-eating shellfish.
  • FLAXSEED  Best source of omega-3, high in fiber and lignans -- but must be ground. (What if you keep it moist for about 3 days so it starts to sprout?)  Dr. David Williams suggests blending on high for about a minute 1/4-1/2 cup ground flaxseed, 1/2 cup milk & 3-4 ice cubes.  Only grind seed as needed since it oxidizes quickly.
  • GRAINS (WHOLE)  contain vitamin B6Acid-producing (bad).
  • GRAPEFRUIT  may tend to cause kidney stones.  Grapefruit enhances some drugs--could lead to an overdose.  Very low glycemic index.
  • GREEN TEA   See TEA.
  • HONEY   made from alkaloid producing plants (e.g. borage, comfrey), alkaloid levels may be dangerously high (SN 5/18/02 p.317).  A variety of studies have shown that topical application of raw honey is often better than antibiotics in wound treatment (including severe burns), also stimulating regrowth and leading to less scarring than conventional treatments (Alt 1/04 p.50 cites various studies) .
  • LEAFY GREENS (DARK)  these are quite high in carotenoids and help prevent heart disease.  (Iceberg lettuce is light and so is relatively low in carotenoids.)
  • LETTUCE  see leafy greens.
  • MARGARINE  most are high in trans-fats, which are bad.
  • MEAT  Various meats, especially liver, are high in cholineAcid-producing (bad).
  • MILK  Various products are made from milk and various animals provide milk.  Some people find goat-milk products are better for them than cow-milk products.  Ditto for fermented milk products (buttermilk and yogurt) since they contain lactase.  While pasteurization has some justification for disease prevention, it does denature some parts of the milk.  There is evidence that the cosmetic process of homogenization makes milk harder to digest. (Alt. 5/05 p.184)
    • Butter & Ghee 
    • Buttermilk  is a fermented food.
    • Cheese 
    • Milk itself  There are some indications that it is harder to absorb beneficial nutrients from nonfat milk.  The information under butter and whey applies to milk.
    • Whey Whey powder is high in proteins and contains stress reducing factors. components with antimicrobial and antiviral activity, high levels of compounds needed to synthesize glutathione, and other immune system support (see Alt. 4/05 for more information and journal references).  If you want whey but lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free powders; also, adding yogurt or buttermilk to the whey powder may provide enough lactase.
    • Yogurt   Live cultures in yogurt are "probiotics" (bacteria that provide benefits).  Those in yogurt help against arthritis (only data so far in rats) (SN 8/14/04 p.100).  See also fermented foods.  Flavored yogurts contain added sugar.  If you don't like plain yogurt but eat cereal, try replacing some of the milk with yogurt.
  • MILLET  is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most easily digestible grains.
  • NUTS are often high in vitamin E, good oils and ellagic acid (antioxidant).  High fat content is not a problem (SN 11/21/98 p.328).  May be a useful as a replacement for statin drugs: 5 oz./week of walnuts reduce risk of cardiovascular disease 30% to 50% (Alt 1/02 p.55); one ounce of mixed nuts five times per week reduces risk of heart disease 30%, probably due to good fats (Discover 9/01 p.12).  In a healthy diet plan, they are as effective as statins (Circulation 2002; 106(11) p.1327 cited in Alt. 12/02 p.138).  Almonds are one of the few alkaline nuts and can also lower triglycerides (J. Nutr. 2002 132(04); p.703 cited in Alt 12/02 p.139)
  • PEANUTS  High in cholineAcid-producing (bad).
  • POMEGRANATES  high in flavonoids, especially anthocyanins.  Juice has helped atherosclerosis and made LDL less susceptible to oxidation (SN 1/8/05 p.28; Alt. 5/05 p.182).
  • POTATOES  contain vitamin B6.  Pigmented potatoes are being bred from South American varieties, thereby increasing flavonoid content and often flavor (SN 1/6/05 p.27).
  • SAUERKRAUT  see fermented foods.
  • SOYBEANS  contain isoflavones (antioxidants) are high in protein, but they lack certain proteins children need (L-methionine and L-taurine).  High in choline. Very low glycemic index.  Too much unfermented soy may be bad, especially for children due to estrogen mimics. (Further discussion above.)  About 20% fat whereas most beans are 1%-2%.  Other beans contain many of the good things in soy, but they haven't been studied as much (HS Spring 2002, p.18).  Natto (soy cheese) is useful for blood clots.
  • SPINACH  see leafy greens.
  • STRAWBERRIES  may have high levels of pesticide residues.
  • TEA   Real tea (not herb tea) has a variety of beneficial effects, including the list below.  Also see caffeine.  Since tea leaves are normally not washed, you may want to buy organic.  Acid-producing (bad).
    • Green tea contains potent antioxidant EGCG (SN 1/2/99 p.15), which also appears to enhance insulin (Alt. 1/03 p.151; SN 5/1/04 p.283).
    • Catechins (bioflavonoids) in tea are antivirals, especially against herpes simplex, and powerful antioxidants (Alt. 10/05 p.30).
    • All tea contains the amino acid L-theanine which helps T cells produce interferon (body's first line of bacterial defense) -- in an in vitro study, about 5 times more was produced by heavy (5-6 cups) tea drinkers' blood versus non-drinkers' (Discover 1/04 p.31).
    • In a black tea study, a cup or two a day cut severe atherosclerosis in half and, in older women, at least four cut it 3/4 (SN 10/30/99 p.287).
    • Tea -- especially with a twist (including rind) of lemon, grapefruit or lime -- is protective in all stages of skin cancer (Alt. 2/02 p.61, from Skin Pharm. Appl. Skin Physiol. 01, 14:69).
    • Processing destroys the antioxidants (following data from USA Weekend 12/19/03 p.4):
      • "White" tea has highest levels due to less processing, but I have no data.
      • Black tea contains roughly 70% as much as green.
      • Decaffination reduces levels about 50%.
      • Bottled and powdered teas have little antioxidants.
  • TOMATOES  good source of lycopene and saponins.
  • TURMERIC   contains curcumin, which appears to reduce incidence of some cancers (SN 5/18/02 p.317) and help prevent alcohol-induced inflammation and tissue death (J. Physiology cited in USA Weekend 5/30/03 p.15).
  • WHEY   See milk.
  • WINE, RED  contains resveratol (antioxidant).  Lowers kidney stone risk.  Helps heart and blood vessels (SN 2/28/98 p.142, 1/5/02 p.8).  See also alcohol.
  • YOGURT   See milk.