Diet & Nutrition

These two superfoods are just what you need to naturally fend off disease

Not only do they pack a punch flavour wise, they are incredible disease fighters too.

By Julia Böhme

When it comes to superfoods, avocado and ginger are at the top of the pile. There's virtually nothing they can't help with.

Gingerol and shogaol, which give ginger its typical "zing", stimulate our digestive juices, have germ-killing properties, and detoxify the blood, mucous membranes and gut.

Avocado is just as powerful – it has an exceptionally high nutrient density, is 25 per cent "good fat", and is a source of almost 20 vitamins and minerals.

Avocado - the green health wonder

Avocados contain more potassium than bananas, which helps to support healthy heart function.

Protects the eyes

Avocado contains two carotenoids (plant pigments) important for eye health: lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as antioxidants, meaning they protect our cells from harmful influences. As such, avocado prevents the onset of age-related eye damage.

Daily consumption of the fruit also protects the eye's sensitive tissue from sun damage – but that doesn't mean it can replace sunglasses. In addition, the superfruit reduces the risk of suffering from cataracts or age-related macular degeneration, according to research from Tufts University in the US.

Helps with excessive weight

Avocado is high in dietary fibres – and these help us lose weight. According to a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 30 grams of fibre a day results in more successful dieting (an average-size avocado contains around 12-14 grams). Avocados also keep you full for a long time, thereby preventing hunger pangs.

Normalise blood lipid levels

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have found that consuming an avocado a day has a positive effect on cholesterol, because the unsaturated fatty acids and high fibre content help dramatically reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides.

The 'avocado diet' lowers LDL levels in the blood by 13.5mg/dl, while low-fat foods can only do this by 7.4mg/dl. This prevents arteriosclerosis and reduces the risk of heart attack.

Promotes muscle development

In order for our body to build up muscle, it needs protein, as well as a whole host of amino acids like arginine, threonine, leucine, valine and isoleucine, all of which are found in avocados. Without these organic compounds, muscles break down.

The body also uses these acids for a number of other processes, and the need for them is even greater during times of stress or injury, so eat an avocado a day in those phases.

Fights cancer

Avocado has proven its power in fighting certain tumours, such as oral cancer, skin cancer and prostate cancer.

A study conducted by Ohio State University found that its plant compounds systematically detect precancerous cells and inhibit their growth or even destroy them.

Scientists from the University of Waterloo in Canada have also found that a certain fat known as avocatin B specifically attacks cancer cells in acute myeloid leukaemia. Plus, while it destroys mutated blood stem cells, it protects the healthy ones so that intact blood cells can continue to form.

Gets rid of bad breath

Bad breath is commonly triggered by digestive or stomach problems and often goes hand in hand with bacteria in the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat or digestive tract.

This is where anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant flavonoids can come in handy, as they fight bacteria in the mouth, stomach and gut.

Prevents bone atrophy (osteoporosis)

Eat avocados for a strong, healthy skeleton. The reason? It contains a comparatively high concentration of a number of different "bone vitamins", which are only effective if taken together.

For example, calcium is responsible for bone hardness and firmness, but can only be adequately stored in the skeleton if there is magnesium to lock it in the bones. B vitamins like folate (B9) prevent metabolic waste product homocysteine from breaking up the collagen network in the bone and thus destroying it in the long term.

Ginger- the world's healthiest root

Protects against Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Ginger is said to help prevent Alzheimer's. Its anti-inflammatory phytochemicals stop calcium deposits (plaque) forming in the brain, maintaining the brain's connections with the nerve cells.

Regularly consuming ginger products is critical here – ideally about a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root in food or tea every day.

Reduces migraines

A study conducted by the Zanjan University of Medical Sciences in Iran has found that ginger compounds work just as well as prescribed painkillers for acute migraines.

Taking 250mg of ginger powder in capsule form (from health-food shops) had the same effect as 50mg of Sumatriptan, but with fewer side effects.

Strengthens the heart

The strong spice promotes heart health by increasing the heart's effectiveness, enabling the pumping muscle to recover better during breaks, and the blood to better supply the body with oxygen.

The gingerol in ginger also acts as a natural anticoagulant, preventing the blood vessels from narrowing.

Tip: drink two cups of ginger tea a day to boost your heart health. To do this, cut around 2cm of fresh ginger into thin slices, pour over with hot water, and leave to steep for about ten minutes. Then briefly allow to cool before drinking. You can also add lemon slices to enhance the taste if you like.

Decreases inflammation

Some parts of the root inhibit the enzymes cyclooxygenase and lipooxygenase that play a role in the body's inflammation processes, which in turn, trigger joint pain in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatism.

Ginger compresses can help. Pour 250ml of hot water over two teaspoons of freshly grated ginger, and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Then soak a cloth in the brew, wring it out, place over the chest or back, and fasten in place with a scarf.

Eases colds and flu

Ginger has also long been used for respiratory problems. Its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties make it ideal for treating coughs, colds and bronchitis.

It also contains a lot of essential oils, which are antispasmodic, and thus help with coughing up phlegm. Two cups of ginger tea a day is all you need.

Improves hair growth

The spicy elements in ginger stimulate blood circulation in the scalp, supplying the hair with more nutrients to make it look healthier, and can also be used to treat hair loss.

Tip: Massage ginger oil (available from the chemist) into the scalp, leave for a few minutes, then thoroughly rinse out.

Weakens herpes viruses

Microbiology studies have found that ginger essential oil decreases the activity of the herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2, and can thus reduce the frequency and severity of herpes blisters.

It also proved to be effective on viruses that had already developed resistance to the Acyclovir herpes medication. In acute cases, the oil can be dabbed directly on the blisters, while regularly taking ginger compounds can serve as prevention.

Helps relieve menstrual cramps

A new study conducted by the University of Tehran has now proven that this zingy root can also relieve complaints caused by premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including irritability, pain, fatigue, problems concentrating and sleeping, and altered appetite.

The study participants, who each took 2 x 250mg of ginger (capsules) a day, starting seven days before their period and continuing for three days after their period, noticed a clear improvement in their complaints. Anyone taking 3 x 250mg of ginger a day for at least three cycles will considerably reduce their period duration and blood loss.

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