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Do superfoods really live up to their name?

March 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Chances are you've heard of superfoods, a special category of foods found in nature with "super" amounts of nutrients known to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and even ward off cancer. Blueberries, avocados, nuts and spinach are just a few superfoods.

Some are old favorites with brand new research while others are ancient remedies gaining popularity. All are backed by clinical research, starting with cinnamon.

"It's an anti-oxidant, powerful anti-inflammatory, it's anti-bacterial and now we know it has powerful anti-cancer activity," Dr. Nicholas Periccone, a dermatologist who has written several books including "Forever Young."

Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are proven cancer fighters. And new research shows watercress can also help fight certain cancers.

"Two really important studies out of the UK show that it can inhibit the growth of breast cancer and at the same time prevent actually the formation of breast cancer," said Dr. Periccone.

But nutrition expert Dr. Felicia Stoler say new exotic superfoods from third world countries aren't necessarily better.

"They sound sexy, we don't have them here so we think they must be good for us. They may not necessarily be that much better than foods that we already have," said Dr. Stoler, author of "Living Skinny in Fat Genes."

Foods like mangosteen, goji and acai are all intriguing but you'll often pay more for them. She also says food first, supplements second.

"I'm a real advocate of getting ingredients from the foods that you eat because we know that they are bioavailable," said Dr. Stoler.

You should also realize that adding superfoods to your diet doesn't equate health.

"If you never exercise, you smoke, and you eat very high fat foods and never eat a fruit or a vegetable in your entire life and all of the sudden you think you're going to eat some superfood and it's going to erase all that like an eraser, it doesn't happen," said Dr. Stoler.

Keep in mind a superfood doesn't act alone. It's a combination of a lot of phytonutrients that gives your body what it needs, so eating a wide variety of foods is the best bet.