Keynote: What Superfoods Are, and How They're Going to Change the Health Destiny of America


Stacy Morrison, Editor-in-Chief and Director of Content Programming for BlogHer
Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD
Melanie Palomares, MD, MS
Jaden Hair, Steamy Kitchen

Stacy: What are superfoods?

Wendy: Well thank you everyone for sharing a meal together. I think that's one of the ways we can share, talk about it. When I started writing about superfoods in the early 2000's, they were not a name, it was not a label.

There was skepticism. When we start writing about foods on this list, you exclude other food. What I came to realize after time, and I do have my own definition when it comes to superfoods. I don't mind if you call them power foods or superfoods, but how I define them is there needs to be research on the superfoods included in the category.

Even if research exists, they have to have fiber, be easy to find, and easy to use. I can talk about how great they are but if you're not eating them you can't digest them. They have to be versatile to fit into the day parts, they have to be flavorful because we have to be able to eat them and fit them into our day to day. They have to be real foods and they can't be concocted ingredients. By definition, that's how I define them.

Stacy: So the way you define superfoods, what are the most exciting foods we're looking at now? Let's talk about the foods we now know to fit in that category.

Melanie: At City of Hope we have specific foods, but we also have extracts of certain foods. Those are mushrooms, grapeseed extract and blueberries. Some of those have cancer fighting benefits. We were very lucky to do some studies in grapeseeds and mushrooms. The blueberry's work still remains in the laboratory, so we're hoping to take that into the clinic.

Stacy: When we think of the breadth of foods that can be studied, the list is endless.

Wendy: Blueberries almost displace the apple as the role of health. They kind of put the word antioxidant on the map for us. Lots of berries are in chocolate and wine. Some of these foods like berries - blueberries. They were tested in animal models then into human models. But the berries and spices, flavor is what reigns. Flavor is the reason why we eat.

Looking at how flavor can be a transformational power, how it can bring our diet into a more flavorful place. What's on the plate, how can we accentuate the positive.

Stacy: Jaden you had an incredible experience where you got to visit City of Hope and how it helped your family.

Jaden: Some of the cancer drugs can cost up to $40,000 for one dose a month. You can go to City of Hope and get one dose that can only cost $10 a month. Why is science not doing more, and why are we not realizing what food can do for our lives. So I thought what are the smarter choices we can do when we go to the supermarket. Then I thought why do we have to even go to the supermarket. So we decided to build a garden, microgreens in our grow house, it was a slow process to train my boys. They're 9 and 10, you know young boys like to eat their junk food, but it was a process.

Stacy: That's what you're about though, how you can create healthier food on a daily basis. Certainly these topics are in the media. But you have a story to share with us about how to find the balance.

Melanie: So my father was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, but he's a retired physician. So he's actually done these treatments, but he's opted to only have dietary intervention. I hear his concerns, but I also am concerned he can get the chemo as well. Be careful not to overstate what the diet can do. When we're talking about prevention, we should talk about diet, exercise, avoiding tobacco. But when we're talking about disease the diet should be complimentary.

Wendy: it's about the balance, in the clinical setting translating the science to practice to know where you're coming from. When you get wind of a study, to tap someone that has to do with the study. But in the conclusion where the research will say, for example ginger, this research shows insulin like activities, and in a medically supervised setting may produce a role in the care. Culinary doses were researched and showed helping feelings of nausea in a chemo therapy setting. So translating that to the plate, all those wonderful ways to add ginger to your day or cinnamon to your coffee, it's ways to use research cautiously, but also recognizing supervision under the health care provider is key. Balance, we are a balancing act of the daily influence of what we put into ourselves every day.

Like sun, oxygen, foods, as we're hit with those we're constantly needing to balance. Green tea, maybe wine, balancing all day every day. It's a balance of going this way and then pulling back to balance into the center.

Jaden: Like the way I used to eat salad is a lot of lettuce and some dressing, but my kids used to eat iceberg lettuce with cheese and dressing. It can be rather deceptive, what is the actual volume of what I'm eating as opposed to it on my plate.

Stacy: You can hear so much about what is good and what is not, but as long as you're keeping the balance of what's good each day, but it's laddering them up and someday they might think arugula is the best thing ever, Choice and variety.

Melanie: There needs to be some data behind what is a superfood. So here we go. This is what I hold to very dearly, because of my relationship with cancer prevention. There is a normal cell, then it turns into an initiation cell, and that insult causes damage to the cell and it becomes abnormal and then it
becomes progression into cancerous cells. So food can be an active carcinogen and we usually dispose of it. There's some things that are called cancer expressing agents, then there is another group that is cancer blocking. So this is just a picture of the whole foods and the active fighting chemicals. So I'm dealing with the chemicals and she's dealing with the whole food.

It's hard to control doing whole feeding studies, it's difficult to isolate and identify active ingredients. It's also difficult to test cancer and develop cancer to test. This is what we can say while we're working on the research.

Everyone should be as lean as possible, limit red meats and processed meats as well as alcohol. Sodium should be limited.

Stacy: Dr. Melanie, you said "watch this space" the basic logic of what we know to be true comes down to fruits and vegetables, pass along some information that helps our readers.

Wendy: We're all here because we love food, but I'm trying to bridge the space of what research shows us and how to bring it home to your everyday plates. The drivers for our food choices are flavor, price, health, availability and sustainability.

We saw in the Mediterranean region the way they eat is healthy and how do you tap into and develop nutritional attributes. Like tomatoes and avocados in the Mexican region or the benefits of garlic. There's been over 2,000 studies showing the benefits of garlic. Where should we start?

We start in the kitchen, many people are getting back to the kitchen and research is showing that healthy starts at home in the kitchen and when you're cooking more you're making healthier choices. I really give tips that are very relatable. I try to tap into breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and drinks.

Jaden: I'm actually going to give some advice that's counter-intuitive to us as bloggers. Cook less. The more I cook during the week, the more frustrated I get and I look to restaurants. The less I cook, the more I eat healthy like salads and then I may cook a protein as a side dish. My advice is on the weekdays to cook less.

Melanie: We are learning more about how something acts. For instance beta keratin we thought it had a lot of cancer fighting properties. But we found in smokers it actually enhances the cancer growing properties.

Stacy: I think the idea is we pick our favorites and expand upon it. What are your favorites, or are you so into diversity that you don't have favorites?

Wendy: I'm with you, kale was my favorite before it was hip. It was an ornamental salad bar prop in the 80's. I go through phases and I'm with Jaden, if you love to be in the kitchen, but when I'm pressed for time I know less is more.

I get into juicing in the summer. Think about your flavor in foods, I always think about flavor so I chase the seasons not only where I am but around the world. I think about what grows there, I love the greens, I love the berries. I think walnuts should be in a lot of foods, I'm inspired by the research but I love to be in the kitchen.

Melanie: I focus on diversity. I really love smoothies, I like both vegetable and fruit smoothies, but I like the sweet smoothies. I live a lot of variety in my salads.

Jaden: So I'm not a smoothie person. I feel like if you give me something to drink I'll drink and drink, same with wine. I'm a big fan of microgreens. Here's a picture of our backyard, and our aquapond. There's no chemicals, we grow a lot of vegetables, we grow koi fish inside of the pond.

We don't eat koi fish, but they can grow really well and we can make some money. We grow a ton of different lettuce, we grow enough vegetables to feed our family as well as 10 other families and that's how we share with our friends about the benefits because we're always passing them out to them.

Microgreens are so nutrition dense, with the microgreens you can sprinkle them on anything you want.
Like salads, you can sprinkle them in your smoothies or on chicken. You can grow them in your closet if you want. The seeds are affordable and so easy to grow. But this is my favorite food.

Stacy: We had so much to say so we don't have time for questions but these ladies will be here after so let's give these ladies a hand.