Super Foods: How they help the body Published Feb. 8, 2016 By Jeffery Vaughn 19th Medical Group LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Why do Super Foods work? Eating Super Foods can do four very important things in the body: they can decrease inflammation, can improve gut health, can increase antioxidants and could increase sulfur in the body. Here are four quick summaries talking about chronic systemic inflammation, gut health, antioxidants and the importance of eating sulfur-rich food. Chronic Systemic Inflammation Scientists believe chronic systemic inflammation in the body is the cause of many chronic diseases. If you can eliminate inflammation, you can eliminate the risk for the disease. The cause of chronic systemic inflammation is directly linked to the food we eat and the main culprit is sugar and processed foods. The further you separate yourself from sugar and processed foods, the less inflammation you may experience. In addition to eliminating sugar, adopting anti-inflammatory foods may reduce chronic systemic inflammation. Adding as many of these super foods such as whole grains, fatty fish and low-fat dairy to your diet as possible may help. Bottom line: eliminate foods with zero nutritional value and substitute foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Gut Health The digestive system may be the most important system in the body. This system breaks down everything taken into the body and is programmed to decide what is released to the blood stream and what is flushed out as waste. The digestive tract contains tight junctions and microvilli, similar to filters, in the intestinal wall. The intestinal wall cells break down food particles to decide what can enter the blood stream. "Leaky gut syndrome" occurs when the tight junctions begin to open wide like a faucet and big undigested food particles and toxins flow freely into the blood stream. The food particles and toxins are absorbed by tissue which causes chronic systemic inflammation and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and psoriasis. Eating refined sugar, processed food, and products containing gluten can increase your risk for developing leaky gut syndrome. Inadequate amounts of stomach acid, too much bad gut bacteria or too little good gut bacteria may also play a role. Chronic stress can also lower immune health leading to leaky gut syndrome. Correct leaky gut syndrome by eliminating the wrong foods and eating the right ones: 1. Eliminate foods high in sugar, processed foods, and foods that contain gluten. 2. Add fermented vegetables like Kim Chi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt or take a high quality multi-specie probiotic. 3. Eat super foods like sweet potatoes, onions and bananas that contain fermentable fiber. 4. Increase foods that contain Vitamin D and Zinc. Super foods high in Vitamin D include mushrooms, eggs, salmon and fish oil. Super foods high in Zinc include pumpkin seeds, squash grass fed beef and dark chocolate. Antioxidants The body undergoes oxidative stress every day and cells become damaged daily due to oxidation. When cells become damaged, they are called free radicals. Free radicals attack other cells to scavenge what they need for repair and end up damaging DNA. When DNA is damaged, a chain reaction takes place where cells begin to replicate with damaged DNA. This sets the environment for diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. The process is a natural part of life and the body has a built-in antioxidant mechanism that repairs most cells. When external toxins such as cigarette smoke, pesticides and pharmaceuticals get into the mix, the body's natural antioxidant mechanism can not keep up and it soon becomes overwhelmed. Antioxidants from the food we eat become the reinforcements the body needs to bring balance back at the cellular level. Antioxidants come from almost all super foods, especially fruits and vegetables. The most important thing to remember are different antioxidants do different things. Vitamin C captures free radicals and neutralizes them. Vitamin E on the other hand repairs cells. The more variety of super foods you eat, the more types of antioxidants you introduce to the body and more antioxidant power is available for repair. Foods high in antioxidants include dark green vegetables, blueberries, red berries, fish and sweet potatoes. Sulfur Foods Sulfur is so important because it offers detoxification which will remove the waste. It is a key player in removing waste. It makes cells more pliable allowing for better oxygen transport and waste removal. In addition, it also plays a major role in the creation of the most important antioxidant in the body: glutathione. Glutathione plays a critical role in the production of insulin and maintaining healthy blood sugar. If you eat a healthy diet with super foods containing sulfur, your body will make plenty of glutathione and keep you healthy preventing diseases like heart disease, cancer or dementia. Sulfur is extremely important if you have diabetes or want to prevent disease as it is the key to healthy cell growth and function. Some examples of foods high in sulfur are eggs, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and legumes. For more information on better nutrition, call the Health Prevention Flight at (501) 987-7288.