Undercover superfoods: Revealing the health benefits hidden in everyday foods

Holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopolous helps us unveil the secret powers going undercover in our favourite foods.
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From trendy diets and cleanses to the constant rise of newfound superfoods, we're always looking for a quick fix that will ensure that our bodies are getting the nutrients needed to run at their fullest potential. However, some of the foods we already love — and eat on a regular basis — actually have benefits packed in that can do just that. So, we brought in holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopolous to help us unveil some of the secret powers going undercover in our favourite foods.

1. If you want to plug a leaky gut, reach for this at the grocery store. Is it daikon radish or kimchi?

Peggy says: KIMCHI! Fermented cabbage contains naturally-occurring probiotics that help to repair the stomach lining, as well as balance intestinal pH and support the gut. Make sure to purchase unpasteurized kimchi to ensure all the beneficial bacteria is still intact.

2. To help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, should you pour yourself a cup of orange pekoe tea or coffee?

Peggy says: COFFEE! Studies show that people who increased their coffee intake by over one cup per day had an 11 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People who reduced their coffee intake by one cup per day increased their risk of developing diabetes by 17 percent. This has to do with the compounds in coffee itself, not the caffeine, so decaf coffee has the same effect. However, this only applies as a preventative measure, as coffee can have negative effects to those who already have diabetes.

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3. If you're looking to reduce your cholesterol levels, increase your intake of this. Is it pumpkin or peanut butter?

Peggy says: PUMPKIN! Pumpkin is rich in fiber and helps to pull bad cholesterol from your body. Plus, the bright orange colour is due to the rich antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta carotene can help raise good cholesterol (HDL) and prevent the oxidization of bad (LDL) cholesterol.

4. To battle the monthly discomfort that often accompanies PMS, should you seek comfort in tomatoes or artichokes?

Peggy says: ARTICHOKES! Artichokes contain 20% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium. While magnesium is one of the top mineral deficiencies at any time of the month, it's especially important to supplement during PMS, because it helps relax nerves and alleviates muscle cramping and headaches. Plus, it helps to reduce bloating and is high in fiber, keeping your tummy happy!

5. If you're feeling stressed and need to calm down, reach for these as a relaxing snack. Is it almonds or walnuts?

Peggy says: ALMONDS! These nuts are rich in energy-boosting and stress-busting B-vitamins. They're especially high in vitamin B2, which helps produce anti-stress hormones, including serotonin — our all-time "happy" neurotransmitter. Excessive stress can also lead to fatigue and almonds can help with that. A recent survey found that the average time Canadians experience the afternoon crash is 2:30 p.m., so when you're stressed out and tired, snacking on almonds can help beat the mid-afternoon crash.

6. Your smile is your best accessory. So, to take care of those pearly whites, should you drink milk or eat celery?

Peggy says: CELERY! Celery acts as nature's toothbrush and dental floss, helping to eliminate bacteria from your mouth! Plus, the amount of chewing celery requires actually produces extra saliva, neutralizing the bacteria that causes cavities.

7. Arthritis can be a real pain. To ease your aching joints, should you have a glass of tart cherry juice or a glass of pomegranate juice?

Peggy says: CHERRY JUICE! Tart cherry juice has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce joint pain, muscle damage, inflammation and pain. Some studies show it can be just as effective as aspirin in reducing arthritic pain. Bottoms up!

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8. A headache can stop your day in its tracks. To reduce the tension, reach for this in the produce section. Is it pineapple or watermelon?

Peggy says: WATERMELON! One of the major causes of headaches is dehydration. Watermelon is made up of mostly water (over 90%) and is a rich source of electrolytes, (with more potassium than coconut wate!) helping to increase hydration and prevent/reduce the symptoms of headaches. Watermelon's not just a tasty summer snack!

9. High blood pressure can lead to serious health problems. To keep it on the low, should you snack on kumquats or cranberries?

Peggy says: CRANBERRIES! The antioxidants in cranberries can help lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Plus. their anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce damage inside the blood vessels, preventing an increase in blood pressure. Plus, they are loaded in Vitamin C, which also lowers blood pressure!

10. Erectile dysfunction can be a real downer. Gentlemen, to keep up the activity in the bedroom, should you incorporate more sesame seeds or barley into your diet?

Peggy says: SESAME SEEDS! Low levels of zinc correlate to erectile and sexual dysfunction.Testosterone is the most important libido-boosting sex hormone. Zinc is essential for testosterone production and sperm production, and it blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Sesame seeds are also rich in tyrosine. Tyrosine stimulates the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and arousal. It's the core of our sexual drive and motivation.

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