Healthy Eating: Food Fight

What’s healthier for you, broccoli or cauliflower, raspberries or blueberries, green tea or black tea? Find out as these foods battle it out for the ultimate health food title.

Berries (photo credit: courtesy)
(photo credit: courtesy)
Round 1: Blueberries vs. Raspberries
Chock-full of fiber, minerals and vitamins, and loaded with healing antioxidants; there is no disputing it, berries are one of the healthiest foods around. But when it comes down to it, does one berry outshine the rest? A few years ago, the answer would have been blueberries. Commonly referred to as the brain berry, blueberries are rich in antioxidants that prevent many diseases. But now, more and more research has shown that while the blueberry is a health champion, it may not be knocking the other berries down so quickly. Find out how the tiny raspberry fairs as it takes on its infamous bluer cousin:
They may be small and with only 80 calories per cup, they are certainly low in calories, but they are mighty – say hello to the blueberry! Rich in Vitamins A, C and E, blueberries are high in fiber and low in saturated fat and sodium; but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Packing the highest amount of antioxidants of all the berries, and fruits for that matter, blueberries are known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. Today, antioxidants are measured with the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) test, a scale which quantifies the antioxidant capacity of foods.  The test not only shows that berries have the highest amount of antioxidants of any fresh fruit, but that blueberries have the most antioxidants (by a landslide) of all the berries (and fruit for that matter). The ORAC value of one cup of blueberries is 5486, while that of blackberries is 4654, that of strawberries is 3520, and that of raspberries is 2789.
Blueberries are loaded with anthocyanin, the antioxidant that gives the berry its deep blue color and as well as some of its celebrated health benefits. Like all antioxidants, anthocyanin mops up harmful free radicals, which lead to many age related diseases as well as cancer. Moreover, research on anthocyanins also shows that they reduce the coagulation of blood platelets, thus preventing the formation of blood clots that can cause stroke, pulmonary embolism, peripheral vascular disease and heart attack. This antioxidant also raises  "good" HDL cholesterol while inhibiting the oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
So blueberries help your heart and help to prevent cancer. What else can this tiny berry do? In laboratory animal studies, it was found that blueberries help to protect the brain from oxidative stress and therefore may reduce the effects of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's or dementia. It was also found that a diet rich in blueberries significantly improves both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging animals.
However, this tiny berry’s health benefits keep on going. While carrots are commonly thought of as the “vision savior” several studies have shown that the antioxidants in blueberries can reduce serious eye problems such as macular degeneration, hypermetropia, myopia and cataracts. Moreover, the proanthocyanidins found in blueberries have been shown to prevent the growth of bacteria that causes urinary tract infections.
So how do raspberries fair against their bluer cousin?  Delectably sweet yet slightly tart, the raspberry reigns over the berry world when it comes to fiber.  With twice as much as its arch-nemesis, blueberries, raspberries pack 8g of dietary fiber per cup, that's 40% of an average adult's daily requirement.  While this tiny fruit may rank slightly lower on the ORAC scale than some of its berry counterparts, they are rich in ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant that is thought to help prevent and fight cancer (particularly skin, breast, lung, bladder and oesophagus). Research has shown that ellagic acid uses different cancer-fighting methods all at once: it acts as an antioxidant, it helps the body to remove specific carcinogens and it helps to slow the reproduction of cancer cells. Ellagic acid is also thought to elevate insulin levels and lower blood sugar levels,  which is important for diabetics and people who are prone to the disease (overweight or if it runs it their family).
Raspberries also contain salicylic acid, which is believed to act much like aspirin does in the control and prevention of heart disease. Like blueberries, raspberries also contain  anthocyanins; however, the  anthocyanins found in red fruits such as raspberries, are thought to inhibit the growth of tumor cells by slowing the development of pre-malignant cells as well as encouraging cancer cells to die off faster.
Last but certainly not least, raspberries are rich in Vitamin C, packing 51% of one's daily requirement – almost double the amount found in blueberries. If that wasn't enough, they are also high in folate, riboflavin (Vitamin B2), magnesium and manganese – one cup contains 62% of an adult's daily requirement of this all important mineral.
Quite a lot of nutrients and health benefits for a fruit that only packs 70 calories per cup, don't you think? So who wins this food showdown? It’s really hard to say, as more and more studies keep proving that both of these berries help to prevent and to fight an array of life threatening illnesses. So mix your berries, and while enjoying the delicious flavors, know that your body is thanking you.
Round 2: Green Tea vs. Black Tea
Whether it is hot or cold, there is no doubt about it tea is one of the best things you can drink; but which tea is better – black or green? As we all know, green tea is a force to be reckoned with; but what about black tea? Does it also offer the same health benefits? After all, both green tea and black tea come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. The leaves are simply processed differently, as green tea leaves are withered and steamed, rather than fermented while black tea leaves undergo a fermenting and crushing process.
Green teaGreen tea
For starters, what makes green tea so powerful? The answer: catechins! Green tea is loaded with catechins, a type of polyphenol and a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants destroy free radicals, which damage the body at the cellular level leaving us more susceptible to cancers, heart diseases, other degenerative diseases, and may even make us look older. Catechins also prevent viral infections, such as the common flu, and fight off bacteria in the stomach that cause food poisoning (one of the reasons sushi bars often serve green tea after the meal). 
Within green tea there are several different types of catechins: epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which makes up about 10-50% of the total catechin content in the tea and appears to be the most powerful of the catechins as its antioxidant activity is 25 to 100 times stronger than vitamins C or E. In fact one cup of green tea has more antioxidants than many of the fruit and vegetable heavy weight champions, including broccoli, spinach and strawberries.
Black teaBlack tea
So what about black tea? Unfortunately the fermentation process converts the catechins into other compounds - theaflavins and thearubigins. While these compounds are not catechins, they are still antioxidants and new research has shown that they do more than just contribute to the tea’s dark color and distinctive flavor. Both compounds are believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties, which is beneficial for someone who suffers from environmental allergies or from arthritis. However, that's not all black tea does. Research from the Tianjin Key Laboratory in China, published in The Journal of Food Science, has shown that this dark tea may help control blood sugar levels. The naturally occurring polysaccharides in the tea, which are at a much higher level than in green tea, have been shown to slow and even to reduce the absorption of glucose from recently eaten food, which can greatly benefit diabetics and people who are prone to the disease.  
Beside antioxidant levels, there are other factors to consider when choosing tea, such as caffeine. While both black and green teas have lower caffeine levels than coffee or soda, green tea has about half the amount of caffeine as black tea.  In fact, the levels of caffeine in green tea are so low, that it does not affect most people's sleep. So unless you are after that wake me up effect, green is probably the way to go.  
While green tea still comes out ahead, black tea’s health benefits are certainly impressive and should not be easily dismissed.
Round 3: Broccoli vs. Cauliflower
As a deep green vegetable loaded with vitamins and minerals, broccoli is definitely a heavy weight health champion, but what about its closely related relative, cauliflower? Don’t be fooled by its pale demeanor; cauliflower is also packed solid with many essential nutrients. While there is no doubt that both are healthy options, if you had to choose one which should it be? Find out now as broccoli and cauliflower square off:
For starters, both broccoli and cauliflower are low in calories. A half-cup serving of broccoli (boiled or steamed) has 27 calories while a half-cup serving of cauliflower (boiled or steamed) contains 14 calories. So based simply on calories, cauliflower wins; however as we know, when it comes to proper nutrition and even weight management, calories aren’t everything. Fiber is one of the key ingredients when it comes to controlling and losing weight. While it may be a carb, fiber digests very slowly and therefore leaves us feeling full longer, thus preventing unnecessary snacking throughout the day. So how do broccoli and cauliflower fair when it comes to this macro-nutrient? With 4.68g of fiber per half a cup, broccoli knocks its paler counterpart out of the ring as cauliflower only contains 3.35g per a cup.
But what about the micro-nutrients? As a deep green vegetable, broccoli is expected to be rich in many essential nutrients – and this vegetable does not disappoint. Packed with vitamins, one cup of broccoli provides over 200% of one's daily requirement of the antioxidant Vitamin C,  194% of one's daily requirement of Vitamin K and 45% of one's daily requirement of Vitamin A. This green vegetable is also an excellent source of folate, manganese, phosphorus, riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and magnesium. While the calcium in a serving of broccoli is not nearly as much as  that of a glass of milk, broccoli is recognized as an important calcium source for those who don't eat dairy products. So how does cauliflower compare? Unfortunately for this albino vegetable, it contains less micro-nutrients than its greener rival; even so, don’t discount cauliflower as one cup still provides nearly 100% of one's daily requirement of Vitamin C as well as 20% of one's daily requirement of Vitamin K and 11% of one's daily requirement of folate.
These two cruciferous vegetable are not only abundant in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Both contain glucoraphanin which upon ingestion is converted into sulforaphane, a compound that triggers the body to produce its own antioxidant enzymes to fight free radicals. In laboratory research, sulforaphane appears to reduce and even to prevent cancer by interrupting cell division. 
So who wins this round? While both provide knock out health benefits, broccoli is still slightly more nutritious. Nevertheless, cauliflower still holds its own, and provides many essential nutrients. But remember, whichever you choose, eat it raw or only lightly steamed in order to preserve the health benefits.