Broccoli is good for you. So are carrots. And an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
But what if you could eat your favorite treat and have it be good for you too? Too much to ask, right?
Three studies released this week suggest it's not impossible. It's like having your cake and eating it too, literally.
Pass the oregano
Let's start with pizza. Not exactly a health food. But researchers at Long Island University (LIU) say oregano, the common pizza and pasta seasoning herb, might be an effective treatment for prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
Dr. Supriya Bavadekar, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at LIU's Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is currently testing carvacrol, a constituent of oregano, on prostate cancer cells. The results of her study demonstrate that the compound induces apoptosis in these cells, which is another way of saying it causes the cells to die.
Apoptosis, Dr. Bavadekar explains, is programmed cell death, or simply "cell suicide." Dr. Bavadekar and her group are presently trying to determine the signaling pathways that the compound employs to bring about cancer cell suicide.
"We know that oregano possesses anti-bacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties, but its effects on cancer cells really elevate the spice to the level of a super-spice like turmeric," said Dr. Bavadekar.
Though the study is at its preliminary stage, she believes that the initial data indicates a huge potential in terms of carvacrol's use as an anti-cancer agent.
Have a cookie
Lets move on to your sweet tooth. The Institute of Food Technologists suggests cookies might be good for you. There's a major caveat here - the cookies need to be baked with whole-grain flours, new sweetener alternatives, and healthier fats.
Cookie formulators are serving up new options formulated with the addition of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. One company makes a sandwich cookie that comes in a variety of flavors, and a three-cookie serving has as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal, as much calcium and vitamin D as an eight-ounce glass of milk, and as much vitamin C as a cup of blueberries.
Finally, researchers at San Diego State University tested their hypothesis that chocolate, in particular dark chocolate which contains higher levels of flavanoids than milk chocolate, may protect against the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure, blood flow, and improving blood lipid levels.
In their study, 31 fortunate subjects were assigned randomly to consume either a daily serving (50 grams) of either regular dark chocolate (70% cocoa), dark chocolate (70% cocoa) that had been overheated or "bloomed," or white chocolate (0% cocoa). The subjects were asked to consume the chocolate for 15 days. Blood pressure, forearm skin blood flow, circulating lipid profiles, and blood glucose levels were recorded at the beginning and end of the study.
When compared to participants assigned to the white chocolate group, those consuming either form of dark chocolate had lower blood glucose and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, the "bad" form) levels coupled with higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the "good" form).
Non of this is to suggest that you skip the broccoli or apples. But eating some good-tasting foods might be pretty healthy as well.