Doctors and nutrition experts select foods shown to provide significant health benefits and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Looking for a health superhero? Head to the supermarket. Some foods have the power to fight diabetes or heart disease – in other words, they can literally save your life. That’s not an exaggeration.
A large study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people of any age who started including healthy foods in their diets improved their chances of living longer. Replacing one serving of red or processed meat a day with one serving of nuts or legumes, for instance, was linked to an eight to 17 per cent reduced risk of premature death. But how do you choose the best options for you?
Here are some of the picks along with some of the health issues each one may help prevent or treat.
- KALE Heals: Eye conditions • Heart disease • Bones
Kale is packed with carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which are particularly benef icial for eye health. Not to mention that there’s a hefty amount of glucosinolates (organic sulphur), which help the body rid itself of toxic substances. Kale also has tons of v itamin C, which improves immunecell function; magnesium for bone health; vitamin K for blood vessels and heart valves; and folate for brain health.
2. MIXED NUTS
Heals: Heart disease • High cholesterol • Low energy • Constipation • Anaemia • Weight gain • Diabetes
Nuts are a great source of heart-healthy fats, along with some protein. Depending on the nut, you’ll also have some fibre, calcium or magnesium. Almonds, for example, have 75 milligrams of calcium in a 28-gram serving. Walnuts are high in antioxidants. If I have a handful of mixed nuts every day, I’m getting everything.
Serving size: About ¼ cup (28 g)
GOOD TO KNOW: Oils in nuts quickly turn rancid if exposed to too much heat. Store nuts in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Heals: Brain function • Stroke • Inflammation • Heart disease • Rheumatoid arthritis
Salmon – whether farmed or wild-caught, fresh, frozen or canned – is rich in protein, omega-3s, B vitamins, vitamins D and A and selenium. All of these nutrients are critical for good health, particularly omega-3s. These fatty acids help protect against age-related brain and eye diseases, reduce the risk of heart disease and depression, maintain healthy skin, calm inflammation and boost immune funct ion. (Other sources of omega-3s include mackerel, anchovies, walnuts and flaxseeds.) Studies show that pregnant women who eat seafood two to three times each week during their pregnancy go on to have babies with optimal brain development, including an IQ boost.
Serving size: 85 g
4. PUMPKIN SEEDS
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, iron and magnesium as well as protein and omega-6 fatty acids. Their fibre content supports healthy digestion, heart health and blood sugar regulation.
These green soy beans pack about nine grams of plant protein and four grams of fibre in a half cup. They are a great source of vitamin K, folate and fibre and contain no cholesterol. People who eat more whole soy may have lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers.
Cauliflower contains a compound called indole-3 carbnol, which can decrease inflammation and slow cancer-cell growth. Plus it’s a source of folate, fibre and vitamins.
Strawberries are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, folate and high levels of antioxidants. These fruits may help interrupt the development of type 2 diabetes, reduce inflammation in the colon and slow cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years.
8. OLIVE OIL
Olive oil is rich in vitamin E and a great source of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. It helps reduce triglycerides and the density of your ‘ bad’ cholesterol (LDL), and it may make your platelets less likely to stick together, decreasing your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
One 110 gram serving of sardines has 17 grams of protein, close to 50 per cent of your calcium requirement, and over 300 per cent of your dai ly vitamin B12 needs. Sardines are also full of niacin, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Heals: High blood pressure • Atherosclerosis • Heart disease • Diabetes infections • Colon cancer
Garlic is wonderful for keeping high blood pressure at bay – something I find very useful for individuals under a ton of stress. One of the most underrated properties of garlic is its antifungal ability. Allicin is the biological compound responsible for this magical power. I often recommend fresh garlic and sometimes a garlic supplement when someone is dealing with athlete’s foot or even frequent urinary tract infections as a result of yeast over-growth. It is believed that garlic can reduce the risk of various cancers, as well as prevent cognitive decline. And it helps to keep the vampires away.
Serving size: 3 cloves or 3 teaspoons, minced (9 g)
GOOD TO KNOW: Garlic is most potent when eaten raw, but it may upset your stomach. Lessen your chance of experiencing stomach irritation by eating raw garlic with a balanced meal.
Heals: High cholesterol • Heart disease • Insulin resistance • Cancer • Blood sugar swings
Avocados have been shown to help improve cardiovascular health and can significantly lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels because of their monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat content. These fatty acids have been shown to improve cognitive function, depression, anxiety and brain fog, as fats are a more efficient fuel source for your brain than glucose. Avocados also contain essential fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K and important electrolytes such as magnesium and potassium. They are a great source of plantbased protein, with approximately four grams in one whole avocado, and boast 4.6 grams of soluble fibre per serving.
Serving size: ½ cup, cubed (75 g)
GOOD TO KNOW: If you want your avocados to ripen faster, store them in a paper bag at room temperature, and they should be ready to eat within two to three days. Placing an apple in the bag with them speeds up the process even more. Don’t want to wait? Avocado oil is one of the healthiest oils you can cook with. Plus it has a higher smoking point than olive oil, so you can cook at higher temperatures.
12. POMEGRANATE JUICE
Heals: Inflammation • Immune system • Bones • Hypertension • Cancer • Heart disease
Studies have shown that pomegranate juice has more anti-inflammatory compounds than blueberry juice, grape juice or black cherry juice. If you’re having painful periods because it reduces inflammation and cramping while also providing a small ( but healthy) sugar boost during a time when many women experience low blood sugar.
Studies have also shown that pomegranate juice helps cholesterol and prostate- specific antigen levels in men with prostate cancer, and it has been used for hundreds of years for those with diabetes or metabolic syndrome. The juice provides concentrated vitamins and anti-inflammatory phenols and is easier to digest than the whole fruit.
Serving size: 1 cup (250 ml)
GOOD TO KNOW: Tossing pomegranate seeds on your salad may be good for your skin. Scientists have discovered that nutrients in pomegranates can help protect skin from sun damage and possibly even from cancer.
13. DARK CHOCOLATE
Heals: Mood disorders • High blood pressure • Heart disease
Lucky 13 is the dark chocolate. Flavonoids, which are found in dark chocolate, may boost mood by affecting blood flow in the brain and enhancing executive functioning. Additionally, flavonoids help increase the amount of serotonin as well as other naturally occurring mood- boosting chemicals in the blood. This is separate from the experience of enjoying what you’re eating, since chocolate can also stimulate the release of endorphins. Because of its antioxidant properties, dark chocolate is increasingly being researched for its effect on boosting immunity, lowering blood pressure and protecting the heart.
Serving size: 30 g
GOOD TO KNOW: To obtain the most flavonoids, choose a dark chocolate with 70 per cent cacao or greater.
Check out my related post: Anyone likes Noodles?