“The effect that diet can have on how you feel today and in the future is astounding,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, Food & Mood, and The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals.
Superfoods are important at any stage of life, but as individuals mature they become much more important for promoting heart health and avoiding illness. These foods offer essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep the body feeling good and working properly.
Some Examples of Superfoods provided by WebMD include: Beans, Blueberries, Broccoli, Oats, Oranges, Pumpkin, Salmon, Soy, Spinach, Tea (green or black), Tomatoes, Turkey, Walnuts, Yogurt
Blueberries — Antioxidant Superfood
Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, these berries are also high in potassium and vitamin C, making them the top choice of doctors and nutritionists. Not only can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory.
Omega 3-Rich Fish — Superfoods for the Heart, Joints, and Memory
“We know that the omega 3s you get in fish lower heart disease risk, help arthritis, and may possibly help with memory loss and Alzheimer’s,” Somer says. “There is some evidence to show that it reduces depression as well.”
Omega-3s are most prevalent in fatty, cold-water fish: Look for wild (not farmed) salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. Aim for two-to-three servings a week. Other forms of omega 3s are available in fortified eggs, flax seed, and walnuts. These superfoods have the added benefit of being high in monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol.
Soy — Superfood to Lower Cholesterol
A study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association (2003) showed that a diet of soy fiber, protein from oats and barley, almonds, and margarine from plant sterols lowered cholesterol as much as statins, the most widely prescribed cholesterol medicine. “Look for tofu, soy milk, or edamame — not soy powder,” says Somer. In other words, soy sauce won’t do the trick. One caveat: If you have a family history of breast cancer it is not recommended that you eat extra soy.
Fiber — Superfood Aids Weight Loss and Checks Cholesterol
A diet high in fiber will help you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. As a bonus, because fiber helps you feel full longer, it’s a great tool in weight management. Whole grains, beans, fruit, and vegetables are all good sources.
Tea — Superfood for Lowering Cholesterol and Inhibiting Cancer
A recent Japanese study on green tea found that men who drank green tea regularly had lower cholesterol than those who didn’t. Researchers in Spain and the United Kingdom have also shown that ECGC, a powerful antioxidant found in green and black tea, can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. For a double health whammy, replace sugary sodas with tea.
OK, OK, you know the drill: Calcium helps build strong bones and prevents osteoporosis. Look for it in dairy products or supplements. Here are the calcium levels recommended for adults by the USDA:
Age 9 to 18 — 1,300 mg
Age 19 to 50 — 1,000 mg
Age 51 and over — 1,200 mg
New research has shown that dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and can lower blood pressure. Experts recommend that you look for chocolate with 60% or higher cocoa content; the darker, the better. In addition, the darker it is, the lower the fat and sugar content.
Want more information: Check out this handy shopping list of superfoods!
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Photo credit: Blueberry close up by Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture