Over the past few years we’ve learned so much about the tremendous role that foods play in fighting diseases and our overall health. Studies have shown beyond question that diet has a huge impact on our body and how it functions. What we eat affects the strength of our immune system, our ability to fight cancer and other diseases, the health of our heart & organs; our mental clarity, the strength of our bones & teeth, the quality of our sleep, the health of our skin and hair… it’s impossible to list them all!
Here are the top 10 foods that fight disease, boost energy, and contribute to optimum health and longevity.
1. Salmon. Salmon is a weekly must if you’re serious about a healthy diet. Salmon is a top provider of omega-3 fatty acids which keep your blood flowing and your arteries clear, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Wild salmon (as opposed to “farm raised”) is bursting with nutrients, healthy fats and top-quality antioxidants.
2. Fruits & Vegetables. Overflowing with antioxidants, fruits & veggies are key in fighting off free radicals which damage our cells and cause the effects of aging. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber necessary to move waste through the body. The longer waste material sits in the body, the more toxic it becomes, so regular elimination is vital for optimum health.
3. Beans. I know, I know – beans are the source of hundreds of jokes but they are extremely healthy! Beans are high in protein with very little fat or calories. They are loaded with fiber which fills us up without overeating. Beans of all kinds – navy, kidney, black beans, chickpeas, northern – are delicious served alone or to add flavor and nutritional value to soups and casseroles. And good news: The more beans you eat the more your body adjusts, which means the amount of gas produced will diminish as time goes along.
4. Oatmeal. Yep, your mother was right. Good old-fashioned oatmeal really is good for you! It lowers cholesterol and provides fiber which fills you up so you eat less (“sticks to your ribs” in other words…) and it keeps your blood sugar constant. Try to avoid the instant oatmeal because it isn’t as fiber-rich as the longer-cooking variety.
5. Garlic, onions, shallots and leeks. This class of foods (called “allium”) protects against breast, prostate and colon cancers. It also benefits the heart by preventing blood clots and lowering blood pressure. Tip: To maximize the health benefits of garlic, don’t cook it immediately after crushing or chopping. Instead, crush the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. This triggers an enzyme reaction that dramatically boosts the healthy compounds in garlic.
6. Berries. Especially blueberries, strawberries, and “Açai” berries. (Acai is showing up in more stores but if you can’t find it, check health food stores). Berries are a potent source of antioxidants which, again, are the mega-fighters that prevent disease. Berries are also tremendous energy-boosters! A blueberry smoothie for breakfast provides more long-lasting energy, more nutrients, and way less cholesterol than 2 eggs.
7. Flaxseed. Some consider flaxseed to be one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. Similar to salmon in its abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed also contains omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids which help reduce heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. That’s quite a tall order for this tiny seed, and it’s been around for centuries. Whole flaxseed can be added to cereals, yogurt, salads – ground flaxseed can be added to fruit smoothies, meatloaf, casseroles, or pancake mix. Be creative! The added nutritional value is well worth the effort.
8. Chili Peppers. Sooo good for you! Chili peppers are high in beta-carotene and vitamin C – both vital for good health, but the “biggie” is that all chili peppers contain “capsaicin”. Capsaicin is an anti-inflammatory, a pain reliever, it lowers cancer risk (especially prostate), helps prevent heart disease, wards off chronic sinus infections, and even increases metabolism for weight loss! Cultures that use chili peppers liberally in their meals have significantly lower rates of heart attack and stroke than cultures that do not.
9. Nuts. Who knew? These tasty little gems are very good for you because of their high concentration of the “good kind” of fats and protein. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, and pistachios are terrific preventers of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, dementia, gallstones, and even macular degeneration. Nuts are high in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, folic acid and the amino acid arginine (increases human growth hormone – aka the anti-aging hormone).
10. Yogurt. The fat free variety is extremely good for you! Live yogurt contains friendly bacteria for a healthy digestive system. Yogurt is high in calcium – essential for strong bones and teeth and not very plentiful in our diet, especially if you don’t consume much milk or other dairy. Yogurt contains vitamin B and is packed with protein.
There is no question that by themselves, these key foods benefit our overall health. But when they are combined with one another, along with regular hydration (drinking water) and even minimal exercise – the results can be spectacular.
About the Author:
Patti Mays is an expert cook who’s all about delicious, affordable foods. Her upbeat website features tried & true recipes that are easy to make; helpful tools & gadgets, great cooking ideas, and unique tips. She has a large following because of her unpretentious style and humorous approach.