July 09, 2009
What do blueberries, avocados, and lentils have in common? They're all super-foods that can help make a better you. Find out which foods help migraines, lower cholesterol, and even lower your risk for heart disease.Many foods can help give you healthy eyes, healthy skin, and a boost of energy. Research also shows some foods may help prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. Environmental factors and the aging process can cause free radicals to damage our bodies. Here's how eating some specific foods can prevent that damage.
While the body has systems in place to prevent damage from free radicals, the systems aren't always 100% efficient. The good news is that naturally occurring chemicals, antioxidants, are found in the below "super-foods," and can help prevent free radical damage. A diet rich in the following foods gives you strong doses of antioxidants, helping to create a healthy body and mind, and prevent chronic diseases.
Avocados This fat-rich fruit contains a good type of fat, oleic acid, which may help lower bad cholesterol, known as LDL, in the blood. Avocados are a powerhouse of nutrition. They're rich in potassium, for blood pressure control, and folic acid, which is important for women of child-bearing age.
Enjoy slices on a tossed salad, or mix chopped avocado into a favorite salsa. Not only do they add rich, creamy flavor, but they also help your body absorb nutrients from other vegetables. These nutrients are known as phytonutrients and include carotenoids - a good source of beta carotene, according to the American Journal of Nutrition.
Blueberries Also packed with antioxidants, blueberries knock out free radicals that damage the eyes and vascular system. This fruit can help prevent cataracts, varicose veins, heart disease, and cancer. The Archives of Ophthalmology suggests that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day - including dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries - may lower the risk of age-related vision loss in older adults.
Green tea One of the world's most widely consumed beverages, green tea, provide antioxidants known as polyphenols and catechin - which are believed to reduce inflammation. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, green tea might also speed up metabolism and may help prevent certain cancers. Research shows the health benefits are greatest when you drink at least 3 cups of green tea a day.
Kale Kale contains an antioxidant known as sulforaphane that fights high blood pressure and reduces the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and diabetes. Other vegetables in this family - broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, watercress, and mustard and turnip greens - also contain powerful antioxidants. Broccoli sprouts - similar to alfalfa sprouts - are a great source of sulforaphane.
Lentils Lentils are the quickest and easiest to prepare of all beans. A very good source of soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol, lentils are of special benefit in managing blood sugar levels, diabetes, and hypoglycemia. Their high fiber content prevents bloods sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal, Research also shows that eating foods high in soluble fiber, like lentils, can help prevent heart disease.
Quinoa Quinoa (keen-wa), an ancient "grain" from South America, was once called "the gold of the Incas" because it increased their warriors' stamina. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein is complete, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids.
Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, which means it can be valuable for relieving migraine headaches. Quinoa is also a good source of Vitamin B-2, which can help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks by improving energy use in brain and muscle cells.
Walnuts This delicious nut is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, a special type of fat the body can't make on its own. A quarter cup of walnuts gives you 91% of your recommended daily amount of this "good" fat. Walnuts have possible health benefits ranging from heart protection to better brain function. Also, they can prevent inflammation, which may help with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims that "eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."
Red wine When you reach for a cocktail, a glass of red wine may be the best choice. According to recent research, an antioxidant in red wine might help control inflammation in the body. To aid heart disease, this antioxidant boosts the body's ability to dissolve blood clots. Another antioxidant, in the grapes' skins, can help your body defend itself against stroke and heart attack.
Remember, adding in a few of these nutrient-packed foods in your everyday meals can have a big impact - helping you feel and look great every day.
Maggie Green is a Registered Dietitian, chef, and mother of three. She is the owner of The Green Apron Company, a culinary nutrition consulting business. Maggie tests and develops, edits cookbooks, shapes cookbook ideas, and cooks her way to good health all while promoting the value of simple, delicious, home-cooked meals.