9 Superfoods to Protect and Prolong Health

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Imagine ingesting something that could control your weight, boost your mood, or keep you sharp—without side effects.

“Superfoods” do this—and help protect against heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more.

  • ALMONDS are high in vitamin E. They’re good sources of B vitamins, fiber, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, and zinc. These nuts also contain healthy fats. Besides a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, almonds have potential prebiotic effects. They may stimulate growth of good bacteria in the intestinal tract. Eaten in moderation (about 22 nuts) almonds can help you manage weight; they provide satiety and may also increase excretion of fat from the body. 
  • BERRIES profoundly impact health and performance. In addition to protecting against cancer, stroke, and heart disease, blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries have phytochemicals that appear to protect against age-related declines in cognitive functioning. These natural substances may even help reverse decline by counteracting oxidative stress and decreasing inflammation. In addition to disease-fighting substances, blackberries and blueberries offer vitamins C and K (which may help prevent osteoporosis). When berries are not in season, frozen varieties work well in smoothies.
  • CABBAGES (bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and watercress) all offer an expansive array of nutrients and antioxidants. Most of us would do well to triple our intake of this family of veggies. The American Cancer Society recommends eating cabbage and its relatives to reduce the risk of cancer. These foods contain sulforaphane, an organic chemical compound shown to inhibit the growth of carcinogen-induced cancers as well as H. pylori bacteria, a cause of gastric infection.
  • FISH (Alaskan halibut, bass, light tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, and trout) are all part of a healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fatty fish a week to protect circulatory health, support cognitive functioning, and reduce inflammation implicated in arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
  • GREEN TEA has mild thermogenic properties that boost metabolism to burn calories. Research suggests it may also inhibit storage of new fat. Green tea’s main active ingredients are polyphenols that protect the body from free radicals and help prevent oxidative damage. In particular, ECGC has been found to lower cholesterol and may inhibit cancer cell growth. This polyphenol also helps regulate insulin, which plays an important role in weight regulation.
  • LEAFY GREENS (arugula, endive, escarole, sorrel, spinach, and more) are super sources of many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Their combination of nutrients, phytochemicals, and soluble fiber make these powerful anticancer foods, according to research. One serving a day can lower your risk of coronary vascular disease, improve blood glucose metabolism, maintain healthy bowel function, and protect bone density.
  • LEGUMES—all kinds of beans, fermented soy, lentils, and peas—are low in fat and calories but rich in protein, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc. Legumes have more disease-fighting antioxidants than almost all other plants. Consumption has been linked to reduced risk for heart disease and diabetes in mildly insulin-resistant adults while lowering colon cancer incidence. An excellent source of complex carbohydrates and plant-based protein, legumes are high in fiber so you eat less. They’re the only food to earn the USDA’s inclusion in two food groups: meat and vegetable.
  • WHOLE GRAINS (brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, kamut, oats, quinoa, teff, and more) may protect against chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and various cancers. These unrefined grains have hundreds of phytochemicals including lignans, plant stanols and sterols, phytoestrogens, and saponins that protect cells from damage linked to cancer. Thanks to their fiber, whole grains also help you maintain a healthy weight. Eat at least three servings daily for energy and long-term health.
  • YOGURT AND KEFIR have all of milk’s nutrition, plus billions of probiotics—healthy bacteria that fight lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrhea, and infections while enhancing immunity. Its The benefits of these probiotic foods are linked to their live active cultures, which can reduce the risk of allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, certain cancers, and some infections. Yogurt and kefir are also excellent sources of dietary calcium, which may play a role in weight control, as well as muscle and bone health.

 

Sources: 

“51 Healthy Foods You Can Say ‘Yes’ To,” Health & Nutrition Letter, Tufts University

“Bean Consumption Is Associated with Greater Nutrient Intake, Reduced Systolic Blood Pressure, Lower Body Weight, and a Smaller Waist Circumference in Adults” by Yanni Papanikolaou, MHSc, and Victor L. Fulgoni III, PhD, Journal of the American College of Nutrition,10/08

“Berry Fruits: Compositional Elements, Biochemical Activities, and the Impact of Their Intake on Human Health, Performance, and Disease” by Navindra P. Seeram, J Agric Food Chem, 1/08

“The Effect of an Extract of Green and Black Tea on Glucose Control in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus . . .” by T. Mackenzie et al., Metabolism, 5/07

“Foods That Fight Cancer,” American Institute for Cancer Research, 2008

“Nut Consumption and Body Weight” by Joan Sabate, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 9/03

 “Potential Prebiotic Properties of Almond Seeds,” G. Mandalari et al., Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 7/08

The SuperFoodsRx Diet by Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD, Steven Pratt, MD, and Kathy Matthews ($25.95, Rodale, 2008)

“Whole Grains and Health: An Overview” by Leonard Marquart, PhD, RD, et al., Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 6/00

Contributor: 

Elaine Ambrose