Everyone wants to look and feel as healthy as possible and most people have at least some understanding that what they consume has a lot to do with overall health. While it’s not possible to turn back the clock or stop aging, it is possible to improve your physical and mental health and well-being by eating the right foods. Here are some great ones and their benefits to help get you started.
A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association points out potential health benefits of eating almonds, including lowering cholesterol levels, and they increase vitamin E levels in red blood cells and plasma. Other research found that almonds significantly increase the number of antioxidants in the blood stream, improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that daily almond consumption, in place of another high-carbohydrate snack, can help prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce dangerous abdominal fat.
Small, tasty and nutritious, apricots are bursting with beta-carotene, found by Ulm University researchers in Germany to be linked to lowered Alzheimer’s disease rates. Apricots are chock full of vitamin C, say researchers, which not only provides an immune system boost, it also decreases depression risk.
Filling and low-calorie, asparagus packs several health benefits into each spear. For example, asparagus is a useful source of prebiotic dietary fiber inulin, which is known to improve gut bacteria levels, boost the immune system and assist in weight loss. High fiber intake is also linked to less cardiovascular disease.
The anthocyanins in blueberries are potent health promoters, linked to prevention of heart disease, certain types of cancer, reduced diabetes risk, and cognitive function disorders. Research into other protective properties of berries shows at least potential improvements in vision and memory.
Mothers used to urge their children to eat the “green trees” on their plate, and broccoli consumption has much going for it in the healthy eating arena. The vegetable is loaded with chromium, crucial for synthesizing serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin – all associated with improved mood. In addition, broccoli is a rich source of immune system boosts vitamins A and C, and iron, which helps mitigate metabolic changes of iron-deficiency anemia.
Beta-carotene in butternut squash helps fight against later life cognitive issues. The gourd vegetable is also believed to prevent damage from ultra-violet rays. Elevated levels of potassium in butternut squash offer heart-healthy benefits by lowering blood pressure, while fiber improves digestion and lowers risk of inflammation in the colon. A pilot study using protein-source tryptophan in butternut squash found significant improvement in participants with social anxiety disorder.
A versatile and healthy food, cashews are packed with vitamins and nutrients that may help in the prevention of cancer, maintaining weight, and improving heart performance. Rich in dietary magnesium, cashews also help improve mood and reduce depression. Cashews may help reduce and reverse the health risks associated with the condition in those with type 2 diabetes, according to another study.
A tasty spice to add zest to many dishes, cinnamon has major health benefits as well. It helps reduce inflammation and pain and combat spikes in insulin. Published in PLoS One, a study reported that cinnamon can be instrumental in fending off later life cognitive ailments.
For those who just must have their morning cup of coffee (and maybe several more through the day), there’s good news on the health front. Research found that the caffeine in coffee can decrease depression risk, reverse the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, improve vigilance, mental alertness and attention.
Who doesn’t love eggs? Besides being incredibly versatile, eggs – especially in breakfast, help enhance weight loss in obese and overweight people, when combined with a reduced-calorie weight loss diet. Among their other health benefits, the yolks in eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that help improve vision. Lutein also helps maintain mental acuity.
Low-fat lamb is packed with protein, which is important for maintaining muscle mass. Furthermore, lamb is an excellent source of zinc and iron and amino acids, contains trace amounts of selenium, copper and manganese. Iron helps in the formation of red blood cells, while zinc helps promote healing, a healthy immune system, and is essential for growth. Half the fat in lamb is unsaturated, most of it monounsaturated fat, typically heralded in Mediterranean-type diets.
Did you know that mozzarella cheese contains more tryptophan, an amino acid, than turkey? The benefit of tryptophan to your health is that it’s linked to brain function and production of serotonin, both of which are helpful for boosting mood and improving cognition.
A delicious accompaniment to steaks, salads, stews, soups and plain, mushrooms are a useful source of vitamin D, important in reducing depression rates. Researchers at the University of Milan found that mushrooms’ vitamin D helped overweight and obese individuals to reduce weight, especially as they upped their mushroom intake. Mushrooms have also been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, aid heart health and immunity, and provide benefits to those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
A study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine says that peanuts (a legume, not a nut) reduce the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. They’re rich in nutrients, including fiber, unsaturated fatty acids, phenolic antioxidants, vitamins, arginine and other phytochemicals. Plus, they’re an affordable way to boost cardiovascular health. Other research suggests the lutein in peanuts helps skin retain its elasticity.
Don’t let the prickly outside of pineapples deter you from cutting into the delicious and nutritious fruit. Pineapple contains vitamin C to boost the immune system, and bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme.
Picking out the deep-red sacs of arils and seeds of the pomegranate may take some time, but the results are more than just tasty. With three different polyphenols, potent antioxidants, pomegranates are thought to reduce heart disease risk, improve blood flow. Urolithin A in pomegranates may increase longevity while also fighting cellular aging. Pomegranates also contain vitamin C, good for decreasing stress levels.
Deliciously sweet and high in fiber and resveratrol, while being low in the glycemic index, raspberries are a great food choice to satisfy sweet cravings without causing a major spike in blood sugar or fat storage. Harvard Medical School research links the resveratrol in raspberries to reductions in cellular aging. The fruit is also packed with anthocyanins, an antioxidant pigment found to reduce the risk of dementia.
Another low-calorie, tasty food choice with health benefits, red grapes contain resveratrol, helpful for mental acuity, vision improvement, and linked to belly fat reduction. University of Missouri researchers have found that the resveratrol in red grapes may help counteract the effects of meth use by diminishing the amount of dopamine the drug releases, as well as lower levels of hyperactivity, a common symptom in users.
Vitamins C and B6 in romaine lettuce are believed to aid eyesight, skin, and fight inflammation.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, this cold-water fish boasts properties that help reduce inflammation, lower heart disease risk, and help in the prevention of certain neurological issues associated with aging. Salmon’s omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for pregnant women and their unborn child. An added benefit, discovered by Purdue researchers, is that the omega-3s in salmon can increase collagen. Want a more youthful glow? Eat plenty of salmon.
Many people don’t realize that sesame seeds are a reliable source of non-dairy calcium, which is good for strong bones and teeth. Sesame seeds also help promote weight loss.
Whether you layer cooked spinach as a bed for chicken Parmesan, fold it into an egg omelet or smoothie ingredient, or add it in a salad, this green vegetable provides health benefits that include a high percent less likelihood to consume unhealthy foods, and a potential for increased weight loss. Also, beneficial in spinach are the lutein, zeaxanthin, fiber, and vitamins A and K it contains.
Everyone requires sufficient protein to maintain optimum health. One excellent source is steak, particularly lean grass-fed beef which is high in iron and zinc and lower in overall fat content. Alpha lipoic acid in steak reduces inflammation, improves circulation, and slows cellular aging.
Beta-carotene in tomatoes helps fight dementia, protect against aging skin and inflammation. Lycopene in tomatoes helps boost brain power. Besides, tomatoes have few calories and are versatile enough to be used in many kinds of recipes.
Once again, it’s the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, in this case, tuna, that fight against inflammation and reduce heart disease risk. Researchers at Purdue University said that tuna promotes the production of collagen for soft, smooth skin.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that the chemicals in foods such as apples, turmeric, and green tea may offer protection against cancer by minimizing inflammation, one of the risk factors for cancer. The spice is also being studied for its potential beneficial effects on inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s disease, peptic ulcers, arthritis, prostate cancer and other conditions.