A balanced diet is essential to good health, and what you eat can make a huge difference in how you feel and look. The right diet can also drastically reduce your risk for developing illness and disease.
Following recommended dietary guidelines is a good idea, but scientists have discovered that some foods contain much higher concentrations of powerful compounds that promote good health. These foods are called “super foods”.
Super foods are not necessarily exotic, or hard to find; most super food items can be purchased in your grocery store, or at a health food market. So which foods should you pay particular attention to? The following are good ones to consider: chia seeds, coconut oil, blueberries, eggs, and olive oil. To learn more about each, keep reading.
Remember the infamous Chia Pet? Well…would you believe the seeds used on Chia Pets are edible? Not only are chia seeds edible, they’re also surprisingly good for you. Research has shown that chia seeds contain high levels of numerous nutrients that can positively impact your health.
Chia seeds are black and white in color, tiny in size (about the size of a poppy seed), and they come from a desert plant that grows in Mexico. And eating them is far from being a new thing. In fact, chia seeds were often used in Mayan and Aztec cultures to provide energy, and to cure various ailments.
The small size and mild flavor of chia seeds makes them very easy to incorporate into your diet. Many people sprinkle them on cereal, salads, yogurt, vegetables, and rice dishes. They are also commonly mixed into soups, sauces and drinks, and can be added to baked goods. They can even be made into a pudding that resembles tapioca.
And chia seeds have an incredible concentration of nutritional elements, including anti-oxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber (both soluble and insoluble), iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.
Research has shown that by weight, chia seeds actually contain a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. And what’s so good about omega-3 fatty acids? A diet rich in omega-3s has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as the risk factors associated with heart disease, like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to help prevent diabetes, and promote brain health.
Chia seeds also contain several powerful antioxidants, including caffeic acid, clorogenic acid, and quercetin. Caffeic acid is known to reduce the risk for developing colitis, chronic inflammation, several types of cancer, and heart disease. It also provides an overall boost to the immune system. Chlorogenic acid is easily absorbed by the body, and has been shown to reduce the growth of brain tumors, and can also help to prevent type-2 diabetes. Quercetin boosts energy, and may also be helpful to adults who are fighting high levels of stress and fatigue.
While most dietary oils are composed of long chain fatty acids, coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid. Believe it or not, this distinction makes coconut oil special. Why? Because unlike long chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids do not need to be processed or digested by the liver or gall bladder, which makes coconut oil very easy to digest. Also, there are very few dietary sources of medium chain fatty acids, and out of all of them, coconut oil has the most benefits. And it’s easy to incorporate coconut oil into your diet. It can be used in cooking and baking, can be added to drinks and sauces, and can even be applied directly to the skin or hair.
A primary benefit attributed to coconut oil is its ability to lower the risk for developing diabetes and heart disease, while also lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Studies of populations living in tropical areas where coconut oil is used abundantly have shown significantly lower incidences of heart disease, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. Other studies have demonstrated coconut oil’s ability to reduce body mass index and waist circumference. Additionally, coconut oil has been shown to prevent fatigue, boost metabolism, and aid in weight loss. Studies are even being done to see if coconut oil may help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and osteoporosis. Finally, coconut oil is full of antioxidants, making it an excellent anti-aging skin moisturizer.
Coconut oil has been found to contain numerous interesting compounds, one of the most studied being lauric acid. Inside the body, lauric acid is turned into monolaurin, a compound that disrupts the lipid membranes of fungus, viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms, thus destroying them. The body cannot produce monolaurin if lauric acid isn’t present. And the only other natural source of lauric acid is breast milk. It has long been noted that many breast fed babies have stronger immune systems than babies who are not breast fed, which may be a result of the lauric acid that they receive from their mothers. Amazingly, coconut oil can provide the same immunity boosting benefits.
Blueberries have been on the super food list for a long time, and with good reason. These delicious berries contain a higher concentration of antioxidants than any other fruit. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. And what could be easier to eat? Blueberries can be eaten fresh on their own, or they can also be added to fruit salads, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, or smoothies. It’s interesting to note that frozen blueberries contain just as many nutrients as fresh blueberries, so the health benefits that they provide can be enjoyed year round.
Like many other super foods, blueberries are believed to reduce the risk for developing conditions like heart disease, certain types of cancers, and diabetes. A recent study at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center discovered that consuming blueberries can result in lower triglycerides, lower cholesterol, a decrease in abdominal fat, and improved fasting insulin and glucose sensitivity. And powerful compounds in blueberries, such as pterostilbene, ellagic acid, and anthocyanin, have been shown to prevent colon, liver, and ovarian cancers.
In addition to prevention of life threatening ailments, blueberries promote good general health. The compounds found in blueberries boost the immune system, and the high concentration of antioxidants counteracts damage done by free radicals. The result is skin that has a fresher, more youthful appearance. Blueberries also improve brain health, eye health, and urinary tract health.
Aside from being a kitchen staple, eggs are high in both protein and nutrients. But until recently, eggs got a bad name due to their high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. Newer research, however, has shown that much of the derision the egg has received may be misguided. In addition to providing a lot of nutrition in a small package, eggs are extremely versatile—making their addition to the super food list a no-brainer!
So what’s so great about the egg? Lean protein for one. Lean protein is essential to helping a person feel full after a meal, which helps to prevent overeating. Lean protein is also responsible for repairing muscles after exercise, and for growing healthy tissue. Eggs are a great source of lean protein, without being high in calories. One large egg white has only 20 calories and 0 grams of fat, while containing 3.5 grams of protein. Egg whites are also high in riboflavin, a compound that helps to metabolize fat and carbohydrates.
Many people avoid egg yolks due to concerns about cholesterol, but yolks actually contain important nutrients that can boost memory functioning. And they have high levels of choline, which promotes the health of neurotransmitters that are responsible for memory and muscle control. Eggs are also high in lutein, a carotenoid that prevents age-related eye diseases and oxidative eye damage. And eggs contain all of the amino acids necessary to form keratins, which are responsible for healthy hair, skin, and nails.
This super food contains monounsaturated fatty acids and phytonutrients, which are key to lowering the risk factors associated with several health conditions including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. There is also strong evidence that olive oil promotes bone health, digestive health, and cognitive functioning. Lastly, olive oil is believed to reduce chronic inflammation, a precursor to other more serious conditions. Olive oil is an important component of the Mediterranean diet, and can be used in cooking when any type of fat is called for. It can also be used as a dressing for salads, pasta, and vegetables.
Substantial research has been done on the monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil, which have been found to lower LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure. This combination of lowered blood pressure and decreased LDL cholesterol results in a greatly reduced risk for heart disease.
Scientists have also discovered that olive oil may play an important part in preventing several types of cancers. A recent review of 25 studies concluded that using olive oil instead of other fats in your diet can lower the risk for developing breast cancer, colorectal cancer, upper digestive cancer, and respiratory tract cancers. Another new discovery is olive oil’s role in slowing down cognitive decline due to aging. In a study conducted by an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, women over the age of 65 who regularly consumed monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, showed a better pattern of cognitive functioning over time compared to subjects who used other types of fats in their diet.
Eat Well, Age Well
Healthy eating has everything to do with healthy aging. You can exercise, avoid stress, and have balanced hormones, but if your diet is unhealthy, you’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle. To minimize your risk for developing serious or chronic illness as you age, a healthy diet is imperative. If your diet needs to be improved, taking a series of small steps can be more effective than making sweeping changes all at once. Incorporating some super foods into your diet can be a good place to start.
For more information about healthy aging, please contact Anti Aging Northwest at (509)474-0597.