The Link Between Food and Longevity

MHLbannersmallGetting back to the basics with these
10 healthy foods

In addition to being Brain Injury Awareness Month, March also doubles as National
Nutrition Month. It's a good time to think about healthier eating and maybe to admit that we can all "go back to school" from time to time. While we know the value in cooking meals with a higher nutritional value and eating healthier snacks, sometimes we have to remind ourselves about some of the building blocks that can help us reach that objective.

That's why we're offering a Top 10 list of foods that offer a key to wholesome eating and have also been singled out for their ability to add flavor to your meals and years to your life. This is due to their anti-aging properties and their ability to help fight off life-threatening diseases.

apples1. Apples

  • What's in it for you?
    A lot of antioxidants, including quercetin, a naturally occurring plant pigment that is considered to be a strong counter force to free radical damage. Apples also contain high levels of pectin, a soluble dietary fiber associated with lowering cholesterol among its other health benefits.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    Quercetin is considered to be a strong counter force to free radical damage, the superman of antioxidants, and fights both blood clots and cancer. Pectin is associated with lowering LDL cholesterol levels among other health benefits.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    Eat it whole or cut it into slices as a snack or an accompaniment on your salad. Either way don't peel it because the skin is the source for most of the quercetin.

avocado2. Avocados

  • What's in it for you?
    A big portion of dietary fiber, a high concentration of potassium (more than bananas), monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and the best fruit source of vitamin E and the carotenoid (materials that originate in plant and animal color pigments that have nutritive value) lutein.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    Softer skin, nutrients that protect against eye disorders like macular degeneration (that's the lutein at work), and protection against high blood pressure and certain types of cancer, particularly colon cancer.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    When they're ripe and getting a little soft, just scoop one out of the skin and eat it or add slices to a salad. You can also add finely chopped onions and tomatoes plus a little lime juice, mix it all up and enjoy a great guacamole. Or you can mash one and use on a sandwich like a much healthier dollop of mayonnaise.

3banana. Bananas

  • What's in it for you?
    Quite a healthy portion of potassium along with some magnesium and folate.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    The protection against hypertension that is characteristic of potassium and the proper tissue growth and cancer fighting qualities of the folate.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    Short of a banana cream pie, which kind of defeats the purpose, the best thing to do with a banana is simply peel and eat or slice it up for fruit salads or cereals. There are also those who claim to enjoy a banana and peanut butter sandwich from time to time and some among us even mash the two together before spreading the mix on bread.

egg4. Eggs

  • What's in it for you?
    An ovoid-shaped shell full of choline, protein and carotenoids.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    The choline is thought to help the memory process especially as you get older and the carotenoids help prevent aging-related eye disorders including cataracts.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    A lot of choices here. Hard boiled, poached, fried or scrambled and a great addition to a lot of other dishes. The important nutritional caveat for eggs is to avoid any preparation that involves a lot of butter or oil.

garlic5. Garlic

  • What's in it for you?
    The humble garlic bulb, sometimes called the "stinking rose" by the Elizabethan English, is loaded with antioxidants, a good hit of vitamin B6 and allicin, garlic's major biologically active component.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    The allicin has long been valued for its anti-bacterial qualities and has been associated with stronger immune systems and resistance to high blood pressure. And of course, those antioxidants are there to slow down the aging process and fight against a wide range of disease.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    You can bake and then mash the bulbs to create a type of butter-less butter, put them into all but the most delicate dishes (It's preferable to add the garlic slices near the end of the cooking process) and even add them to mashed potatoes. And of course garlic is a staple of healthy, Mediterranean diets. If you are concerned about "garlic breath" there are odorless supplements, but this article is about food and besides, you'd miss that great flavor that garlic imparts.

black beans6. Black Beans, Kidney Beans or Pinto Beans

  • What's in it for you?
    Lots of fiber, protein and a source of "good" carbohydrates (carbs that are not refined or processed and get absorbed slowly into our systems).
  • What does that mean for your health?
    The soluble fiber in beans helps maintain a healthy digestive system and can also help lower blood sugar and blood pressure.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    You can put them in soups, stews and chili where they offer a distinctive flavor but also take on the flavor or the dish, or you can serve as a side dish. Dried beans are sure to be less processed but if you use canned beans, be sure to rinse them in a colander to reduce some of the sodium that's often added.

walnuts7. Walnuts

  • What's in it for you?
    A very high concentration of omega-3-fatty acids.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    Research shows strong evidence that omega-3's can help lower triglycerides and blood pressure. And they may help with other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and depression.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    Fresh is always best, so eating walnuts straight from the shell is the way to go. If you've already removed them from the shell and have had enough, you can also keep them relatively fresh for about two weeks in a cool, dry place. The best way to eat it: crack and eat or add them to a salad or a stir-fry dish.

8red wine. Red Wine

  • What's in it for you?
    A good portion of antioxidants as well as resveratrol, a natural phenol that occurs in plants, including red grapes.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    A growing number of studies indicate that resveratrol supports cardiovascular health and can help protect against some forms of dementia.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    Drink a glass, but no more than two for men and one for women. Too much alcohol cancels out the benefits and can be detrimental to your health. Some good non-alcoholic sources of resveratrol include red grape juice and unsweetened cranberry juice. Be forewarned, however, that if you've only had the kind of cranberry juice with loads of added sugar, get ready to pucker.

tofu9. Tofu and Soy Products

  • What's in it for you?
    Fiber, non-meat protein and isoflavones, organic compounds in our body known for their protection against free radicals.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    Anything that acts as a free radical scavenger has an anti-aging effect on the cellular level. Soy products have also been shown to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    You can marinate it in soy sauce, herbs or olive oil and bake it. Because tofu is notorious for assuming the flavor profile of whatever it's cooked with, it also works well as a stir-fry ingredient. If you're put off by the squishiness of some tofu be sure to look for the firm varieties which are much easier to cut.

spinach10. Spinach

  • What's in it for you?
    Antioxidants, folic acid and a hearty helping of vitamin A, as well as vitamins K and C and some good dietary fiber.
  • What does that mean for your health?
    Among dark green, leafy vegetables, kale seems to be getting most of the spotlight right now but the old standby, spinach, really comes through for high nutrition and low calories. Along with its cancer-fighting antioxidants, spinach also is an excellent promoter of cardiovascular health and can help lower blood pressure.
  • What's the best delivery system?
    You can steam it for a side dish and eat it raw in salads where you can combine it with some of our other Top 10 foods. Be sure to add other greens if you want variety in look and taste. When you cut it in small pieces, you can even add it to smoothies for an extra boost.

Some Radical Thoughts on Antioxidants

Very unstable atoms or groups of atoms with an odd, unpaired number of electrons are created in our body as a natural byproduct of the process in which cells use oxygen. These very reactive particles are called "free radicals" and when they "bang" into the DNA in our cells they can cause damage, leading to cellular aging and disease. The good news is that our bodies have a defense system comprised of nutrients called "antioxidants" that can slow the process down or maybe even prevent it in some cases. The even better news is that certain foods can help incorporate antioxidants into our bodies - and thereby neutralize free radicals – by the simple and often delicious process of eating them.

There are, of course, quite a few other foods that can impact longevity that didn't make our Top 10 list. But somehow a Top 14 list doesn't have the same ring to it. These Top 10 foods (including one beverage) are a great place to start.


 

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