Your health is only as good as the food you eat. Following a regular diet based on nutrient-rich, organic food is one of the best things you can do to age gracefully. Supplying your body with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fatty acids helps you feel young and full of energy.
Unhealthy food, artificial ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and other environmental and lifestyle toxins produce free radicals that damage the cells in your body. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and support the body’s ability to protect and repair itself.
A two-year French study found that people who consumed the most antioxidants aged more slowly, lived longer, and had fewer health problems. A study from Brigham Young University found that antioxidantssupport healthy eyes in the face of aging.
The following foods are a great source of antioxidants.
Berries, specifically blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, goji berries, and blackberries contain a class of antioxidants called flavonoids. Anthocyanins, a subset of flavonoids, are antioxidant pigments that give berries their rich blue, red, and purple hues. Studies indicate that flavonoids and anthocyanins can soothe occasional inflammation and strengthen the immune system.
Grapes, especially red and purple grapes, contain an antioxidant called resveratrol which has been found to extend lifespan in animal testing. Resveratrol is also found in red wine, but there are many good reasons to restrict your alcohol intake or avoid it altogether. You can get the same antioxidants from grapes or organic, no-added-sugar grape juice
Dark chocolate is another source of polyphenols. Just remember—the darker the better. Skip the milk chocolate and look for an option with at least 60% cocoa.
It’s hard to beat cruciferous vegetables when it comes to certain antioxidants, such as isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol. Many organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, recommend eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts every day.
After water, green tea is the most consumed beverage on earth, and with good reason. Green tea offers a wide variety of robust antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative damage.
Although saturated fat from meat and dairy can raise your cholesterol and put you at risk for heart disease and stroke, unsaturated fat promotes normal cholesterol levels and is an important part of a healthy diet. There are two kinds of unsaturated fat—monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids, a beneficial type of polyunsaturated fat, help maintain heart health. Below are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
At Global Healing Center, we encourage a vegan lifestyle, but we realize that it may not be for everyone. If you choose not to abide by a plant-based diet, then at least select lean meat. Fish are a good option and just happen to be an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Farm-raised fish are often subject to poor conditions and best avoided. When considering wild-caught fish, keep in mind that mercury exposure can be a risk; children and pregnant women should be mindful of fish consumption.
Avocados have seen a surge in popularity lately, and it’s not (only) due to the tastiness of guacamole. According to researchers, eating an avocado a day supports normal cholesterol levels and boosts brain health. These benefits may be related to avocados’ high omega-3 content.
Flaxseeds are a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, and other nutrients. They’re a versatile seed that can be used whole, cracked, ground, or used to make flaxseed oil. Flaxseeds are a great addition to baked goods, smoothies, salads, or granola. You can even mix them with water and use as a vegan egg substitute!
Vitamins and Minerals
Your diet should provide the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals from natural, unprocessed, organic food. Avoid processed food, it’s often stripped of nutrients only to have artificial nutrients added back later in the process. Below are a few great, natural sources of vitamins and minerals.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens have a low glycemic index and are low in calories, carbohydrates, and sodium, but high in vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, C, E, and K can be found abundantly in salad greens, kale, and spinach while bok choy and mustard greens are excellent sources of B-complex vitamins. Dark leafy greens also contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
An important staple in any plant-based diet, beans provide protein and are among the few plant foods that contain the amino acid lysine, an essential amino acid necessary for human health. Beans provide a generous supply of folate—a B-complex vitamin essential for the production of red blood cells. They also offer potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
When grains are refined, the outer bran and germ are stripped away, leaving only the starch. Whole grains retain all of the nutritional potential of the original kernel with the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains are generally an excellent source of dietary fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin E. Standard whole grains like brown rice, barley, and oats are okay, but alternative grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, and kaniwa are a step above.
Your gut is home to a complex ecosystem of beneficial bacteria that support everything from metabolism and immune function to digestive health and even mental balance. Probiotic-rich food and supplements contain live, active bacterial cultures that can take up residence in your gut and boost your microbiota. Below are several types of food that are an excellent source of beneficial bacteria.
Yogurt is one of the more famous probiotic foods, but not all types of yogurt provide probiotics and certainly not all yogurt is healthy—some have more added sugar than a candy bar. Look for a vegan yogurt that is low in sugar, made with almonds, coconuts, cashews, or hemp, and packs a probiotic punch.
Similar to yogurt, kefir is a cultured milk beverage that likely originated centuries ago in Eastern Europe. Kefir is a potent probiotic food and a significant source of thiamin, B-12, calcium, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, and phosphorous.
A type of fermented tea, kombucha is a good source of probiotics and may support mental health, heart health, and immune function. Although kombucha has been popular for over 1500 years, it’s only recently begun to gain momentum in the United States.
What do you get when you take already healthy foods like cabbage, radish, garlic, red pepper, onion, and ginger, and ferment them? A legitimate superfood. Not only is kimchi loaded with antioxidants, it’s an excellent source of vitamin C, B vitamins, beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.
You can’t talk about probiotics without mentioning prebiotics. Prebiotics are fiber-rich foods that feed and nourish the friendly bacteria in your gut. Some excellent prebiotic foods include bananas, berries, legumes, garlic, onions, whole grains, and nuts.
The British Journal of Nutrition reports that nuts are a heart-healthy food that encourage healthy cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. With a relatively high vitamin E content, nuts promote normal blood pressure, help with weight loss, and help keep blood sugar under control.Below are some of the healthiest nuts.
Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fat, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, and phytonutrients. They support normal cholesterol and help reduce occasional inflammation and oxidative stress—all without raising blood sugar.
Animal studies have found that a diet rich in walnuts may promote prostate health, support normal cholesterol, and encourage normal insulin levels.
Brazil nuts are one of the richest plant sources of selenium, a key nutrient that supports a healthy thyroid.
Pecans provide two types of vitamin E—alpha-tocopherols and gamma-tocopherols. When you eat pecans, the gamma-tocopherols can lower LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 33%.
Water is vital for every function in the body. Even mild dehydration can make you feel bad and cause constipation, affect kidney function, or prompt a headache.
How much water should you drink? The folk wisdom number of eight glasses per day is a start, but a better rule of thumb would be to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces. In other words, if you weigh 160 lbs, you should drink 80 fluid ounces of water. Bear in mind that your individual needs vary according to your age, activity level, and health status.