These delicious foods help protect eyes, lungs, heart and brain.
Dark chocolate’s antioxidants, including polyphenols like flavonoids, may help prevent heart attacks by protecting arteries from becoming clogged. Some studies indicate that consuming small amounts of dark (at least 70 percent cacao) chocolate on a regular basis can lower blood pressure and decrease the rate of stroke in women by 20 percent. Dark chocolate may also protect brain health and boost memory.
Like apples, blueberries are high in soluble fibre, which can help lower cholesterol and slow the uptake of glucose, helping you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. But there’s much more packed inside those blue skins: Vitamins C and K are the major players, as are antioxidants and the mineral manganese. Blueberries also appear to lower blood pressure. And their anthocyanins, which give the berries their colour, may promote brain health and aid memory.
Apples contain soluble fibre, which may help lower cholesterol and slow the uptake of glucose, helping you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. They’re also a super source of blood pressure-beneficial potassium and antioxidants like vitamin C. Apples may lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and asthma, while aiding lung function and weight loss.
Asparagus is high in lycopene, which has been found to protect the prostate and help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. In addition to lycopene, asparagus contains vitamin A, important for the immune system and eye health, and lots of fibre to help reduce cholesterol, control body weight, and encourage heart health. Asparagus’s fibre also contains prebiotics, which promote healthy gut bacteria. Asparagus also contains protein and iron – something you may not expect from these thin green spears.
Broccoli has been the butt of jokes for years, but you’d be foolish not to eat it. It’s high in fibre, antioxidants and vitamins such as A, C, B9 (folate) and K. That means your eyes, red blood cells, immune system, bones and tissues all benefit from this vegetable. Broccoli may also aid in the fight against certain cancers, including liver, breast, prostate and colon cancers.
The versatile butternut squash brims with beta-carotene, which is important for eye health. The heart also benefits from the vitamin C in this winter squash and its high fibre content, which helps lower cholesterol and maintain good blood sugar levels. Fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free, it also boasts a healthy amount of potassium, which helps control blood pressure.
The National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study found that people who drank coffee (regular or decaf) were less likely to die from heart and respiratory diseases, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections. Coffee may also help protect women from breast cancer. Coffee may also protect against other cancers. Just don’t drink it too hot! Very hot beverages recently have been linked to higher risk of esophageal cancer. Other research found that those who drank two cups or less of coffee a day in their 40s and 50s had a 65 percent lower rate of developing Alzheimer’s than those who drank two cups a day.
Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which lowers cholesterol levels, thus decreasing the risk of heart disease. This type of fat may help prevent diabetes by regulating insulin levels and improving the control of blood sugar. Olive oil also contains vitamin K, which aids blood clotting, and vitamin E, an antioxidant important in the creation of red blood cells. It appears to reduce arthritis inflammation as well. But go easy: it’s high in calories!
Greek yogurt contains fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and salt, and more protein and digestive-friendly probiotics than American-style yogurt. A serving of low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt may have twice the protein and half the sugar of its non-Greek counterpart. If you opt for full-fat versions, however, Greek yogurt has more saturated fat.
Leafy green kale packs a nutritional wallop – cooked, raw or juiced. It contains important omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting to stop bleeding, but be cautious with kale if you take a blood thinner. Monitor kale intake so that you are eating consistent amounts. High in fibre and a rich source of calcium for bone health. it also provides lutein, which is important for eye health. A cousin of broccoli, kale may help slow cognitive decline, protect your arteries and lower cholesterol.
Oatmeal’s top benefit comes from its high soluble-fibre content, which helps lower cholesterol. A compound in oatmeal helps scrub the arteries and may protect against colon cancer. Oatmeal also satisfies hunger, so you eat less later, a recipe for weight loss. Oatmeal is low-fat, high in protein and loaded with iron and other minerals. One cup of cooked oatmeal is only 166 calories. But don’t forget: adding sugar or eating instant oatmeal with sugar bumps the calorie count.
Low-fat, no-cholesterol fava (broad) beans have plenty of fibre and B vitamins, including folate, thiamin and riboflavin. Minerals such as manganese, iron and potassium also make these beans a nutrient-rich choice.
Pears may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, lowering diabetes risk and helping to manage the disease in its early stages. Pears may also lower your risk of stroke and improve gut health. The fibre in pears fills you up so you tend to eat less, and may reduce the risk of colon cancer. The fruit is nutrient- and mineral-rich, providing vitamin C, folate, antioxidants and potassium.
The South American grain quinoa is well-known to vegans and vegetarians because it’s a complete protein and filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, such as B2, magnesium, copper, iron and phosphorus. Quinoa is full of fibre, gluten-free and easy to use in place of other grains, pastas or white rice.
Salmon has been called a “super fish” because, among other benefits, it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can reduce your risk of heart attack and irregular heartbeats. They can also help lower blood pressure and build brain cell membranes. Choose wild-caught salmon over farmed when possible. Wild-caught salmon has fewer calories and less fat; it’s also cleaner, with lower levels of potentially harmful contaminants and pollutants.
(Article source: AARP)