My email inbox collects articles almost daily on what constitutes a healthy diet for adults. (It doesn’t do this on its own of course; I have signed up with various sources to receive their content on this subject). Much of the information is applicable to people of all ages, but since my particular interest is in people over 50, that is what I focus on.
Many of the articles come with a headline proclaiming a particular food or drink to be “super” or “miraculous” or “essential” with respect to its anti-aging qualities. I read most of them with some degree of interest; assess whether the information offered is sufficient to alter my eating or drinking choices; stick the articles in a computer folder on diet and then move on to my next task.
After reading an article today on why a particular party hors d’oeuvre was good for my colon, I decided it might be helpful to review the articles I have collected over the last several years and see which dozen or so foods or drinks consistently get high praise for what seem to be good reasons. Here is the list in no particular order:
Nuts: High in protein, minerals, “good” monounsaturated fats. The FDA even approved this health claim for nut container labels: “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of some nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Six of the healthiest nuts appear to be walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, brazil nuts and macadamias.
Olive Oil: High in monounsaturated fats and antioxidative substances (which protect the cells in out bodies from damage). Many studies have shown that olive oil protects against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
Tomatoes: High levels of lycopene – a strong antioxidant.
Yogurt: Helps ward off osteoporosis with calcium; good bacteria to keep our intestines functioning effectively.
Berries: Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may lower the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, vitamin C and fiber. In particular, consider blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Fish: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids which the AMA says can help lower your blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and improve other cardiovascular risk factors and reduce the risk of death from heart disease. Fish consumption has also been linked to a lower risk of stroke, depression, and mental decline with age. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly high in salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring, but all fish provide a benefit. There have been concerns about mercury levels in fish but the AMA says the benefits of moderate fish consumption outweigh the risks for adults of non child-bearing age. If you are concerned about mercury, the fish to avoid are: marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish and ahi tuna.
Green, leafy vegetables: Vitamins, antioxidants and Lutein (helps protect your eyes). All leafy greens are good but the heavy hitters are kale, collards and chard.
Green tea: High levels of antioxidants and bioreactive chemicals which help protect our body cells.
Avocados: Good fats, antioxidants, lots of potassium and folate (good for your heart). This really is a “super” food!
Beans: Loads of protein, antioxidants, soluble fiber (helps lower cholesterol). “Beans, beans, good for your heart, the more you eat… the healthier you art.”
Red wine: High in antioxidants and in particular resveratrol (also found in grapes and pomegranates) which can help improve heart health and may even help avoid the common cold.
Dark chocolate: (saved the best for last) antioxidants (nine times that of strawberries) and (mostly) good fats. Helps lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Stimulates endorphin (feels good), contains serotonin (acts like an anti-depressant), and contains minor stimulants.
If condemned to a desert island forever, I could probably make do with an endless supply of the above (with water) but I’d lobby for the addition of peanut butter, whole grain bread and hard cheese.
And oh, by the way, the hors d’oeuvre that was touted (top of this article) as good for my colon was a veggie platter with zesty bean dip. The flavonols – a type of antioxidant – in beans, onions, celery, radishes, cucumbers, and peppers may help stop colon polyps from developing.
R. Kevin Price
© 2008-2009 R.K. Price