Food provides energy necessary for your body to function. Eating the right foods can also help you ward off many diseases.
The following 10 foods can play a role in laying the groundwork for future good health.
Whole grains are low in fat. And thanks to their fiber content, they may help you eat less because you feel more satisfied. Eating whole grains may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2diabetes and cancer.
Don’t be fooled by the word “wheat bread” or “wheat flour”. Look for the word “whole.” Choose bread or cereal that has whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Look for breads with at least 3 to 5 grams of fiber in a serving, or cereals with at least 5 rams of fiber per serving- and preferably 8 or more.
Nutritionists recommend that you aim for at least two 3 ounce cooked serving of fish a week. Broiled, baked or grilled fish tend to be better than fried.
If possible, go for fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may protect against heart disease by improving high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” Cholesterol) and lowering triglyceride levels. They may also help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of dangerous blood clotting or of developing an irregular heartbeat.
However, its important to pay attention to national or local warnings regarding consumption levels of fish that may be affected by water contaminants, such as mercury and other toxins.
Nuts are nutrient dense. Almonds are loaded with calcium, iron natural vitamin E and riboflavin. Walnuts are a good source of phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, potassium, and vitamin E, and are low in saturated fat. They also have omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts are naturally cholesterol-free. Studies suggest that they may even help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol- the “bad” cholesterol-and reduce your risk of a heart attack and coronary artery disease.
The serving size for nuts is 1 ounce. This equals about 14 walnuts halves or about 22 almonds. One serving can take place of the protein found in 1 ounce of meat.
Margarine-like spreads such as Benecol and Take Control contain added plant stanols or sterols- natural substances from plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol. When used as directed in place of other fats, they can decrease LDL up to 14 percent. Other foods, including certain orange juice and yogurt products, also are fortified with these substances.
Research indicates that regularly including soy in your diet may reduce your cholesterol and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
With a little creativity, you can slip some soy into your diet without compromising taste. Buy soy burgers or soy dogs instead of meat. Or try snacking on soy yogurt, roasted soy nuts or make a soy shake.
Plant-based sources of estrogen (isoflavones) in soy protein appear to inhibit the effects of sex hormones. Thus, they may also offer protection from some cancers and prostate cancer. However, further study is needed to fully understand these potential roles and their risks. If you have a history of these cancers, talk to your doctor about your soy intake.
Fortified skim milk is one of the best ways of getting needed calcium and vitamin D to help prevent osteoporosis- without saturated fat. There’s also evidence that calcium can contribute to preventing high blood pressure, stroke, colon cancer, and obesity. In addition, milk provides protein, B vitamins and minerals such as selenium, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium.
Fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free yogurt and fat-free cheeses have similar benefits.
Berries are rich in antioxidants that may help lower cancer and cardiovascular disease risk. Blueberries are especially high in antioxidants, but blackberries, raspberries and strawberries aren’t far behind. Berries also provide dietary fiber. However if you’re watching your weight, eat dried fruit sparingly because they’re a concentrated source of calories.
Both broccoli and cauliflower are high in vitamin C. broccoli also contains a good amount of vitamin A. these and other cruciferous vegetables-including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale- have naturally occurring phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer as well as other cancers. They contain fiber, have no cholesterol, and are naturally low in fat and calories.
Tomatoes contain a number of nutrients, including vitamins C and B-complex, as well as iron potassium. They also contain the antioxidant lycopene may lower the risk of heart attack, prostate cancer and possibly other types of cancer.
This is a major source of phytochemicals known as flavonoids, which may help lower the risk of some disease. Green tea is rich in a flavonoid called epigallocatechin EGCG gallate, which may inhabit the enzyme activity necessary for cancer growth in some situations. Although green tea hasn’t been shown in laboratory studies to be a cancer treatment, some evidence suggests it could be beneficial in preventing some cancers. Other studies link green tea consumption with heart-health benefits such as reduced LDL cholesterol levels.
This excerpt is from the Mayo Clinic Health Letter, Volume 23, Number 4, April 2005