From infancy through our senior years, nutrition is essential at every stage of life to keeping our bodies running at their best. As we age, our nutrient needs change with our bodies. It is important to get to know your own body and what works best for you. March is National Nutrition Month, so what better time than now to try to incorporate some news foods and spices or rediscover some old favorites in a new way!
Creamy, succulent avocados not only contain the best kind of fat (monounsaturated oleic acid) but also help your body block the absorption of bad fats (cholesterol). They’re high in lutein, which aids eyesight, and in potassium and folate, which may reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. And they’re low in pesticides.
Whether orange or white, sweet potatoes contain phytonutrients that promote heart and eye health and boost immunity. They’re flush with beta-carotene (thought to lower breast cancer risk) and vitamin A (which may reduce the effects of smoking).
Cruciferous vegetables—cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli rabe—contain a powerful range of disease fighters. One particular hero, sulforaphane, may increase enzymes that lower the incidence of colon and lung cancers.
Fresh or frozen, blueberries have sky-high levels of antioxidants, which combat the damage done by inflammation. Anthocyanins, the natural plant compounds that give blueberries their deep color, may have antidiabetic effects as well. And new research suggests blueberries might protect the heart muscle from damage.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and swiss chard are an excellent source of iron (especially important for women), vitamin A, and lutein for eye health. Best of all, you know those omega-3s everyone’s talking about? They reside in dark greens (including seaweed, which is why they’re concentrated in fish).
Superstar levels of antioxidants mean that a half teaspoon of dried oregano has the benefits of a spinach salad. Oregano has the ability to act as an expectorant, clearing congestion, and can also improve digestion.
Cinnamon is the gold medalist of the spice rack, with one of the highest antioxidant levels of all herbs and spices. It also has a positive effect on blood glucose levels, so adding it to foods can keep you feeling steady and satiated.
Of all nuts, walnuts contain the most alpha-linolenic omega-3 fatty acids, which lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and may reduce inflammation in arteries. Walnuts are also a great source of antioxidants, vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium.
It’s just like chocolate to crash the party, but it’s no mistake that the dark variety confers health benefits. The high antioxidant levels make it a perfect indulgence. Chocolate is high in flavonoids, substances that have been shown to improve blood flow, suppress coughs, improve memory, and give you hydrated, smooth skin. A 1 oz. dose of chocolate a day is now officially the doctor’s word.