At the beginning of each New Year, I take time to reflect on the past year, acknowledge what has gone well, and learn from what has not. Armed with this wisdom, I set my intentions for the coming year. Looking back over 2016, I saw that my health and well-being were a priority. I made more lifestyle changes to reduce stress, took my spirituality to a new level, and made food my medicine!
Because my regular supplements made my heart race, I stopped taking most of them. I relied on food and spices to keep my blood pressure normal and strengthen my immune system. I also used acupuncture and energy work. It paid off because this December I visited the greater NYC area with high pollution and freezing temperatures without ever having to use an asthma spray—a sign my body is happy. And, after five years, my latest bone scan indicated no change in my bone health.
As I made food my medicine, I learned about the superfoods–foods that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients shield the body from cell damage and help prevent disease. Below are a few that you might want to include or increase in your health goals for 2017. Of course, eat what tastes good to you, does not cause an allergic reaction, is easily digested, and does not adversely affect a drug you are taking. The good news: You have many choices.
Here are 10 common superfoods that work for me:
Avocado – Protects our bodies from heart disease, cancer, and degenerative eye and brain diseases as well as stabilizes blood sugar levels. This fruit is rich in healthy fats (especially monounsaturated) and high in protein and dietary fiber. It is also high in vitamin K and folate, pantothenic acid, vit B6, vit C, and potassium and is a source of glutathione. I put avocado in my green smoothie and mash it as a side (seasoned with turmeric and salt).
Quinoa – Improves blood sugar control, triglyceride levels and metabolic health and may reduce the risk of heart failure. This small seed is a substitute for white rice or pasta. It is gluten-free and high in protein, fiber and minerals. Contains two antioxidants—kaempferol and quercetin, has a low glycemic index, and is high in manganese and magnesium. I eat cooked quinoa as a breakfast food or in a salad.
Blueberries – Help prevent certain types of diseases because of their powerful antioxidant properties and protect brain neurons from the damaging effects of oxidation and inflammation. They also have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity. They are low in calories and high in phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Spinach – Improves blood glucose control, lowers the risk of cancer and asthma, lowers blood pressure, improves bone, skin, hair, and eye health and is anti-inflammatory. It is rich in nutrients and antioxidants: beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, vit K, vit C, alpha-lipoic acid, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium.
Broccoli – Fights cancer and reduces plaque buildup inside arteries because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains vit K, vit C, chromium, folate, vit B6, vit E, vit A, Manganese, and sulforaphane (a cancer fighting nutrient).
Pumpkin – Helps our heart, bones, eyes and skin and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer. It is a rich source of beta-carotene, tryptophan and potassium. The seeds are packed with protein, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Raw nuts – Lower our risk of heart disease and diabetes and help us feel full. They provide healthy doses of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals—iron, magnesium and calcium.
Beans – Maintain healthy blood sugar levels, lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve heart health. They are a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron and phosphorus, soluble fiber, and protein (helps us feel full and satisfied).
Salmon – Reduces plaque buildup in blood vessels, reduces levels of harmful triglycerides, and improves cardiovascular and brain health. May also prevent late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vit D, selenium, protein, phosphorus, potassium and amino acid taurine.
Cucumber – Flushes out toxins, improves hydration, relieves heartburn, reduces the risk of cancer, stabilizes blood pressure, strengthens hair and nails, reduces cholesterol, and reduces muscle and joint pain. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains lignans and is rich in pantothenic acid, fisetin, vit C, vit K, potassium, magnesium, manganese, silica and fiber.
The experts differ on what they consider their top rated superfoods, but some are commonly listed. Consider making food your medicine in order to get well and stay healthy. The right foods for your body have no negative side effects. More important, even foods that are good for you can taste delicious. When I bite into a fresh cucumber, I like the fullness of its flavor. And, recipes abound to turn simple foods into succulent meals that fuel your body and pleasure your taste buds.
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