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Fountain of Youth Foods

Want to look and feel younger? Forgo the fads and start with what you put on your plate.

Oooh, the promise of youth! It grabs our attention and piques our curiosity as we hold tight to the hope of fewer wrinkles, a sharper mind and greater vitality. Just say the word “anti-aging” and heads turn. And we don’t need to look far. Infomercials sell the hottest facial creams and most magazines sport a list of “Top 10 Anti-Aging Foods” to keep us young. Be honest, haven’t you ever stayed up late to catch the latest anti-aging discovery on the news? Blueberries are popular.  So are spinach and salmon. And more recently, resveratrol, a compound found in red wine has everyone all abuzz (no pun intended!).

Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Now that’s cultivating a spirit of youthfulness! But what if all those fruits and vegetables, nuts and seafood we find at the top of the lists really do have the power to help us age with greater zest, and in excellent health? Would we eat more of them? According to research, weaving plenty of these foods into our daily choices absolutely encourages longevity. These foods fight free radicals (toxic by-products that build up in the body) and provide vitamins, minerals, plant chemicals and compounds for decreasing inflammation associated with age-related illness. The food choices we make over a lifetime certainly do have the power to nudge us toward greater well-being in years to come.

Perhaps it’s easier to eat a grapefruit if you envision it yields smoother skin. But bite into a citrus-sweet ruby red and I guarantee the taste will have you coming back for more. The key is to focus, everyday, on one healthy food choice at a time. The following are other edible “fountains of youth”:

  • Colorful fruits and veggies – A diet rich with vegetables and fruits is associated with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease. Fill your plate with leafy dark greens like spinach, and red leaf lettuce. Choose sweet potatoes, beets, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts. Aim for five to nine servings per day – add a fruit or vegetable (or both) to every meal and snack.
  • Whole grains – Powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals may be the reason people who eat three servings of whole grains per day have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25 to 36 percent and stroke risk by 37 percent. Whole grains include steel cut oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, popcorn, wheat berries (sprinkle on salads) and whole wheat bread.
  • Bountiful beans – Beans have tons of fill-you-up fibers for helping to keep weight in check. They are also a good source of soluble fiber for lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and potassium and magnesium for supporting healthy blood pressure. Aim for three servings per week, choosing kidney, lima, garbanzo, black, vegetarian refried, great northern and cannellini. Top a scrambled egg with black beans and salsa!
  • Go nuts – Nuts are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Studies suggest that people who eat nuts two to four times per week have a lower incidence of heart disease than people who eat them less often. Stir a few into yogurt or oatmeal or sprinkle onto salad.
  • Fabulous fish – Studies show that eating two or more servings of fish per week (as recommended by the American Heart Association) is associated with a 30 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease over time. Choose fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines and albacore tuna. Try wild canned salmon on a bed of dark leafy greens!

kramerHeidi Kramer is a nutrition specialist and inspirational speaker who has inspired thousands to lose weight, change bad eating habits and become champions of their own health for more than 20 years. Kramer is available at Cary Physical Therapy for individual counseling and group programs. Reach her at  847.516.9038. 

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