Best Foods For Optimal Health
Superfoods are those foods that provide optimal nutrition and have been shown to ward off heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol -- and are delicious to boot! Find out the top 10 superfoods and learn how to squeeze them into your diet.
Many are surprised to learn that dark chocolate that contains 60 percent cacao is a superfood that has amazing benefits to the vascular system. "A Journal of the American Medical Association study from 2007 found that eating just 30 calories a day of flavanol-rich dark chocolate can lower blood pressure," says Shara Aaron, registered dietitian and author of Chocolate – A Healthy Passion. "Over a decade of research has found that dark chocolate can improve blood flow, keep platelets from forming dangerous clots, reduce plaque build-up in the arteries, maintain healthy circulation in the skin and keep a healthy blood flow to the brain."
Fitting this superfood into your diet seems easy, but Aaron cautions to practice moderation and watch your portion control by eating chocolate squares, such as Sharffen Berger tasting squares, Lindt dark chocolate squares or Hershey's Extra Dark 60 percent cacao. "Here's my healthy afternoon ritual: A cup of green or black tea at 3 p.m. with three tasting squares of 60 to 82 percent cacao," she says.
"Strawberries qualify for three superfoods categories: Brain, heart and antioxidant," says Jennifer Grossman, Dole Nutrition Institute's vice president. "Eight medium strawberries (147g) provide more than 150 percent of the daily value of vitamin C, and are an excellent source of manganese, as well as a good source of fiber -- all for 45 calories! In addition, strawberries are loaded with brain healthy antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and quercetin, making them a superfood for your brain," she says.
Grossman also says that UCLA researchers found that strawberry extract suppressed proliferation of colon, prostate and oral cancer cells. Further, "Tufts researchers found that strawberry-supplemented diets slowed and even reversed brain decline in animal studies," she says. "Another strawberry compound -- C3G -- could help with weight management by regulating appetite and increasing fat-burning."
Squeeze strawberries into your diet by eating them fresh or blended into a fruit smoothie. Juliana Mitchell recommends chopping up fruit, such as strawberries, and pouring melted dark chocolate (another superfood!) on top. Delicious!
Did you know that eating three whole walnuts gives you your daily supply of omega-three fats? These crunchy and delicious nuts protect against heart disease and help naturally lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Carly Cauceglia works with Prevention magazine and this month's issue features the superfood walnuts with three recipes including chicken with walnuts and spinach, linguine with walnut-tomato pesto and walnut-goat cheese dip. Another easy tip? Eat three walnuts as a nutrious afternoon snack.
This small, yet mighty fruit is packed with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, vitamin C and potassium that help to prevent heart disease, among other things. In addition, they contain anti-inflammatory properties that ward off a variety of chronic diseases.
Aim for consuming 1/2 cup a day of blueberries (frozen or fresh) for maximum benefits. Sprinkle them on top of yogurt or oatmeal in the morning. For lunch, combine blueberries with strawberries to make a superfood smoothie and, at dinner, sprinkle them into your salad.
Pomegranates are chockfull of antioxidants (more than tea or red wine), including polyphenols, tannins and anthocyanins, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease. In fact, one study showed that drinking a daily glass of pomegranate juice decreased LDL cholesterol and reduced blood pressure.
Try swapping out your regular juice for 100 percent pomegranate juice or make a smoothie with the juice blended with strawberries and blueberries. Pomegranate seeds are also delicious and can be sprinkled into juice, onto salads or into yogurt.
Up next: 5 more superfoods >>
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