Natural Defense: Top 10 Whole Foods to Counter Aging
Jan 01, 2010 03:00AM
By Gary Null
Today’s battle against the effects of aging buzzes with hype about acai, goji, noni and mangosteen. But what about the foods most people typically eat?
It turns out that many anti-aging foods can be found in everyday kitchens, and unlike some other solutions, they can keep us looking and feeling younger and improve our all-around health without breaking the budget.
1. Oranges - Loaded with antioxidants, oranges are also packed with vitamin C, fiber and folate and significant amounts of vitamins A and B1, potassium and calcium. According to studies by the Australian research group CSIRO and others, oranges help boost immunity, lower cholesterol and reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress.
2. Blueberries - One of the most exciting nutritional properties of blueberries is their abundance of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Studies published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggest that these powerful phytonutrients neutralize free radical damage, enhance the health of all body tissues, protect the cardiovascular system, guard the brain against oxidative stress, and improve brain function, including memory.
3. Onions - The more pungent the onion, the greater the health benefits. Studies like those from Cornell University have found that high onion consumption lowers blood sugar levels and decreases total cholesterol, while increasing levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Consequently, onions are beneficial in preventing heart disease and stroke.
4. Garlic - Known health benefits of garlic are extensive. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reports that garlic inhibits cardiac artery calcification and reduces the amounts of free radicals in the bloodstream, helping to reduce plaque deposits in the arteries. Research by the University of Maryland Medical Center also attests that garlic contains anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect against conditions often associated with aging, like asthma and arthritis.
5. Legumes - All types of everyday legumes are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and energy-boosting protein and iron. No one bean has an advantage over the others in providing vital nutrients. Lentils are high in fiber and, according to a study published in Nutrition Reviews, help to manage blood sugar. Black beans are rich in anthocyanidins. Kidney beans, filled with thiamin, work to improve functioning of neurotransmitters essential for memory, notes the National Institutes on Aging. Green beans are rich in vitamin K, essential to bone support. Garbanzo beans provide high amounts of minerals that aid in metabolizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins and strengthening tooth enamel, as studied by Dr. Lydia Bazzano, a professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. According to research by the National Institutes of Health and others, fiber-rich legumes play an important role in the prevention of gallstones, increased cardiac health, regulation of blood sugar, lowered total cholesterol levels (as well as increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol) and protection from cancers, especially colorectal cancer.
6. Shiitake Mushrooms - These fungi are a good source of iron and lentinan, a polysaccharide that studies at the Iizuka Institute, in Japan, suggest activates our immune system’s tumor-fighting T cells.
7. Tomatoes - Tomatoes are loaded with healthy vitamins and trace minerals. They are also a good source of lycopene, which studies from the American Association for Cancer Research have linked to the protection of DNA from damage, prevention of heart disease and protection against cancers, including colorectal, breast, endometrial, lung and pancreatic types. Tomatoes are also rich with carotenoids, which research by the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group has associated with protection from heart disease and cancer, improved night vision and regulation of blood sugar.
8. Leafy Greens - Calorie-for-calorie, greens are among the most nutrient-packed foods we can eat. Spinach, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, cabbage, collard greens and watercress are all solid sources of powerful nutrients. Eating a variety of leafy greens has been shown by Katherine Tucker, Ph.D., with the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, to help improve bone density (a problem area when aging), increase night vision, lower blood pressure, boost energy, increase circulatory health, protect against macular degeneration, and work to prevent a variety of cancers.
9. Soy - Although soy is a legume, it deserves separate mention, because of its extensive and well-researched health benefits and use in a wide range of forms. Soy offers a high concentration of molybdenum, a trace mineral that plays a role in three enzyme systems involved in metabolizing carbs, fats and proteins and tryptophan, an amino acid essential for growth and normal metabolism, as well as iron, fiber, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 and potassium.
10. Whole Grains - While most Americans know that whole-grain breads and pastas are healthier than those made with refined white flour, we might include many grains other than wheat in our diet, in order to fight the effects of aging. Spelt, for example, provides riboflavin, which research from the Micronutrient Information Center with the Linus Pauling Institute shows can promote healthy skin and good vision. Barley can help with sleep regulation. Millet can help reduce the risk of a heart attack and lower blood pressure.
With all these examples of truly good eating right in our own kitchen, there is no reason not to start improving our diet right now to pave the way for a longer, healthier life.
Gary Null has written 70 books, booklets and audio CDs on health and wellness, nutrition and alternative medicine. His syndicated radio talk show, Natural Living with Gary Null, is the longest-running continuously airing health program in America, and now also airs on the Internet. Null owns a dietary supplement company and a health foods store in New York City. For more information visit: