Throw these foods in your shopping cart to fight disease, boost energy, and glow from the inside out.
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A staple of the traditional Japanese diet (among the healthiest ways of eating in the world), seaweed may help prevent heart disease and cancer. Compounds in seaweed have been shown to lower inflammation and fight off viruses. Plus, seaweed is high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins B12, C, and K, as well as iodine and iron. The vitamin C helps make the iron easier to absorb, keeping your red blood cells healthy and happy. The antioxidants and vitamin K help prevent blood clotting that can lead to blockages in your blood vessels. We need some iodine for a healthy thyroid, but too much can throw things out of balance. Stick to a tablespoon of seaweed a day to make sure you aren't getting too much of a good thing.
How to Enjoy: Make your own quinoa or brown rice sushi with nori sheets. Not great at rolling sushi? Use the seaweed in your next sandwich wrap, or simply add to soups, stews, and salads.
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Olive oil is one of the mainstays of the Mediterranean diet, another healthy way of eating. The polyphenols provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power that can help prevent diseases linked to aging, such as Alzheimer's disease. The main type of fatty acids in olive oil are monounsaturated in the form of oleic acid or omega-9. Enjoying the oil regularly is linked to better cholesterol levels and a lower risk of heart disease. If eating it isn't enough for you, putting extra-virgin olive oil on your skin as a natural moisturizer may also help prevent wrinkles thanks to its antioxidant content.
How to Enjoy: Use light or extra-light olive oil for cooking and extra-virgin olive oil to make salad dressings. The reason? Light olive oil is sometimes blended with other oils and is more processed, making it better able to withstand heat. Better quality and more pricey extra-virgin olive oil has a delicate flavor and nutrients that can't take the heat.
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Swiss chard—and its leafy green cousins, kale and broccoli—are packed with chlorophyll, a nutrient that can block the effects of cancer-causing chemicals. One cup of chard has only 35 calories but serves up plenty of nutrients. It provides all the vitamin K and vitamin A you need in a day, antioxidants that keep your bones and eyes young and healthy. There's also plenty of potassium to help lower blood pressure and magnesium and alpha-lipoic acid to control blood sugar and insulin levels. No matter what diet or eating plan you look at, all can agree that leafy greens should be on the menu. So dig in!
How to Enjoy: Swiss chard leaves make great wraps for sandwich fillings. It's delicious sautéed with garlic and olive oil as a side dish or with scrambled eggs. Try it in soup or use it instead of kale or spinach in your morning smoothie. Try my Black Bean Swiss Chard Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing and you'll be a chard fan in no time.
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Seafood is one of the leanest sources of protein, helping you maintain and build muscle. And fish that are rich in omega-3s, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout, have additional brain and heart health benefits. Eating a 3-ounce serving of fatty fish twice a week not only boosts your energy, it can improve memory and lower the risk of dementia—plus it reduces your risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent. Making seafood a regular part of your diet can not only keep your brain and heart feeling young, it can help you live longer! In a recent study, older adults with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood lived an average of 2.2 years longer than people with lower levels of omega-3s.
How to Enjoy: You can make most seafood in 15 minutes or less. Get fresh seafood or buy it frozen or canned for the same health benefits. Start with these Salmon Skewers with Brown Rice.
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Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant linked to heart health, strong bones, and lower risk of cancer. Lycopene can help to lower total cholesterol, LDL, and triglyceride levels in the blood. Nutrients in tomatoes can also help prevent blood platelets from sticking together and building up in your arteries. The result? Lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Do you think all vegetables and fruit are healthier when they're raw? Not tomatoes. Cooking them more than doubles the lycopene content! The antioxidants in tomatoes can even help protect your skin from damage from UV rays, fighting off wrinkles. Keep in mind that eating tomatoes doesn't replace sunscreen, but hey, we'll take it.
How to Enjoy: Fresh tomatoes are fantastic in salads, sandwiches, and omelets, or roasted and used to top whole-grain bread for homemade bruschetta. Instead of buying pizza or pasta sauce, buy a bottle of crushed tomatoes. Make sure there's no sugar or salt added and then mix in your own herbs and spices for healthier pizza and pasta sauce. Try my low-carb Skinny Zucchini Lasagna for a healthy lycopene-packed dinner.
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The dark purple skin and seeds of Concord grapes are loaded with polyphenols that may help keep your mind young and sharp. These powerful compounds help your arteries stay flexible, which may help improve blood flow to your brain. No need to wait until later in life to enjoy the benefits: Put this rich purple juice to work for you now. A recent study found that drinking Concord grape juice each day can help improve memory and driving performance for women with stressful lifestyles.
How to Enjoy: Concord grapes are in season and harvested during just a few short weeks each fall, plus they don't travel well—making it very hard to find them fresh. That's why drinking 100 percent grape juice is the best way to enjoy the potential anti-aging benefits of Concord grapes. Pour your grape juice into ice cube trays and freeze for quick slushies or to add flavor and polyphenol power to your water. It's also a delicious way to naturally sweeten salad dressings and marinades.
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Mushrooms are an important part of traditional Chinese medicine as they are believed to have healing properties. Research suggests that mushrooms may help fight cancer, lower inflammation, and protect the heart. Mushrooms contain selenium, a mineral that boosts the immune system, supports a healthy liver, and helps the body naturally detoxify. The B vitamins in mushrooms are needed for metabolism and to convert your food into energy. They're also the only plant food that contains vitamin D (they're technically a fungus and not a vegetable). One of the types of fiber in mushrooms, beta-glucan, helps you feel full and can help with weight management.
How to Enjoy: Add mushrooms to stir-fry, soups, salads, and egg dishes. Or, for a quick and flavorful vegetable stock, cover some dried mushrooms with hot water for 5 minutes. It's the quickest, healthiest stock you'll ever make!
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Getting tired of your daily dose of chicken breast? Switch it out for some pork tenderloin, which is just as lean and has potential anti-aging benefits. One serving of spiral-sliced pork has 71mg of choline, making it a good source of this underappreciated nutrient. Choline can help you work out longer so you get more of the anti-aging benefits of exercise. It not only improves stamina, but also regulates metabolism to give you more energy and delays fatigue. Choline may also help lower risk of cognitive decline as you get older.
How to Enjoy: Try this super-easy recipe for Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Salsa for dinner and use the leftovers as your lean protein source to top salads, fill wraps, or shred into tacos.