If your body shape currently resembles that of a bottle of beer, well, there’s a reason for that. To counteract your decadent lifestyle, you need to fill your body with foods that will help your heart, hair, skin, blood, and cholesterol. This list of superfoods is a good place to start.
1. Flax seed
Known as a modern miracle food, flax seeds are high in alpha linolenic acids (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. Eating flax seed lowers cholesterol, lowers blood triglyceride and blood pressure, and simultaneously keeping the platelets (colorless bodies in our blood) from turning sticky and therein reducing heart attack risk.
Called a “cancer-fighting” food, tomatoes are eaten to help prevent stomach, endometrial, lung, skin, and prostate cancer, and they contain high percentages of potassium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene. Health journalist Soleil Robins offers a suggestion for ideal consumption: “To get those specific antioxidants easily absorbed into your body, cook a tomato in a pan with olive oil, then eat it warm on top of your favorite pasta.” Eat at least one a day.
One cup of kale provides 10 percent of daily fiber, as well as vitamin A and C. If you’re unfamiliar with the vegetable, kale is often grouped in with the cabbage, collards, and brussels sprouts family of low-fat, low-calorie vegetables. Southern greens, boiled, oiled, and pan cooked, are often the tastiest.
Somewhere along the way avocados garnered a reputation as being a fatty, guilt-inducing treat, but the truth is they are good for you. When consumed in their purest form, avocados contain 23 percent of the recommended daily rate of folate, decreasing the likelihood of heart disease. Moreover, they act as a nutrient sponge when consumed with other foods. Eating a salad with avocado allows for absorption of five times the amount of cartenoids (necessary nutrients including beta carotene and lycopene) than otherwise possible.
Bone health expert Dr. Robert Heaney recommends yogurt as an optimal source of necessary nutrients. “Milk products are richer sources of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and protein than the average of other typical foods in an adult diet,” he says. Lactose intolerant? (Meaning, allergic to milk?) Not a problem, as yogurt is predigested and therefore packed with good bacteria commonly known as probiotics, which keep the digestive system regular.
6. Almonds and Walnuts
“All nuts are healthful in small doses,” said Today Show nutritionist Joy Bauer, MS, RD. “Studies show they can help lower cholesterol levels and promote weight loss.” Rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and antioxidants, almonds and walnuts in particular promote healthy digestion and provide our bodies with omega-3 fatty acids, the necessary fats for fuel. Of course, because of its high healthy fat count, eating too many nuts can result in weight gain. The recommended amount is an ounce per day.
7. Dried fruit
Dried apricots, dates or plums are high in potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber, which aid against high blood pressure, chances of heart disease and bad body fats. As five servings of fruits are suggested for a healthy daily diet, dried fruit is an easy way to accommodate eating a small serving or two on the run.
8. Olive Oil
Recipe books that promote the use of olive oil boast that its monounsaturated fat (instead of saturated or polyunsaturated fats) can reduce blood pressure, benefit those at risk of diabetes, lessen the severity of asthma and arthritis and act against growth of some cancers. Rich in antioxidants like chlorophyll and cartenoids, olive oil also contains a compound called oleuropein that fights against artery-clogging and keeps bad body fats at low count.
It’s not just a fine-smelling culinary herb. Rosemary extract is often used to medicate upset stomach, headache and various digestive disorders. It also can be applied directly to the skin, as an oil, to strengthen capillaries and rejuvenate fatigued complexions.
Used for more than 2,500 years in India (first as a dye, later as a medicine), turmeric is considered a powerful natural healer. It acts as a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, a natural liver detoxifier, is an anti-inflammatory and speeds metabolism. Combined with cauliflower, it is known to prevent prostate cancer. It has also long been used as a Chinese organic cure for depression.
A regular intake of this simple vegetable decreases risk of stroke, colon cancer and atherosclerosis. Lowering sugar levels by assuring they are properly metabolized in the body, leeks are also a good source of calcium, which prevents blood clotting and promotes healthy skeletal systems.
12. Hemp Protein Powder
What most people are missing from their fruit smoothies is a source of protein. And instead of reaching for over-processed powders, hemp protein offers a simple solution. Klaus Ferlow, Honorary Master Herbalist and president of Hearts To Health Foundation, swears by hemp as a primary source of necessary nutrients. He says the seed is a hard-shelled nut containing protein, carbohydrates, fiber and a number of vitamins and minerals. He says it is one of the highest sources of essential fatty acids, which aid in fat transport and metabolism, and is necessary for the formal function of the reproductive system, hormone regulation and for breaking up cholesterol deposits in the arteries.
High in natural and simple sugars, fiber and minerals, figs contain impressive amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese for such a compact fruit. In fact, dried figs contain 250mg of calcium per 100g, whereas milk contains only 118mg.
Male health professionals underwent an experiment in which they ate twice the recommended daily intake of selenium, an antioxidant found in abundance in mushrooms. They cut their risk of prostate cancer by 65 percent. Portobello, brown and white button mushrooms in particular contain these cancer-fighting, antioxidant-heavy substances.
15. Virgin Coconut Oil
Next to olive oil in pan-destined culinary oils is virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil is used to improve hair and skin vitality, help cholesterol levels, assist in speeding metabolism and promote bone strength. Further, it fights kidney problems, heart disease and high blood pressure with its antifungal, antioxidant, antibacterial properties. Best part: It makes everything cooked alongside it taste absolutely fantastic.
16. Carrot JuiceCarrot juice provides one of the highest sources of vitamin A, which helps your ability to focus and maintain clear eyesight through sudden changes from bright to dark light and nighttime glares from passing automobiles. Infused with other fruits and vegetables, it almost tastes favorable.
Booming in popularity, the acai berry has come to Western culture in the form of Robeks juice, granola bowls, vitamin supplements, store-bought smoothies and more. From Brazil, the acai berry is known for its anti-aging properties, as it lessens the risk of free radicals in the body. Loaded with anthocyanins and flavonoids, the acai berry has topped the charts as the most beloved antioxidant to date.
In order to keep hormones, tissues, enzymes and cells in balance, bodies require proteins (amino acids), many of which are conveniently found in the form of delectable fish meat. Rich in good omega fats, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, iron and countless necessary vitamins, salmon is the ideal dietary source of protein.
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of “The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to the New Food Pyramids” recommends kiwis over oranges or supplements when in need of vitamin C. “One large kiwi supplies your daily requirement for vitamin C,” she says. “It is also a good source of potassium, fiber, and a decent source of vitamin A and vitamin E.”
Trumping brown rice as the ideal carbohydrate is quinoa, a small semi-flavorless grain. Mixed with vegetables and spices, however, it cleans up nicely, acting as a filler grain high in all the nutrients your body craves. Elisa Zied, MS, RD, author of “Feed Your Family Right” says, “It is an ancient grain, easy to make, high in protein (8 grams in 1 cup cooked), fiber (5 grams per cup) and a naturally good source of iron.”