Making changes to your diet is one of the easiest ways to manage and take control of your health. In addition to providing the energy you need, the foods you consume on a daily basis could also benefit your health in myriad ways, from preventing cancer to protecting you against heart disease. Here are some of the world’s most nutritious foods that should be staples in your diet.
Despite their fat, or actually because of it, avocados can lower your cholesterol. Researchers find that replacing just five percent of your calories from saturated fat (think butter or cheese) with monounsaturated fat – the kind in avocados – could slash the risk of heart attack by more than a third. An added benefit: Avocados are also high in beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol that blocks the absorption of cholesterol from food, and the anticancer compound glutathione, a powerful antioxidant.
Beans are in fact good for your heart, thanks in large part to their soluble fibre, which soaks up cholesterol so the body can dispose of it before it can stick to artery walls. Studies find that diets high in soluble fibre can cut total cholesterol by 10 to 15 percent. The same soluble fibre, combined with beans’ protein, makes beans beneficial to blood sugar. Their magnesium helps relax arteries, giving blood more room to flow and lowering blood pressure. Finally, a recent study ranked beans among the top antioxidant foods.
The antioxidant plant pigments that make blueberries blue – flavonoids called anthocyanins – guard against heart disease, cancer and age-related blindness and memory loss. Like their cranberry cousins, (blueberries and blueberry juice is tops) when it comes to preventing urinary tract infections, thanks to antioxidant epicatechins, which keep bacteria from sticking to bladder walls. Plus, the fibre in blueberries makes them powerful antidotes to constipation.
Consider broccoli your number one cancer fighter, thanks to its sulfur compounds, such as sulforaphane, which you can smell as broccoli cooks. These compounds signal our genes to boost production of enzymes that detoxify potentially cancer-causing compounds. Eat more broccoli, and you could slash your risk of everything from breast and lung cancer to stomach and colon cancer by as much as half. Sulforaphane has also been found to kill the bacteria that causes ulcers. Broccoli’s also a surprising nondairy source of calcium and potassium, making it good for your bones as well as your blood pressure. Its vitamin C and beta-carotene protect your eyes from cataracts and safeguard your brain cells from memory-robbing attacks by free radicals.
Dark chocolate contains hefty amounts of disease-fighting flavonoids, antioxidants also found in red wine and many fruits and vegetables. In fact, it appears to have more flavonoids than any other food. Studies find its antioxidants can improve blood pressure, prevent blood clots, slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (making it less likely to stick to artery walls), and reduce inflammation. Some research suggests that eating 45 grams (1.5 ounces) a day can cut heart attack risk by 10 percent. Eating dark chocolate can also lower insulin resistance, the main problem behind diabetes.
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