Try these 10 super foods

Variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to food. Eating a wide range of selections from all four food groups is a way to ensure top-notch nutrition.

For the 50-plus set, certain foods supply the essentials for maintaining good health and also provide an arsenal of compounds to fight disease.

Here are 10 super foods to add to your grocery list. If you’re taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, check with your physician before making significant changes to your diet.

1.  Salmon (and other cold-water fish)
Just brain food? Hardly. Fish with its omega-3 fatty acids plays an influential role in preventing and treating a wide range of diseases.
For example, omega-3 fatty acids can decrease the levels of artery-damaging triglycerides and lower blood pressure readings.

Add to the mix their ability to lower the rate of blood clotting, which reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

And if a heart attack does occur, fish eaters are less likely to die from an irregular heart rhythm that may follow the heart attack.

Anti-inflammation effect
Researchers are also vestigating the anti-inflammatory effects of these fatty acids on arthritis, autoimmune disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases, as well as possible protection against Alzheimer’s disease and a number of cancers, including prostate and breast.

So reel in some fish, even canned varieties, at least three times a week.

2.  Spinach (and other dark leafy greens)
These superstar greens contain a wealth of disease-preventing compounds. Besides fibre and antioxidant vitamins E and C, they supply folate, a B vitamin that lowers the blood levels of an artery-damaging protein called homocysteine.

Folate is also linked to protection against colon and breast cancers.

And the colour in these vegetables, provided by the pigment lutein, doesn’t just add visual appeal. Lutein-rich foods may defend against colon cancer and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Research shows that spinach helps guard against age-related declines in cognitive function.

Add greens to your diet every day.

3.  Flaxseed meal
Good things come in small packages. That’s especially so with these small brown seeds. Grind the seeds into your food in order to obtain their assorted nutritional perks.

If bowel irregularity is a problem, sprinkle the meal on cereal, yogurt, soup or salads (work your way up to 3 tablespoons/45 ml a day).

Its soluble fibre is a boon for lowering blood cholesterol and regulates blood sugar. The oil contained is of the omega-3 fatty acid variety. And, last but not least, compounds known as lignans may protect against breast, prostate and colon cancers.

4. Tomatoes
Tomato products, chock full of lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes their red colour, have been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer. But tomatoes are not for men alone.

Lycopene acts as an antioxidant, a substance which may slow or prevent oxidation (a process that’s the culprit in the development of a range of diseases).

Lycopene may also be a player in slowing macular degeneration and preventing cancers of the breast, lung, bladder, cervix and skin.

And while raw tomatoes are packed with nutrition, canned or cooked tomatoes contain lycopene that’s more easily absorbed. 

5.  Soy
Go for soy milk (preferably fortified), tofu and meat alternates made from soy to obtain a host of benefits including anticancer action and blood cholesterol lowering.

As kidney function may decline with increasing age, soy is easier on kidneys than protein derived from animal products. Opt for at least one serving of soy a day.

A cautionary note for women with certain types of breast cancer: it’s best to speak with your physician about whether soy is right for you.

6.  Tea
Reports about the health perks of tea’s polyphenols, found in green, oolong and black brews, keep pouring in. Besides the protection offered by all three against a range of cancers and heart disease, green tea has been shown to slightly boost metabolic rates.

And good news for those with heart disease: drinking tea on a regular basis is associated with an increased rate of survival following a heart attack.

7.  Legumes
Dried peas, beans and lentils simply don’t get the respect they deserve. They work wonders in alleviating the constipation that can come with increasing age.

Legumes are also potent in their blood cholesterol lowering and blood sugar regulation actions as well.

Their B vitamin content adds to legumes’ heart healthy reputation and the anticancer phytosterols they contain make them a good bet all around. And when you substitute them for meat, saturated fat totals are slashed.

Aim for eating legumes at least three to four times a week.

8.  Nuts
Nuts and seeds, unfairly banished from low-fat menus, are once again reclaiming their nutritional status.

Among their key nutrients are vitamin E, magnesium and a potent cholesterol-lowering punch from their unsaturated fat and anticancer phytosterols.  

Choose walnuts with their omega-3 fatty acids or peanuts, which contain resveratrol, the same compound that gives red wine its heart-healthy reputation. Keep serving sizes in check as they do contain fat.

9.  Low-fat milk
In northern climates, where there is less vitamin D produced from the sun, low-fat milk is a terrific source of this nutrient.

This vitamin’s credits include a lower risk of arthritis and joint inflammation; increased calcium absorption; and a possible protective effect against autoimmune diseases.

Besides providing plenty of calcium, milk and other low-fat dairy products are big players on the menu of the research program DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The DASH diet includes three servings of milk daily.

10.  Blueberries
Blueberries, cranberries and other berries supply powerful anti-aging compounds. In animal studies, older rats fed a blueberry extract for two months exhibited better short-term memory, navigational skills, balance co-ordination and speed when placed in a maze than before being fed the blueberries.

Other research shows that blueberries may also help to reverse the short-term memory loss associated with aging. 

Just half a cup (125 ml) a day provides disease-fighting advantages.