Eating healthy is important at any age but becomes especially crucial for baby boomers over 50. Why?
Okay, the bad news first. As we get older, our bodies go through some major changes, as nutritional expert Tara Collingwood MS, RDN points out in an interview for Newsmax. "Men and women alike are susceptible to bone loss, muscle loss, hormonal changes, and the dreaded middle age spread," the dietitian explains. "We see and feel these changes in our achy joints, vision impairment, heart complications, weight gain, decreased memory retention, and lack of energy – all of which are tied directly to nutrition."
The good news? Eating the right foods can help prevent diseases, maintain a healthy metabolism, and help you look and feel good.
With that in mind, here are 10 super foods that boast a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio to keep your body performing optimally. You'll notice that some of these age-defying and disease-fighting super foods are items that you may already love and are sitting inside your refrigerator or pantry.
# 1 Wild Salmon
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week, particularly fatty fish like salmon. Salmon is packed with vitamin D, potassium, B vitamins, and other important minerals, but that's not all. Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps fight inflammation, removes triglycerides from the blood, benefits arthritis, and may even help with memory loss and dementia. (By the way, omega-3 can also be found in other fatty, cold-water fish like herring, sardines, rainbow trout, cod, tuna, and mackerel.)
In addition, salmon is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. This is important since protein is what our bodies use for maintenance and repair. No wonder experts often put salmon at the top of their list of healthy foods that promote good health!
# 2 Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are nutritional, energy-boosting dynamos and the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids available. The seeds are full of antioxidants, protein, minerals, plus soluble and insoluble fiber to help digestion.
The tiny seeds are also a "complete protein" containing all nine essential amino acids, rare for a plant-based source of protein. Another benefit? These little seeds have an unusual quality – when combined with liquid they swell and absorb more than 10 times their weight. That means adding a spoonful or two to meals will help you feel fuller while adding some crunch and texture. If you're trying to lose a few pounds, this can be helpful!
So here are a few fun facts about this super food. Although chia seeds have only become a popular health food recently, they've been around a long time as a staple of Mayan and Aztec diets. In fact, "chia" means "strength" in the Mayan language. Aztec warriors were known to use the seeds to give them high energy and endurance, especially during battles. And in case you're wondering, these seeds are the same ones used for the iconic Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Pets that allow you to "grow" garden animals and characters. However, the seeds in these kits aren't approved for consumption, so head to a grocery or drugstore to enjoy the health benefits.
These nutritious seeds are virtually tasteless, so you can add them to just about anything including oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, sauces, breakfast cereals, soups, and salads. Another popular way to eat the seeds is by making "chia pudding." Just mix some seeds with one cup of liquid like almond milk. After 15 minutes or so, the seeds "swell" and the "pudding" is ready to eat. Add some fruit, nuts, or other toppings for extra flavor. Just be careful about eating spoonfuls of the seeds by themselves which could pose a choking hazard.
# 3 Avocados
This unique and nutritious fruit has 20 different vitamins and minerals along with antioxidants including carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are valuable for eye health. Surprisingly, avocados have more potassium than bananas – an essential mineral that most older adults don't get enough of that helps reduce blood pressure.
Other bonuses: Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which numerous studies have shown can help lower levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol while boosting 'good' HDL cholesterol. These fruits are also high in omega-3 fatty acids which, as previously mentioned, help remove triglycerides from the blood and lower inflammation.
# 4 Blueberries / Blackberries
These small berries are full of nutrients including vitamins, potassium, minerals and antioxidants. Blueberries and blackberries contain high levels of soluble fiber which is beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight, lowering cholesterol, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and lowering blood pressure.
The berries rank the highest of any fruit for antioxidants including concentrated levels of flavonoids, a natural brain booster that helps reduce age-related declines in motor skills and cognitive ability.
When selecting berries, note that the darker they are, the more antioxidants they have. These fruits are also anti-inflammatory. The good news is that frozen are just as good as fresh and easy to toss on your morning cereal or salad.
# 5 Almonds.
Nuts in general are good for our bodies, but almonds are the most nutrient-dense nut, ranking highest in protein, calcium, vitamin E (which helps skin stay supple), magnesium, and folate. Almonds are also high in manganese and copper which are necessary to form collagen and can help aging bodies look and feel younger.
An added bonus: Dieters who ate almonds daily shed 62 percent more weight and 56 percent more fat than those who did, a study from Loma Linda University in California found. "The fiber in nuts may prevent your body from absorbing some fat, speeding weight loss," says lead author Michelle Wien, RD Almond eaters also lowered their blood pressure, the study noted.
# 6 Ginger
Ginger may be best known for its ability to soothe stomach aches and ease nausea. But it has so much more to offer.
This anti-aging herb is a good source of many nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6; However, the majority of its benefits for anti-aging nutrition come from its special phytonutrients called gingerols. As WebMD points out: "When you eat or drink phytonutrients, they may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly." Healthline adds: "Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects."
By the way, other herbs such as garlic and turmeric also contain anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve achy joints and stiff muscles.
# 7 Matcha Green Tea
Matcha comes from the same plant as green tea, but since it's made from the entire leaf, it packs in a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.
The good news is that these powerful properties can help us baby boomers as we age. What makes matcha such a super food? Its key component is EGCG, a catechin linked to lowering risks to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease. Loaded with antioxidants, matcha is known for its immunity-boosting and disease-fighting properties. According to Healthline.com, "Including matcha in your diet could increase your antioxidant intake, which may help prevent cell damage and even lower your risk of several chronic diseases."
EGCG is also linked to potential weight loss benefits. Matcha can crank up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories every day and process food more effectively. In fact, researchers conducted a series of studies on dieters and found that those who drank green tea lost more weight than those who did not drink it.
The amino acid L-theanine in matcha, which stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin helps improve concentration and memory. According to a study published in the journal Phytomedicine, regular consumption of green tea may even offer protection against Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.
An added benefit: Unlike coffee, the amino acids in Matcha help your body absorb the caffeine gradually which releases energy slowly and sustainably. Matcha promises a four to six hour energy boost that's just enough to perk you up.
Janie Zeitlin, a registered dietitian in White Plains, NY and New York City, says matcha is a "nutritional powerhouse," and "a valuable addition to any diet," but adds that moderation is best because of the potency. Most experts recommend drinking a cup or two a day.
# 8 Beans
Experts recommend adults consume three cups of beans per week to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. With good reason.
This often overlooked super food is considered "heart healthy" since beans contain an abundance of soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Beans also deliver a powerful combination of vitamins and minerals, including blood-pressure-regulating magnesium, energizing iron, bone-strengthening calcium, potassium, and folate as well as antioxidants. Keep in mind, the darker the bean, the higher its antioxidant levels.
As a bonus, beans help raise levels of the hormone leptin which curbs appetite and thus can help you maintain a healthy weight. Beans are also metabolized more slowly than other complex carbs, helping you feel fuller longer while delivering a great source of energy throughout the day.
A comparatively inexpensive source of protein, beans can be purchased canned, frozen, or dried. To increase your intake, incorporate beans into main dishes like chile or soup, use as a filling side-dish instead of bread or potatoes, toss into a salad, or eat snacks like roasted chick peas or hummus. Have a variety of beans including kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, fava beans, and lentils in your pantry and get creative!
# 9 Quinoa
The South American grain quinoa is well-known to vegans and vegetarians because it's a complete protein and filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, such as B2, magnesium, copper, iron, and phosphorus.
Quinoa is easy to use in place of other grains, pastas, or white rice. An excellent source of protein with sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids, it packs more nutrition than most grains.
In addition, quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol. These are potent antioxidants with several health benefits.
# 10 Dark Chocolate
Okay, I saved the best for last. Who does love chocolate? Just so happens that quality dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and a few other minerals.
Dark chocolate also contains organic compounds that function as antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. Some studies indicate that consuming small amounts of dark chocolate on a regular basis can lower blood pressure and decrease the rate of stroke in women by 20 percent.
The darker the chocolate, the lower the fat and sugar content. However, don't go too crazy. Unfortunately, there are 170 calories in one piece (one ounce) of dark chocolate and the treat does contain sugar along with all those nutrients, so should be eaten in moderation. Still, I love that dark chocolate can be counted as a health food, don't you?