While the old adage "you are what you eat" is only partially true -- you are also what your genetics predisposes you to be -- what we put into our bodies clearly does have an impact on our health and overall well-being. And while some diets may promise a magic bullet to healthier aging, there are a few basic food rules that we really shouldn't stray from.
Here are five super foods that you should be having every day:
Our bodies need water to live. Water flushes toxins out of our vital organs and carries nutrients to our cells. We lose water every day -- literally through sweat and tears -- and we must replenish it. But just how much water we need is a point of discussion. The old standard bearer of 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day may not be today's most popular wisdom. The Mayo Clinic says: For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water. An adequate intake for men is roughly three liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day; for women, it's 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day -- not necessarily water because all fluids count toward the daily total. But water, it's still the purest, isn't it?
2) Green vegetables.
Yes, kale is the new superfood on everyone's table. But as one friend recently observed as he turned his nose up at the offer of a kale shake, "Wasn't that the stuff that was the decoration on salad bars a few years ago?" One and the same, indeed. Kale is low in calories and high in calcium, vitamins A, C, and K. It’s also high in antioxidants, all of which makes it the current sweetheart veggie. For those who have tried it 100 different ways and still think it belongs as a salad bar decoration, we say there is always spinach, swiss chard, broccoli and asparagus. Don't make excuses when it comes to eating your veggies.
3) Fresh, not highly processed.
There are processed foods and then there are processed foods. Minimally processed foods -- like bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts -- are often just pre-prepped for convenience. At the other end of the processing spectrum are frozen and pre-made meals like microwaveable dinners and frozen pizza. Read the labels, and if you can't pronounce some of the ingredients, think twice about eating them. Most canned vegetables, soups and sauces are preserved by adding sodium. And while we need some sodium each day, consuming more than the dietary guidelines can contribute to hypertension -- high blood pressure. Best to stick with fresh, and read labels carefully.
As the joke goes, don't go nuts with nuts. But in moderation (and assuming no allergies), nuts can be a healthy addition to any diet. They contain polyphenols, which keeps your heart healthy. Let's face it, nuts need some good PR. For years they were seen as salty, high calorie and fatty and you were most likely to find them in the supermarket aisle with the chips and snack foods. Now, nutritionists say certain nuts deserve an honored spot in every healthy eater's kitchen. They are loaded in protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Studies have shown that nuts have powerful cholesterol-lowering effects.
WebMD.com reports that the benefits of certain nuts were clear enough for the FDA in 2003 to issue a "qualified health claim" for peanuts and certain tree nuts -- almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts. That status allows some nuts and foods made with them to carry this claim: "Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease."
Flaxseed is one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet, rich in plant-based Omega-3s. There’s some evidence it may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. In the 8th Century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it, says WebMD.com.
Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, the main ones are Omega-3 essential fatty acids, fiber, and lignans for their antioxidant qualities.