I love kale.
I eat it, drink it, and write about it whenever I can. Kale articles can stop me in my tracks, especially those with recipes (most of which I've tried).
Not only is it a super-food, it's super-hip: Hollywood has embraced this humble, versatile dark, leafy green as only Hollywood can, resulting in a huge increase in the consumption of kale by some of the world's top celebrities. Good!
I ingest so much kale that my husband thinks I'm addicted. True, I do mix some with brown rice for lunch almost every day, sneak this green wonder into my family's nightly salads (they still can't tell the difference between kale and lettuce), and yes, a bottle of my "green juice" is with me at all times. But still. Addicted? No, I just think I'm onto something: kale is good for you. And here's why:
- Kale builds better bones: Calorie for calorie, kale has more calcium than milk and calcium is essential for building strong bones. Just as important, it's really high in magnesium which, along with vitamin D, helps the body absorb calcium. Check out this short video for a look at all the best foods for building better bones for life:
- Kale builds a better immune system: Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders.
- Kale builds better eyes: Kale is rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds, which could help reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
- Kale builds a better body: It's low in calories, has zero fat, and can be prepared in a variety of ways, including raw in a salad or as a smoothie.
Is there anyone who shouldn't eat kale? Alas, possibly yes. If you're taking any kind of blood thinner (like warfarin), check with your doctor before eating kale because it's high in vitamin K which helps blood to clot and eating it could interfere with the drugs. Kale also contains oxalates, which can keep calcium from being properly absorbed. Nutrition experts recommend not eating kale at the same time as calcium-rich foods.
If you're just now jumping on the kale bandwagon . . . take it slow: eating too much kale right away could be a little hard on your digestive system (I speak from experience).I'd love to hear from you! Post your favorite kale recipes in the comments section below.
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For more tips on living your best life after 50 (or 60, or 70...) check out The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More and www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman. Check out the full video series-The Best of Everything-on the AARP YouTube Channel.
That doesn't mean you should pour out a bag of Skittles at each meal. Try to eat foods of a variety of natural colors to gain antioxidants, said Dr. Amen.
Just because something is a fruit, doesn't mean you should chow down on it, according to Dr. Daniel Amen, author of "Use Your Brain To Change Your Age." For brain health, Dr. Amen recommends food with a low glycemic index -- which measures how quickly food increases blood sugar -- and a lot of fiber, which benefits your intestinal tract. Certain fruit like pineapple and watermelon have high glycemic indexes and should be avoided, advises Dr. Amen. Instead, incorporate fruits like blueberries, apples, oranges, cherries, kiwi, strawberries and raspberries. When it comes to fiber, consider adding coconut to your diet. Correction: In a previous version of this slide, "blood pressure" was incorrectly inserted where "blood sugar" is.
Don't eliminate all of the fat in your diet. Instead, focus on incorporating good fats. In fact, if your cholesterol drops too low, you may be at greater risk for depression, according to Amen and several studies on low cholesterol. So what exactly are "good fats"? Dr. Amen advises people to eat foods rich in omega-3s to promote brain health, including almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, fish, lamb, avocados and green leafy vegetables. Another added benefit of eating good fats? "Your vitamins are actually absorbed better when you eat them with a little bit of fat," said Dr. Amen.
While you generally want to avoid bad fats, if you choose to eat steak, "you want to go with grass-fed, hormone-free, free-range meats" rather than grain-fed meats, said Dr. Amen. "When you feed the animals the high-glycemic foods, they actually produce less of the good fat and more of the bad fat. So they're not as good for you." In other words, what your food eats affects your health too, according to Dr. Amen. Photo courtesy of mdid
Next time you're whipping up some grub, turn to your spice rack for an extra brain boost. Spices and herbs may do more for your health than you realize. According to Dr. Amen, cinnamon balances blood sugar; garlic, oregano and rosemary increase blood flow to the brain; curry acts as an anti-inflammatory; and saffron can have anti-depressant effects. Photo courtesy of S. Diddy
Next time you're craving a cold glass of juice with your breakfast, think again. "Juice is sugar that is unwrapped from its fiber source, and whenever you unwrap sugar from its fiber source, it can turn toxic in your body," said Dr. Amen. Photo courtesy of Leonid Mamchenkov
You may be dreaming about that delicious breakfast muffin all night, but you should probably steer clear of the breakfast pastries. "There's way too much bad fat and sugar," said Dr. Amen. Instead, he recommends a protein-heavy breakfast like a few boiled eggs, nuts and an apple. While Dr. Amen suggests eating lean protein at each meal, he believes it is "especially important in the morning because it helps you focus," he said. Photo courtesy of Nicola since 1972
The last thing you need when you're trying to eat healthy are friends who try to coerce you to be unhealthy. "You have to deal with the food pushers in your life because they'll steal your health," said Dr. Amen. "The health of the people you spend time with will often determine your longevity." Make sure your friends understand and support your decision to eat healthier, and try to find other people who who are on the same healthy path as you.
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