Old age ain’t for sissies, they say. Just think of all the health issues and ailments you might have to deal with as you get older: arthritis, stiffness and joint pain, osteoporosis, failing eyesight and hearing, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimers!
But what if the food choices you make now could reduce the risk of developing these conditions? Whilst a healthy diet may not be able to prevent disease entirely, certain foods are power packed with nutrients that have the power to fight common ailments.
Who knew eating a banana could help lower your blood pressure? It’s because they’re packed with potassium, which helps your kidneys get rid of salt through your urine. People who consume plenty of potassium have up to a 27% lower risk of heart disease, and eating bananas 4-6 times a week reduces your risk of developing kidney disease by 50%.
But bananas are not only healthy and easy to digest – they’re also extremely affordable, and one of the most convenient snack foods around. Simply peel and eat. It doesn’t get much easier than that! Caution: avoid ripe bananas if you have Diabetes.
No, it’s not full of bad fat that will send your cholesterol levels soaring. Just the opposite in fact. Pure peanut butter (avoid the brands with added sugar and oil) is a relatively cheap source of protein and contains only 20% carbs. Although it is high in fat, half of those fats are healthy monounsaturated fat, like those found in olive oil. Peanut butter also contains linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid abundant in most vegetable oils.
Eating peanut butter causes a very low rise in blood sugar and is a perfect option for people with type 2 diabetes. In fact, one study showed that women who ate peanut butter 5 times a week or more were at a 21% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (source).
The health benefits of eating garlic are legendary. These include: lowering blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels … stimulating digestion, relieving heartburn and intestinal problems … and providing protection against neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimers.
Add anti-nausea properties – useful for controlling morning sickness or the effects of chemotherapy – and anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce arthritic, muscle and joint pain, and you’ll see why consuming plenty of garlic is beneficial regardless of your age.
Good news: your chocolate habit might actually be good for you! That’s because dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, that may help prevent heart attacks, lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of stroke. Some studies recommend eating up to 100 grams a day – an entire small slab!
Milk and yoghurt
These are excellent sources of calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones. If you’re concerned about weight gain, opt for low fat or skim milk varieties. Since our bodies need Vitamin D to absorb calcium, dairy needs to be eaten with foods rich in Vitamin D, such as egg yolk, salmon, tuna or mushrooms.
Another super food, beetroot comes with a powerhouse of health benefits. Low in calories, yet high in valuable vitamins and minerals, beets contain traces of almost all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Beetroot contains a high concentration of nitrates, which have a blood pressure-lowering effect. This may lead to a reduced risk of heart attacks and stroke, as well as helping to improve mental and cognitive function.
Although more research is needed, one study found that beetroot extract, which is high in betalain pigments, reduced the growth of prostate and breast cancer cells.
Asparagus is full of disease fighting nutrients. Lycopene, for example, can protect against prostate cancer. Vitamin A boosts the immune system and eye health, while the fibre in the vegetable helps reduce cholesterol and contributes to a healthy heart.