By Robin Beaudoin
Open the pantry and refrigerator doors, and inside you may just find the fountain of youth. The trend in whole foods is to eat yourself healthy, but it’s also possible to defy aging with the natural benefits in certain foods. You can protect the skin, brain, and heart, with no supplements needed.
For the Skin
For skin protection and a lasting youthful glow, drink more coffee. In a women’s study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, participants who drank one cup of coffee every day reduced their risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer, by nearly ten percent. A recent study of both men and women by the Harvard School of Public Health not only confirms this outcome, but offers a bonus: the more caffeinated coffee they drank, the lower their skin-cancer risk became. Drinking three cups of coffee per day lowered risk by as much as twenty percent.
Protection from sun damage is the mighty berry’s department. Vitamin C, such as that found richly in blueberries, is known to repair sun damage (also try a vitamin C lotion or serum, such as Jason Naturals at night, after a long day in the sun), as antioxidants called flavonoids work to prevent it by acting as UV filters. Dark-colored berries have protectants in their skin to prevent sun damage as the plants grow, and the fruit’s natural sun defense will work for you, too.
For the Heart
Almonds and walnuts are accessible, heart-healthy plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These versatile nuts are natural producers of magnesium, which is important for regulating heart rate and preventing heart arrhythmias (palpitations caused by the heart skipping a beat then overcompensating with a strong pump on the next beat). Watching your waistline? Opt for almonds, which contain less fat, but all the cardiovascular health benefits. Add them to salads as a simple swap for croutons.
Popeye the Sailor Man made magnesium-rich spinach famous as a muscle-growing superfood, and there’s no muscle more important than the heart. Spinach, nutritious when both raw and cooked, offers substantial amounts of lutein, which is not only great for eye health, but keeps heart cells operating as they should. Spinach also brings B-vitamin complexes folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and fiber to the table, giving it a super high ANDI nutrition score of 707. Pick spinach instead of lettuce for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.
For the Brain
Naturally occurring plant pigments called flavonoids are one of the reasons fruits and vegetables are so good for you. Flavonoids, not to be confused with tannins, are the most important plant pigments for flower coloration, producing yellow or red/blue pigmentation in petals designed to attract pollinator animals. Among the many fine attributes of flavonoids are a reduced risk of cancer, lowered risk of heart disease, less asthma, and lower incidence of stroke. They may even play a special role in protecting the brain. Red wine, chocolate, green tea, and berries are all good sources of flavonoids.
Beets’ naturally occurring nitrates improve blood flow to vital organs, including the brain, keeping your thinking cap fresh. Four raw baby beets (added to a juice or smoothie) fulfill a full day’s recommended daily allowance of folate, necessary for expectant mothers to prevent spina bifida in newborns. Grilled, they are great; roasted, with other root vegetables, they are even better. If the thought of red fingers turns off the cook, grab them straight from the salad bar, or some packaged and ready-to-eat fresh, cooked beets, such as Love Beets. In a salad pair pickled beets with spinach, goat cheese, and pine nuts for a rich, flavorful meal.