Simply squeezing a lemon wedge into your next cup of tea increases the levels of catechins, powerful antioxidants found in white, green and black tea. But drink tea the British way, with added milk, and the two-by-two works against you. Casein, the main protein in milk, inhibits the beneficial effects of catechins.
Healthy fats + carotenoids – Or on a more practical note, combine avocado with tomato in your next salad. The heart healthy monounsaturated fat in avocado helps your body effectively absorb the powerful carotenoid antioxidants found in red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene, the best known of the over 700 carotenoids, gives carrots their bright orange color. Tomatoes are rich in beta-carotene, as well. It provides the raw material needed to form vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene also helps reduce inflammation, lowers the risk for heart disease, and acts as an internal sunscreen to reduce wrinkles and age spots.
Prebiotics + probiotics keep your immune system working in tip-top condition. Top your next container of yogurt with a sliced banana to put this combination into action. Your intestinal tract is home to trillions of health-promoting microbes (probiotics). These internal soldiers continually battle unhealthy invaders. Like all good soldiers, your healthy microbes need to be fed. Food containing prebiotics, plant fibers, are exactly what they need. The top prebiotic fiber sources are: bananas, leeks, onions, garlic, artichokes and asparagus.
Nuts + berries = a healthy brain. One of the major theories of aging is that free radicals cause accumulated damage to our cells over time. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that disrupt normal cellular processes. Neurons, the interconnected network of nerve cells that the brain needs to function, are particularly susceptible to free radical damage. Study after study has shown that eating fruits and vegetables, high in antioxidant activity, can offset free radical damage and slow down the aging process. Nuts are rich in both polyphenols, naturally occurring compounds with antioxidant activity, and omega-3 healthy fats. They are found in high concentrations in the brain. Omega-3 fats reduce inflammation and are important for both memory and performance. Most adults eat too few fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fats.
Sulfur + iron can protect you against anemia. Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutrition problem in the world. Close to 70% of the iron in your body is found in red blood cells called hemoglobin which are needed to carry oxygen from the lungs to every tissue in your body. Beans of all types are loaded with iron but it is harder to absorb this type of plant-based iron. Add a little garlic, rich in sulfur, to your next bean recipe and you can improve the iron absorption from the beans by close to 20%. Other good food sources of sulfur include: egg yolk, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radishes and onions.
Vitamin D + folate (a B vitamin) = healthy bones. Surprised? We usually associate calcium and other minerals with healthy bones but in order for these minerals to be effectively used to make bone in the body the minerals need to be available to the cells. Vitamin D helps the body maintain the correct level of calcium in the blood allowing bone cells to absorb it as needed. Vitamin D deficiencies are connected with an increase in hip fractures, especially among older adults. A high intake of folate, a B vitamin, found in oranges, green leafy vegetables, broccoli and romaine lettuce, also has a positive impact on the bone-density in older women which will reduce the likelihood of a fracture.
Bottom line: Humans and the food they eat are an inseparable duo. In addition, many nutrients we need work together to keep our bodies functioning in top condition. This brings us back to an underlying principle of good eating – choose a variety of fresh, healthy, unprocessed food. It is hard to distill our complex nutrient needs into a pill or powder.
© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of 30 books. Available as eBooks from iTunes and Kindle/Amazon:
Healthy Wholefoods Counter
Complete Food Counter
Fat and Cholesterol Counter
Available in print from Gallery Books:
Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd Ed.
Your Complete Food Counter App: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/your-complete-food-counter/id444558777?mt=8
For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to: www.TheNutritionExperts.com.
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