Losing weight and eating healthy are some of the many ways to help improve our lives. But did you know that there are some foods that can help protect vital organs such as the eyes, lungs, heart and brain? These foods are especially important as we age. AARP has created a list of the top 15 superfoods for people older than 50.
Remember an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Apples contain soluble fiber, which may help lower cholesterol and slow the uptake of glucose, helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. They’re also a super source of potassium, antioxidants and vitamin C.
Asparagus is high in lycopene, which has been found to protect the prostate and help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. In addition to lycopene, asparagus contains vitamin A, important for the immune system and eye health, and lots of fiber to help reduce cholesterol and encourage heart health. Asparagus also contains protein and iron — something you may not expect from these thin green spears.
Blueberries are also high in soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. But there’s much more packed inside those blue skins: Vitamins C and K are the major players, as are antioxidants and the mineral manganese.
Broccoli is high in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins such as A, C, B9 (folate) and K. That means your eyes, red blood cells, immune system, bones and tissues all benefit from this vegetable.
Butternut Squash contains beta-carotene, which is important for eye health. Winter squash has high fiber content, which helps lower cholesterol and maintains good blood sugar levels.
Dark chocolate’s antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols, may help prevent heart attacks by protecting arteries from becoming clogged. Some studies indicate that consuming small amounts of dark (at least 70 percent cacao) chocolate on a regular basis can lower blood pressure and decrease the rate of stroke in women by 20 percent. Hooray for dark chocolate!
The National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study found that people who drank coffee (regular or decaf) were less likely to die from heart and respiratory diseases, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections. Coffee may also help protect women from breast cancer. Other research found that those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day in their 40s and 50s had a 65 percent lower rate of developing Alzheimer’s than those who drank two cups a day.
Fava beans have plenty of fiber and B vitamins, including folate, thiamin and riboflavin. Minerals such as manganese, iron and potassium also make these beans a nutrient-rich choice.
Greek Yogurt contains fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and salt, and more protein and digestive-friendly probiotics than American-style yogurt. A serving of low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt may have twice the protein and half the sugar of its non-Greek counterpart. If you consume full-fat versions, however, Greek yogurt has more saturated fat.
Leafy green kale packs a nutritional punch. It contains important omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting. It is high in fiber and is a rich source of calcium for bone health. It also provides lutein, which is important for eye health.
Oatmeal’s top benefit comes from its high soluble-fiber content, which helps lower cholesterol. Adding sugar or using instant oatmeal with sugar increases the calorie count.
Olive Oil is high in monosaturated fat, which has been found to lower blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risk of heart disease. Research also shows that this type of fat may keep insulin levels low and improve the control of blood sugar. This healthy fat further contains vitamin K, which aids blood clotting, and vitamin E, an antioxidant important in the creation of red blood cells.
Pears are full of soluble fiber, which may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, lowering diabetes risk. It also fills you up so you tend to eat less, and may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Pears are nutrient- and mineral-rich, providing vitamin C, folic acid, antioxidants and potassium.
Quinoa is well-known to vegans and vegetarians because it’s a complete protein and filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, such as B2, magnesium, copper, iron and phosphorus. Quinoa is full of fiber, gluten-free and easy to use in place of other grains, pastas or white rice.
Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can reduce your risk of heart attack and irregular heartbeats. They can also help lower blood pressure and build brain cell membranes.
So choose your foods carefully and try to include some of these 15 superfoods in your diet on a regular basis and reap their natural benefits.