1. Olive Oil
Four decades ago, researchers from the Seven Countries Study concluded that the monounsaturated fats in olive oil were largely responsible for the low rates of heart disease and cancer on the Greek island of Crete. Now we know that olive oil also contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that may help prevent age-related diseases.
Dr. G comments: Look for cold pressed virgin or extra virgin olive oil. They are slightly more expensive but worth it. Good olive oil does not only come from Italy. California has some very good olive oils. If you’re going to cook with olive oil use low to low-medium heat. You can make a delicious and healthy salad dressing using saffron, rosemary or other favorite herbs added to olive oil and rice vinegar. Check outwww.ooliveoil.com .
2. YogurtIn the 1970s, Soviet Georgia was rumored to have more centenarians per capita than any other country. Reports at the time claimed that the secret of their long lives was yogurt, a food ubiquitous in their diets. While the age-defying powers of yogurt never have been proven directly, yogurt is rich in calcium, which helps stave off osteoporosis and contains “good bacteria” that help maintain gut health and diminish the incidence of age-related intestinal illness.
Dr. G comments: Many yogurts today have so much sugar, modified corn starch and artificial colors they should be classified as candy. Also, be wary of the sugar free varieties and the ones marketed to children, as the sugar substitutes like Splenda can be responsible for anxiety, headaches, memory loss and a number of other symptoms. Many allergies are actually food sensitivities and intolerances to the many chemicals, food additives, dyes, flavor enhancers, MSG, lactose, gluten and other junk in prepared, convenience, snack and packaged foods.
Always read the ingredients list and not just the front labels as labels can be misleading. Even the ingredients list can hide junk but with some simple knowledge on what to look out for and some practice you will get better at it and know which brands to look for. This will take extra time at the grocery store but well worth the time spent.
Plain yogurt can be flavored with frozen berries, other fruits and honey. Plain yogurt can also be used as a substitute for sour cream (a healthier choice) for recipes, dips, baked potatoes etc.
Kefir is another cultured milk product not very well known because of lack of marketing not because it’s not as good as yogurt. Kefir and yogurt both contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match.
Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt, Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. You can order easy to make Kefir home making kits through the internet or ask for it at your local health food stores.
3. FishThirty years ago, researchers began to study why the native Inuits of Alaska were remarkably free of heart disease. The reason, scientists now think, is the extraordinary amount of fish they consume. Fish is an abundant source of omega-3 fats, which help prevent cholesterol buildup in arteries and protect against abnormal heart rhythms.
Dr. G comments: The majority of fish sold in grocery stores and restaurants are farm raised. Antibiotics, steroids, mercury and genetically engineered corn food pellets are the main culprits with farm raised fish. Check out the Governments EPA website here: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/advisories.htm
“The FDA/EPA Fish Consumption Advisory informs women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the parents of young children about how to get the positive health benefits from eating fish and shellfish lower in mercury (for example, shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish), while minimizing mercury exposure by avoiding types of fish that are higher in mercury (for example, shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel)”.
Costco and Sam’s carry Wild Caught Salmon Burgers that are delicious and economical. I regularly use these burgers to make my Salmon Caesar Salads. The recipe can be found here by clicking the Recipes tab.
4. ChocolateThe Kuna people of the San Blas islands, off the coast of Panama, have a rate of heart disease that is nine times less than that of mainland Panamanians. The reason? The Kuna drink plenty of a beverage made with generous proportions of cocoa, which is unusually rich in flavanols that help preserve the healthy function of blood vessels. Maintaining youthful blood vessels lowers risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.
Dr. G comments: As has been in the news for a year or two now, dark chocolate is the chocolate to look for. For an excellent discussion on chocolate go to:http://www.astrologyzine.com/healthy-chocolate.shtml
5. NutsStudies of Seventh-Day Adventists (a religious denomination that emphasizes healthy living and a vegetarian diet) show that those who eat nuts gain, on average, an extra two and a half years. Nuts are rich sources of unsaturated fats, so they offer benefits similar to those associated with olive oil. They’re also concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals, including antioxidants.
Dr. G comments: Raw nuts are healthier since roasting destroys some of the value of the good oils found in raw nuts and seeds. Walnuts and almonds have the highest unsaturated fat (good oil/fat) content. Also, be sure to store your raw nuts and seeds in the fridge to prevent them from going rancid.
6. WineDrinking alcohol in moderation protects against heart disease, diabetes and age-related memory loss. Any kind of alcoholic beverage seems to provide such benefits, but red wine has been the focus of much of the research. Red wine contains resveratrol, a compound that likely contributes to its benefits—and, according to animal studies, may activate genes that slow cellular aging.
Dr. G comments: The problem with red wine is that some French Red Wines, red wine vinegars and balsamic vinegars contain lead. The French wines cited are the vintages between ’75 and ’80. Unfortunately, balsamic vinegar was one of my favorites so I have now switched to rice vinegar instead. If you mix rice vinegar with a little berry juice it takes on a fruity flavor like that of balsamic vinegar.
California passed a law in 1986 “CALIFORNIA PROPOSITION 65 WARNING: Red Wine Vinegars and Balsamic Vinegars contain lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
7. BlueberriesIn a landmark study published in 1999, researchers at Tufts University’s Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging fed rats blueberry extract for a period of time that in “rat lives” is equivalent to 10 human years. These rats outperformed rats fed regular chow on tests of balance and coordination when they reached old age. Compounds in blueberries (and other berries) mitigate inflammation and oxidative damage, which are associated with age-related deficits in memory and motor function.
Dr. G comments: Frozen and fresh are the best choices when it comes to blueberries or other berries. Most canned varieties contain too much sugar, syrup, HFCS etc. If you want a berry with more anti-oxidant punch, the Acai berry has 24,000 ORAC value vs. an Orac value of 2,400 for blueberries. Prunes, pomegranates and raisins all have higher Orac values than blueberries.
I hope these comments have been helpful. Remember, make sure the source of information you are counting on is a trusted one. Make 2010 a happy and healthier year.