We all know that the way to a long and healthy life is good nutrition, but what exactly does good nutrition entail? Which foods should we eat? Here, we will try to give you the answer to that question and recommend some healthy and nutritious foods.
According to official records, the top three countries that have the longest life expectancy are The Principality of Monaco, Japan, and Singapore. Unsurprisingly, all of these countries provide their citizens with a high quality of life, and a crucial requirement for that is healthy food.
Nutritionists don’t like using the term “superfoods,” as it makes people place higher expectations on specific foods, and, as a result – they might neglect the fact that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle means a lot more than just eating the recommended doses of vitamins, proteins, and fats.
With that being said, some foods are more nutritious than others, and a lot of those, according to research, possess some form of beneficial effect against certain diseases. What follows is a list of some of the recommended foods you might want to include in your diet for a long, and healthy life.
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Fresh soybeans, otherwise known as edamame, are a staple food in Asian cuisine for many years, but recently, they started making their way into Western cuisine as well. Soybeans can most commonly be bought in snack packs, but you can also find them in various dishes, such as soups, rice meals. You can also find them served with cooked foods or as seasoning.
The good thing about them is that they are packed full of isoflavones, which are a type of phytoestrogen – a plant derivative. Isoflavones have been known to contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antimicrobial properties.
Therefore, they can aid in regulating our bodies’ inflammatory responses, slow down cellular aging, and fight microbes. Apparently, they have also been reported to protect against some forms of cancer.
Soybeans are plentiful in two types of isoflavones, genistein and daidzein in particular. A recent study published last year on the website Medical News Today showed that genistein has properties that can improve breast cancer treatment.
In addition, the authors of the study pointed out that "lifetime intake of soy [...] has been linked to reduced risk of breast cancer," so you might want to include them in your diet as soon as possible if you want to reap the benefits.
Tofu (soybean curd)
Another soybean entry on this list has been associated with a plethora of health benefits – tofu, which is a white product that looks like cheese, but it’s actually made of soybean curds. It is most commonly found cooked in staple Easter Asian cuisine. This food can be served fried, baked, or boiled in soups.
Being a soy-derivative, it is packed full of isoflavones, and the benefits those bring were mentioned in our previous entry. This form of soy product, however, is also rich in protein, containing all the amino-acids our bodies require in order to synthesize protein.
Additionally, it has a lot of minerals needed by our bodies to protect our teeth and bones, keeping them healthy. It is also a good source of energy. The minerals tofu contains include: calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, manganese, selenium, zinc, and copper.
According to specialists, including tofu in your diet will also make you feel full for longer periods of time, making it a good choice of food to prevent overeating.
Another food that made it on our list of healthy foods are cruciferous vegetables, otherwise known as "Brassica vegetables." They include many different green foods like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radish, and kale.
All of these cruciferous vegetables have a really high nutrient content, which includes vitamins C, E, K, and folate. They are also full of minerals such as potassium, calcium, and selenium, in addition to carotenoids like lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin.
These veggies also have glucosinolates, substances that give them their characteristic flavor. Additionally, they have been reported to have many health benefits.
Some of those benefits help the body’s function to regulate stress and inflammation, antimicrobial properties, and some of them are currently being tested for their potential anti-cancer properties.
Another study published on Medical News Today noted that leafy greens, as well as some cruciferous vegetables like kale and collard greens, have properties that aid in slowing down mental deterioration. Because of that, researchers advise "adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health."
Broccoli, kale, and cabbage have also been found to have a beneficial effect for our heart health, owing to the rich content of vitamin K.
And, last, but not least – cruciferous vegetables are full of soluble fiber, which helps in regulating blood sugar levels, and lower the absorption rates of fat, helping prevent weight gain or promote weight loss – depending on your diet.
This vegetable can most commonly be found as a culinary ingredient, is widely recommended for its high content of a pigment named beta-carotene, and carotenoid – which gives carrots their recognizable color.
Beta-carotene can be transformed by our bodies into vitamin A, which, as reported by the National Institute of Health (NIH), "is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication." And, since our bodies have no way of naturally producing vitamin A, it must come from our diet.
This pigment also serves as an antioxidant, which protects our cells from aging caused by free radicals.
Eating carrots in their raw form might be best for our health, since that’s the form in which they have the most nutrients, there are ways you can cook carrots and still retain most of their nutrients intact.
During a recent interview, a research that was investigating the anti-cancer effect of falcarinol in carrots, Dr. Kirsten Brandt from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom would indicate that if we want to keep the carrots from losing their nutrients, we should boil them whole.
“Chopping up your carrots increases the surface area so more of the nutrients leach out into the water while they are cooked. By keeping them whole and chopping them up afterwards you are locking in nutrients and the taste, so the carrot is better for you all around," she said.
Moving away from vegetables, we go into the fruits territory. More specifically, we turn to citrus fruits – the superheroes of our diet. Citrus fruits are very varied and widely available anywhere on Earth, and they include oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, clementine, mandarins, and tangerines.
Some of the nutritionists’ main recommendations when it comes to a healthy diet are citrus fruits because of their high vitamin C content, which is proved to have antioxidant properties, as well as a wide variety of health benefits, including, but not limited to – reducing inflammatory damage and fending off infections.
Health specialists do point out that these fruits have other beneficial nutrient contents besides vitamin C by saying that “the fruits are abundant in other macronutrients, including sugars, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin and pantothenic acid."
And, if all of these dietary nutrients still don’t impress you, health specialists add that citrus fruits contain a plethora of other organic compounds which include flavonoids, coumarins, and carotenoids – all of which have a protective role in the battle against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.
There is even some research that supports the fact that flavonoids can help "prevent or delay chronic diseases caused by obesity."
They have also caught the scientific attention for their anti-cancer properties, and adding citrus fruits to our diet has been connected to a significant increase of people’s lifespan.
The people living in Okinawa, Japan, are widely recognized to have some of the longest lifespans in the worlds. They constantly east shikuwasa (otherwise known as shequasar), which is a citrus fruit native to the region, known to have an increasingly higher content of flavonoids than most citrus fruits.
Another medical property that shikuwasa juice has is that it promotes liver health.
If all of these veggies and fruits got you scared, we have some both healthy and tasty meat for you – salmon. What is different at salmon is that, while have studies have revealed that red meat and some types of poultry meat consumption can have a detrimental effect on our health on the long run, fish meat such as salmon provides many healthy nutritional benefits.
Salmon is very high in protein content, but it’s also full of omega-3 fatty acids – the type of fatty acids that are believed to be beneficial to our eyesight. Studies have shown that omega-3 helps protect against dry-eye syndrome, which is caused by decreased amount of lubrication of our eyes, leading to eye soreness and blurred vision.
Additionally, Omega-3 fatty acids have been connected with better brain health, and some research points to possible properties that might help staving off mental decline as we age.
Another thing salmon has going for it is its high potassium content, which can help prevent the onset of heart disease.
On top of all of that, salmon is packed with selenium, which promotes thyroid gland health. This is of great importance as the purpose of the thyroid gland is to regulate hormone activity and helps maintain the metabolic processes in our bodies.
With both wild and farmed salmon being available on the meat market, wild salmon has a better nutrition count, higher protein contents, and less saturated fats, making it the healthier choice of the two. It also helps with weight management.
That being said, farmed salmon is more easy to sustain, and research has shown that the difference between farmed and wild salmon is not that significant which means we shouldn’t contemplate too much when deciding which type of salmon we should buy.
While all the foods we mentioned in this article are highly recommended by health specialists for their health benefits, it goes without saying that the key to a healthy and long-lasting life is a balanced, all-inclusive diet, in addition to a healthy lifestyle.
And last, but not least, the latest studies show that genetics also play a vital role in the world of which foods constitute a healthier diet for every individual. Therefore, armed with this new knowledge in your head, be advised to use the healthy diet that is right for you.
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