We’re told a lot what we should eat and drink these days. Most of the time it just annoys me. It’s probably because since birth I’ve been blessed with an incredibly high metabolism, allowing me to live outside the normal nutritional rules. Much to my mom’s befuddlement, as a boy I would eat her healthy meals then make myself an Oreo sundae or put chocolate chips on my Eggo waffles in the morning.
My poor eating habits accelerated rapidly once I wasn’t under her watchful eye, but still without any detriment to how much I weighed or looked. Will, my roommate at the Academy, would grow visibly frustrated with my gleeful disregard, explaining that the amount of chocolate I ate was going to weaken my immune system, give me acne and all kinds of other terrible disorders. Never happened.
Then I got married to a woman who can cook like a Food Network star, but more importantly who believes in eating healthy. Slowly, like a wild bronco being broken, she began to reign in my terrible eating habits by substituting them with healthy alternatives. Sometimes I resisted, but over time I began to realize she was right and more importantly, healthy didn’t have to mean tasting bad.
During this process I’ve begun to pay more attention to nutritional articles and medical studies touting the health benefits of certain foods. The following are a few that I’ve grown to love and would recommend to anyone trying to develop a healthier eating plan:
Blueberries- these little guys are considered by many to be a “superfood” for how many health benefits they pack. Blueberries are among the fruits with the highest antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are thought to prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke by fighting the free radicals which cause damage to cells. They also act as an anti-inflammatory, helping your skin remain younger by preventing aging and wrinkles.
According to a USDA study…a diet rich in blueberry extract reversed some loss of balance and coordination, and improved short-term memory in aging rats…This particular USDA study is the first to actually demonstrate a reversal in dysfunctions of behavior, going farther than earlier studies which linked high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables to prevention of function loss only. – prnewswire.com
And in case you needed one more reason, researchers at Rutgers University have found that blueberries reduce the risk of urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract. Not sure what it’s like to get a urinary tract infection, but it sounds gross and painful…so I eat blueberries on my waffles now instead of chocolate chips.
Almonds- almonds are the most nutritious of all the nuts, but many never consider how healthy they are because they’ve heard that they’re high in fat. They’re right, but almonds contain the good kinds of fat, like monounsaturated that actual helps lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Almonds have been shown to lower the risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
“A one-ounce serving of almonds (about 23 almonds) is an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium and manganese, and a good source of fiber, copper, riboflavin, and phosphorus. Not to mention, every ounce has 6 grams of protein, and 12 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Now that’s a lot of nutrients for such a small package.” – almondsarein.com
Finally, just like blueberries, almonds contain antioxidants which are healthy for the skin and can prolong the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Red Wine- For years now the Europeans have been laughing at Americans who say they only drink wine because it’s good for the heart. “Why not just drink it because it tastes good?” they ask. Both cultures have a good point and I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. I drink wine because I love the taste, the culture and because I know that it’s good for my health.
Many people have heard of the healthy effects of red wine, but believe that it is simply the best choice if your going to have alcohol. In fact, there are many health benefits that red wine drinkers experience over those who drink no alcohol at all. Thus far, doctors have been reluctant to advise their patients to start drinking alcohol because of the highly negative effects alcohol abuse. Understandable.
Kim Marcus and Jacob Gaffney recently wrote an article in the May 2008 issue of Wine Spectator summarizing the recent findings of various medical studies and tests and what they mean for wine drinkers. Here’s a sample of what they found:
Heart: Many studies have shown that regular and moderate consumption (one to two glasses per day) of red wine is associated with the greatest amount of benefits, such as better circulation and overall heart health. A fascinating new angle of study is being pursued by researchers at Stanford University, who have discovered that one of the factors behind alcohol’s effect on the heart is that it activates an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2. The enzyme, which helps process alcohol, also eliminates toxic byproducts created by the breakdown of fats in cells during a heart attack. Eliminating the byproducts prevents additional damage to the heart cells.
Delaying Dementia: Several studies have not only amassed evidence that moderate wine-consumption may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but are also now detailing the complicated physiological processes at play…Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York have found that grape seed polyphenols block the formation of the plaques (that kill surrounding brain cells).
Preventing Arthritis: Researchers in Sweden have found that drinking an average of five to 10 glasses of wine per week may cut the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by up to 50 percent, compared to the risk of nondrinkers. In addition, other studies have found that moderate wine-drinking is linked to increased bone density in elderly women, possibly lowering their risk of osteoporosis.
Lowering Diabetes Risk: People who consume moderate amounts of wine daily appear to be at an advantage when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes; studies have shown that light to moderate drinkers may have a substantially lower risk of developing the disease. A Harvard School of Public Health study from 2003 found that women 25 and older who consumed a glass or two of alcohol a day were at a 58 percent lower risk of developing diabetes than nondrinkers.
More info on almonds:
More info on blueberries:
More info on red wine: