March is National Nutrition Month: Foods & Tips That Help You Stay Sharp, Young and Energetic!
March is National Nutrition Month: Foods That Help You Stay Sharp, Young and Energetic
Remember the old Food Pyramid that was divided into the five food groups of fruit and vegetables, starchy foods, proteins, milk and dairy, and fats and sugars? It’s changed a lot in the past couple of decades with some nutritionists saying that the food pyramid now belongs to the ancient world.
March is National Nutrition Month, and is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with the Food Plate graphic that simplifies the recommended diet so that you don’t have to count the number of servings or portions of each type of food that you’re eating throughout the day.
Here’s how it works: Divide a plate in half, fill one half with fruits and/or vegetables. Divide the other half of the plate into two. Fill one half of that side —or one quarter of the whole plate — with whole grains or starchy foods such as potatoes, winter squash, pasta or bread. Fill the fourth quarter of the plate with a protein such as eggs, meat, chicken, fish, legumes, tofu, nuts, hummus, or seeds. At the upper right hand corner, next to the plate, is room for a cup of milk, yogurt, soy milk, an alternative milk or slice of cheese.
The divided plate is much easier to use as a guide. But nutrition is more than filling up on needed calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats. It’s about supporting your mental wellbeing, immunity, and cognitive function with foods that keep us healthy so we can look forward to living each day with zest and joy.
Please take a few minutes to read how you can eat your way to good health with foods that have been proven to help you stay sharp, young and energetic.
Berries are berry good for your brain. Blueberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries and strawberries contain phytochemicals that help protect against disease and support cardiovascular health and brain function. Blueberries rank the highest on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) test that rates the total antioxidant score of foods.1 Foods that score high on the ORAC scale may also slow aging. Strawberries contain the highest concentration of fisetin, a flavonoid that actually helps remove senescent (damaged) cells from the brain. Senescent cells are complicit in the aging process and damage healthy surrounding cells.2
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables in the Brassicaceae family, including cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are packed with some of the most potent disease-fighting phytochemicals. Their high fiber content also helps support your digestive system.3
3. Deep Green & Orange Fruits And Veggies
Deep green and orange fruits and veggies, including broccoli and other deep-green leafy vegetables and yellow-orange foods, are rich in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A, which is vital to a strong immune system, healthy skin, mucous membranes and eye health.4
Flaxseed has been shown to be helpful for supporting healthy blood sugar levels. In order to get the whole benefit, grind the seeds in a small coffee grinder and then sprinkle them on your salad, mix them in a shake, etc. Or buy flax meal and add a tablespoon to your muffin or pancake batter, or to your oatmeal.5
Garlic helps make blood platelets less sticky, supports healthy cholesterol and blood pressure. Not to mention, garlic also supports the immune system.6
6. Nourish Your Gut
Did you know that 70% of your immune system is in your gut? New research is showing that the gut microbiome also has a big influence on brain health, mood and stress levels.7 Probiotics are live bacterial microorganisms that populate the human gastrointestinal tract. They combat the daily bombardment of toxins and pathogens (bacteria, fungus, parasites, and viruses) that enter our digestive system every day through contaminated food and other toxins. Fermented foods such as kombucha, Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, cottage cheese are probiotics which help colonize the digestive tract with good bacteria. Prebiotics are the food and nutrients that feed probiotics. Prebiotic fiber is found in fruits and vegetables such as artichokes, jicama, wild yams, onions and garlic, asparagus, beans, oats, chicory root and Jerusalem artichokes. Prebiotics support mineral absorption, vitamin utilization, and healthy blood sugar levels. They are both essential to a healthy microbiome.8
Avocados are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fat, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. In addition, avocados have a positive effect on blood glucose, cholesterol, triglyceride and insulin levels.9
Tomatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene and the powerful antioxidant lycopene which supports prostate and eye health in numerous studies. Try cooking tomatoes in olive oil- it is the optimal way to get the most benefits from lycopene.10
9. Eat More Fish
Eat more fish such as wild salmon, sardines and other deep-water fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are critical to every cell of your body and essential for anti-aging. In fact, your body needs EFAs just like it needs other essential vitamins and minerals to help you stay healthy. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week, especially since the body cannot manufacture EFAs. They must come from the food you eat and/or nutritional supplements. If you don’t eat fish, you can get omega-3s from flaxseed oil and DHA algae.11
10. Drink Water
Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and to flush out toxins. Your brain is 70% water when fully hydrated, and it gets dehydrated just like your body. When it is dehydrated, neurotransmission — which is heavily dependent on water — is impaired, resulting in poor memory, concentration and impaired abstract thinking. The next time your mind is foggy, drink a tall glass of water and notice the difference.
Before March is over, try to make at least one change in your diet by incorporating three foods on this list. And have fun looking for new recipes.