If you lined up the oldest living adults, the world’s centenarians, and asked them their secret to long life, what would they say? Probably what every health professional says: Eat well, exercise and live right. Simple.
There’s no secret formula to longevity, but experts agree that the food you eat affects your wellbeing–and improves your survival odds.
Superfoods, for example. Many diet and health experts agree they help the body fight disease and promote good health with high concentrations of essential nutrients and antioxidant- carrying phytochemicals that protect against cell damage.
Many superfoods are commonly known. Eat your spinach, you’ve been told. And your broccoli. In fact, all your leafy greens. And plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. While you’re at it, don’t forget to eat more vitamin E oily fish like salmon and mackerel, with their omega-3 fatty acid cancer-fighting properties, and less red meat.
Healthy lifestyle advocates know the top cited foods to eat: fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, and grains. These foods are key to better health–and longer life–in promoting healthy systems function and cell damage protection. But did you know these five lesser-known superfoods can also help extend your life?
What? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s top nutrient dense (and fewest calories) powerhouse fruits and vegetables, watercress is at the top. Watercress is a green leafy cruciferous vegetable typically used as mere plate garnish in fancy restaurants, but it has ancient medicinal properties. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used it to treat the sick in ancient Greece.
Cruciferous vegetables contain carotenoids, among other vitamins and minerals, as well as sulfur-containing glucosinolates that have been recognized for their cancer-fighting compounds. These compounds protect DNA in cells and have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. Powerful medicine.
Packed with vitamins K, C, and A, this nutritious salad ingredient or sandwich accessory, protects against bladder, liver, breast, colon, lung, and stomach cancers, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. You can find watercress in the produce section of most any market.
What’s so super about honey? Everything. A household staple, honey is another superfood high on the list of health boosting, smart medicinal choices. Nature’s gift from the bees, honey has cancer-fighting antioxidants, antibiotic, antifungal, and antiseptic properties.
You’ve probably heard tell of the soothing comfort of just a teaspoon of honey in your tea for sore throat and cold symptoms. Raw honey, rich in compounds like bee pollen, royal jelly, and propolis, has bacterial fighting enzymes and high nutritional value.
Some great benefits of this sweetener are its ability to aid calcium absorption, heal wounds, provide energy, boost digestive health, slow aging, and prevent allergies. It can heal burns, and prevent heart disease and relieve arthritis pain. And best of all, you can find it most anywhere. Even when you’re looking for healthy choices in the most unsuspecting places like fast food restaurants. But natural and raw is best.
3. Olive Oil
Okay, maybe this one’s not so secret. This delicious monounsaturated cooking and salad dressing oil have long been touted as one of the “good fats,” healthy for the heart and brain.
This beneficial, polyphenol-rich, cancer-fighting fat reduces the risk of heart attack and improves brain function by increasing memory and preventing brain aging. It also contains cancer-fighting agents and helps build strong bones, boost energy and fight disease.
And only two tablespoons a day will do it.
4. Pomegranates (and Pomegranate Juice)
Nutritionists recommend berries, especially blueberries, for brain, heart and cellular protection. They’re also useful for balancing systems like your insulin-producing endocrine and cholesterol- regulating digestion. Fibrous foods like berries aid in digestion and weight control.
But did you know that the antioxidant, free-radical fighting properties (found in the dark colors) of berries are also found in pomegranates? Like olive oil, pomegranates are rich in polyphenols, super-packed with antioxidants to fight heart disease and cancer.
And while it takes some work to get at those seeds, there’s where the gem in this fruity treasure chest lies. But even drinking pomegranate juice will improve blood flow, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower heart disease risk by preventing plaque build-up.
One cup of pomegranate juice a day may slow down prostate cancer, but if even if the science is still out on that one, eating pomegranates boosts your fiber and nutrition intake of vitamins B, C, K, and potassium. One a day supplies a fourth or more of your daily folate (repairs DNA) and vitamin C needs.
Many markets do the dirty work and sell the seeds, which are great sprinkled over salad or yogurt, two other superfoods.
Yep, an apple a day does keep the doctor away. Well, at least the doc would be pleased you’re eating apples that help your heart and gut.
Apples beat out most other fruits in fighting heart disease and cancer. Just ask the American Institute for Cancer Research, which proclaims apples the top ranked fruit in “antioxidant power.” Fuel for slowing tumor growth and preventing the start of cancer in the first place, the skin of the apples contains the most antioxidants.
Studies have found that the pectin and procyanidin in apples favorably affect development, treatment and drugs suppressing liver and esophageal cancers. They also help fight stomach, breast and drug-resistant cancers. Apple cider has often been cited for its tumor suppression properties resulting from the acetic acid fermentation process.
Aside from its health goodies like antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, fiber and vitamin C, apples come in a huge array of colors and shapes. Be sure to eat your Granny Smith’s as well as your Red Delicious, as green apples are lower in sugar but reds are higher in some antioxidants.
But the best thing about apples—and watercress, honey, olive oil, and pomegranates, for that matter—is they’re available anywhere anytime. You don’t have to go searching specialty stores or order online for these nutritionally super-packed superfoods.
Many superfoods prolong life by preventing disease, boosting immunity, depressing inflammation, and promoting energy and overall good feeling. While so many familiar superfoods do the job–walnuts, blueberries, oatmeal, lentils, kale, spinach, flax seeds, garlic, and many more–these five lesser known-as-superfoods will fuel your march closer to the next century.