As you age, the foods you choose to eat will drastically impact your overall health and wellness as well as the way you experience the aging process. Many diseases that impact adults and seniors are directly connected to the food they eat in which diet causes the disease or diet impacts the way the person experiences the disease. Examples of diseases that have a direct relationship with diet include coronary artery disease (CAD), colon cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
The role of nutrition doesn’t stop there; what you eat can also have a dramatic impact on how you sleep, how you think, and how you feel.
What are superfoods?
While there is no scientific definition (or regulation of) the term superfood, it’s generally used to describe natural, whole foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Vitamins and minerals work together to perform hundreds of essential functions in the body, which means that adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is crucial for wellness at every age. Because appetite often decreases with age, it can become more and more challenging to incorporate these nutrients into your diet. Superfoods help by providing a higher concentration of important nutrients, which means you can eat less and get more.
The easiest superfoods to incorporate into your diet
- Fish are best known for the omega-3 fatty acids they add to your diet, which offer a myriad of benefits including lowering blood fat, improving efficacy of rheumatoid arthritis treatments, reducing risk of depression, supporting healthy fetal development, reducing symptoms of ADHD, lowering the inflammation associated with asthma, and possibly reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Fish makes a great main dish and can be prepared quickly by baking, broiling, or pan-frying.
- Turmeric, a spice related to ginger, is believed to help reduce the risk of depression, help you fight off viral infections, prevent the development of diabetes, and more. Turmeric can be used to season curry dishes, cauliflower steaks, and soups.
- Cruciferous vegetables include brussel sprouts, broccoli, collard greens, mustard greens, turnips, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, radishes, and cauliflower and are rich in nutrients including vitamin A, C, and K, phytonutrients, and folate. These nutrients help reduce inflammation and risk of cancer. Because they’re rich in fiber, they can be a great addition for those aiming to lose weight (or prevent weight gain). You can roast most of these vegetables as a side dish, add them to soups, salads, and casseroles, or snack on them raw.
- Tomatoes contain potassium, vitamins C and K, and folate, but are perhaps best known for the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to a lower risk of cancer and heart disease. Tomatoes can be eaten raw as a snack or in a salad or cooked in soups, hot dishes, and other recipes.
- Berries are loaded with fiber and antioxidants and may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia, and other ailments. Because berries are high in fiber, they’re a filling, low-calorie option for weight management, too. Berries make a great snack and can be added to cereals and salads.
- Yogurt supports healthy digestion, immune function, and bone health by providing calcium, vitamin B, magnesium, potassium, and probiotics. Yogurt can be eaten plain, with fruit, in overnight oats, or with granola. Plain Greek yogurt can be used to replace sour cream in some recipes.
- Whole grains lower cholesterol and prevent diabetes and heart disease by providing minerals, B vitamins, soluble and insoluble fiber, and phytonutrients. You can incorporate whole grains into your diet by choosing 100% whole wheat bread, whole wheat noodles, brown rice, quinoa, or oatmeal.
- Eggs are superfoods containing 6 grams of protein, nine essential amino acids, selenium, choline, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and a number of antioxidants. They can increase your good cholesterol, lower triglycerides, reduce your risk of a stroke, help suppress your appetite, and more. Eggs can be poached, boiled, scrambled, fried, or baked.
- Nuts are a great source of fiber, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals, and are known for reducing risk of heart disease. Nuts make a great snack and a great crunchy topping for desserts, casseroles, meats, and salads.
- Leafy green vegetables, including spinach, kale, chard, and others, are low in sodium, cholesterol, and carbohydrates, and high in vitamins, K, E, C, A, and B. Increasing your intake of leafy greens can reduce the risk of colon polyps and breast, cervical, and lung cancer; protect your bones from osteoporosis; and help reduce your risk of developing inflammatory diseases. Leafy greens are versatile and can be used to make salads, wraps, quiches, soups, and many other foods.
- Legumes like beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas provide protein, vitamin B, and fiber, which can help decrease blood sugar, improve gut health, and reduce cholesterol. Legumes are often used in soups, dips, spreads, and salads.
- Avocados – technically a single-seed berry – are loaded with healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins that promote heart health and weight loss. Incorporate avocados into your diet by eating them as a filling snack, adding them to salads or burgers, or spreading them on whole wheat toast.
- Olive oil contains polyphenols, vitamin E, and monounsaturated fatty acids, all of which can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. You can incorporate olive oil into your diet by using it place of butter when sauteing meat or vegetables or pairing it with vinegar as a salad dressing.
- Green tea is rich in polyphenolic compounds and antioxidants, including EGCG, which is known for protecting against diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Green tea, which can be caffeinated or decaf, is easy to prepare and incorporate into your daily diet, making it an easy win.
- Garlic is known to support immune health, offer anti-inflammatory properties, improve heart health, and nourish your skin and hair. Garlic is most beneficial when eaten raw – and in fact loses many benefits when heated over 140 degrees Fahrenheit. You can enjoy raw garlic by incorporating it into salsa, salad dressing, or guacamole or spreading it on buttered toast.
Incorporating superfoods into your diet requires intentional shopping and cooking. For those who have a difficult time getting their recommended intake of vitamins and minerals daily, superfood powders can be convenient and beneficial. Superfood powders are mixed with water (or smoothie ingredients) and provide nutrient-dense nutrition in a single serving.