Live Long & Eat Well
Photography by: Yunhee Kim
4. Deep-Six Processed Foods
Refined foods have a lot of calories from processed flour, fat, and sugar, but they're poor in nutrients and phytochemicals, says Light. These products also tend to be high in salt, which in excess can raise blood pressure and stroke risk. And high-heat processing often destroys a lot of the nutrients and adds preservatives that may be associated with allergies, cancer, and asthma. Cautions Light, If there are more than four unfamiliar chemical ingredients on the label, you can be sure its a highly processed food.
Skip refined foods like white flour and sugar that burn quickly, leaving you hungry soon afterward; avoid, too, anything with high-fructose corn syrup. Choose whole grains like whole wheat and oatmeal; if you crave sweets, eat fresh or dried fruits, which are full of fiber to slow digestion instead of spiking blood sugar.
5. Focus On Plant Oils
By now, most of us know enough to avoid the hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) and saturated fats that can clog arteries, raise bad LDL cholesterol, and increase the risk of heart attack. Limit corn, soy, and canola oils as well; they're treated with heat and may contain toxic ingredients created during processing. Instead, stick to organic plant oils like unrefined extra-virgin olive oil, a monounsaturated fat loaded with vitamin E antioxidants and a natural anti-inflammatory chemical called squalene that slows the formation of blood clots. Other good sources of heart-healthy fats include nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), flaxseed and flaxseed oil, and fish.
6. Go Fish
A nutrient-rich protein, fish is generally low in calories and high in essential fatty acids, which protect the membranes inside blood vessel walls. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish also help lower cholesterol, improve joint function in people with arthritis, and can improve brain function, much as leafy greens and berries do, says Paula Bickford, Ph.D., a professor at the Center for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa.
Eat wild, not farm-raised fish, suggests Light: Farm-raised fish are fed refined grain products without a diet of phytoplankton, farm-raised fish have much less omega-3 fatty acids than wild fish. But limit your intake of large ocean fish like tuna or swordfish because of their higher mercury content. (The bigger the fish, the longer its had to accumulate mercury from industrial pollution.) Opt for younger, smaller fish, such as Alaskan wild salmon, tilapia, mackerel, or mahi mahi.
You don't have to cut out beef, lamb, and chicken entirely. they're an important source of cancer- and anemia-fighting vitamin B12, as are eggs and dairy products. Limit red meats to twice a week, or just stick to chicken, which has less artery-clogging saturated fat; buy organic, grass-fed, free-range meats to avoid the growth hormones and antibiotics in standard varieties. Alternatively, choose B12-fortified vegan foods like yeast extracts, veggie burgers, soy milks, and breakfast cereals.