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Foods for Long Life and Well-Being

The time to start eating them is now.

Fiber for Your Whole Body continued...

"None of us eats enough fiber," says William Hart. The average American eats 12 grams of fiber a day; most health organizations recommend 20 to 35 grams.

By following the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, most consumers are advised to get as many as nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables that will contribute plenty of fiber.

Studies have shown that dietary soluble fiber - including foods such as apples, barley, beans and other legumes, fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, oat bran and brown rice -- clearly lower blood cholesterol. High-fiber foods are also digested more slowly, so they don't cause spikes in blood sugar levels like white bread, potatoes and sweets do. Of course, everyone knows that fiber helps keep you regular, but so do laxatives. Fiber, however, has an added plus: High-fiber foods help us feel full, making it easier to control weight.

You get more nutritional "bang for your buck" with high-fiber food, says Hart.

Antioxidant "Superfoods" to Protect Your Cells and Heart

When you're thinking "superfoods," think color, says Beverly Clevidence, PhD, a research leader at the USDA's Diet and Human Performance Laboratory. That means foods that are deep blue, purple, red, green, or orange. The carotenoids and anthocyanins that provide the color for these foods contain health-enhancing nutrients that protect against heart disease and cancer, and also improve our sense of balance, our memory, and other cognitive skills.

Your "superfoods" color chart should include:

  • Deep green -- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli may help prevent colon cancer, while spinach and kale are good sources of calcium. And kale also helps fight against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older Americans.
  • Red -- Red tomatoes, especially when cooked, are beneficial sources of lycopeine, which helps protect against prostate and cervical cancer.
  • Orange/yellow - Squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams promote healthy lungs and help fight off skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Deep blue/purple - Eggplant, plums, blueberries, blackberries (strawberries, raspberries, and cherries come under this category as well) lower your risk of heart disease by helping the liver "sop up" extra cholesterol, as well as improve your mental functioning.

"I've definitely been adding berries to my diet throughout the year," says Clevidence.

You don't have to limit your berry intake to in-season either. Fresh, frozen (without sugar), or dried...the benefits are the same.

Got milk? If you want to keep your bones strong and lessen your chance of fractures as you get older, add calcium-rich foods such as low-fat cheese and milk to your diet. Calcium also keeps teeth strong, helps your muscles contract, and your heart beat. Recent studies have even shown that calcium may lower your risk of colon polyps, and help you lose weight. Researchers at Purdue University found that women who consume calcium from low-fat dairy products, or get at least 1,000 milligrams a day, showed an overall decrease in body weight.

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