We all know that our diets have an enormous effect on our long-term health. But did you know that what you eat this morning can make all the difference in how happy, energetic, and pain-free you feel this afternoon? Here are five foods high in specific nutrients that can make you feel better today, and every day.
Yes, beans have been the subject of many a digestive joke. But in reality, beans especially black beans create a climate of healthy bacteria in the intestines that keep everything moving smoothly. Beans are one of the best sources of probiotics, the “good” gut bacteria that aid digestive health. Some research even suggests that black beans may aid in preventing colon cancer. If you’re prone to getting gas from beans, a few drops of the natural enzyme alpha-galactosidase (brand name Beano) can make beans easier to eat in public. Soaking beans longer in water (and then replacing that liquid with fresh water) before cooking also helps eliminate the natural sugar responsible for the gas problem.
Green tea has received a great deal of publicity for its anti-inflammatory capabilities and potential to prevent cancer relapse. But the same antioxidants responsible for those health benefits, known as catechins, can also calm the inflammation associated with arthritis. In fact, some experts believe that daily consumption of green tea can protect the cartilage in joints from the long-term breakdown that occurs with osteoarthritis. It’s effective against rheumatoid arthritis as well; a specific compound in green tea that goes by the abbreviation EGCG is now thought to block the inflammatory chain reaction that causes the severe joint damage common to RA. Researchers are studying the potential of EGCG to be used as a treatment for RA.
Mom knew best when she used to serve you up a plate of eggs before school. Eggs are a natural energy booster, and research shows that they wake up your brain as well as your body. Eggs are rich in tyrosine, an amino acid that triggers the brain-stimulating hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. They’re also one of the best sources of choline, which has recently gotten a great deal of publicity for its potential to boost memory and concentration.
Grumpy? Irritable? Out of sorts? Grab a handful of selenium-rich Brazil nuts or sunflower seeds to get back on your sunny side. Odd as it sounds, research has connected lack of selenium with irritability, anxiety, depression, and other mood issues. Selenium is also essential for thyroid function, which regulates overall metabolism and keeps you feeling up and energized. Our diets used to be plenty high in selenium, a natural mineral found in the soil. But agricultural depletion has sapped some of the selenium from modern diets, and selenium deficiency is more common than it used to be. Brazil nuts are so high in selenium, though, that just a few will do. (Too much selenium and you can feel nauseous.) If you’re not a nut-lover, try a tuna sandwich or enriched whole-grain cereal.
Guava isn’t one of the best-known fruits here in the U.S., but it’s getting new attention for its ability to protect joints from degeneration and offset the oxidation damage that can lead to blocked arteries, cancer, and other serious health conditions. Guava is far and away the richest source of the antioxidant lycopene, the one you always hear about in connection with tomatoes. However, while tomatoes need to be cooked to release their full dose of lycopene, the lycopene in guavas is readily accessible. In addition, guavas contain tons of heart-healthy potassium more, even, than bananas. Research has shown that eating guava regularly can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, and it’s associated with lower rates of prostate cancer, breast cancer, and other cancers. Note, though, that guava juice doesn’t do the trick; it’s high in sugar and doesn’t contain the same level of beneficial antioxidants. If fresh guava simply isn’t available where you live, you can eat cooked tomatoes and tomato sauces instead, or take a lycopene supplement.
Melanie Haiken is a senior editor at Caring.com , the senior care directory and leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. Melanie has written about health and family-related issues for numerous magazines and websites and has worked for San Francisco’s renowned Center for Investigative Reporting.
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