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Tracy Shawn: Miracle Foods to Lose Weight, Slow Aging and Fight Disease

For the full benefit, feast on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins

The right foods may help you in ways you’d never expect. A healthy diet not only promotes weight loss and maintenance, but it also has been shown to slow down the aging process; boost the immune system; decrease blood pressure and cholesterol while strengthening the heart and circulatory system; prevent cataracts; maintain a healthy blood sugar level; and prevent or slow down certain diseases and cancers.

So what are these “miracle” foods? They include the whole, unprocessed fare of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins (and not the processed mix of white flour, sugar, chemicals and trans fat that make up the stuff of junk food, including most baked goods, chips, candy and both regular and diet soft drinks).

This way of eating remains the foundation for steady, no-nonsense weight loss because it emphasizes complex carbohydrates, heart-healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables. Listed below are the health benefits from these powerhouse-packed foods.

Foods That Slow Down the Aging Process

Antioxidants fight free radicals, which cause inflammation, cell damage and disease. Some of the most prevalent foods that are high in antioxidants include blueberries (frozen is fine), citrus fruits, broccoli, carrots, cocoa, flax seeds (buy organic, keep in fridge and grind desired amount in coffee grinder), grapes, raspberries and tomatoes.

According to the book Personal Nutrition by Marie Boyle, Ph.D., R.D., and Sara Long, Ph.D., R.D., phytochemicals may act directly to both inhibit enzymes that activate carcinogens and to induce enzymes that detoxify carcinogens. Foods rich in phytochemicals may also slow down the aging process as well as boost immune system and reduce cancer risk, heart disease and other conditions.

Phytochemicals are the compounds that give plants their aromas and brilliant colors. A variety of foods are rich with different classifications of phytochemicals. They include deeply colored fruits and vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, oats, flax seed, nuts and legumes.

Foods That Boost the Immune System

Anti-inflammatory foods not only reduce inflammation in the body, they also supply an impressive amount of essential vitamins and minerals, which boost overall immunity. Foods well known for their anti-inflammation properties include kelp (opt for organic brands), wild Alaskan salmon, tumeric (otherwise known as curry powder), shiitake mushrooms, green tea, papaya, blueberries, extra virgin olive oil, broccoli and sweet potatoes.

Foods That Decrease Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Heart health may be increased by incorporating a number of different kinds of foods into your daily diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends oatmeal, oat bran and other high-fiber foods because the soluble fiber (which is also found in such foods as apples, pears, barley, prunes and kidney beans) reduces LDL (the “bad” cholesterol).

Fish and omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Doctors recommend eating two servings of fish a week. The fish highest in omega-3s are mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon and halibut. You may consider taking an omega-3 supplement as well.

Foods rich in polyunsaturated fat can also reduce blood cholesterol. The Food and Drug Administration notes that eating a handful of nuts a day may reduce risk of heart disease. The best choices include almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.

Foods That Help Maintain Blood Sugar and Prevent Cataracts

According to the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis Balch, CNC, following a low-glycemic diet may reduce the risk of cataracts by 77 percent. Low-glycemic diets are also good for general health and the maintenance of a healthy blood glucose and insulin response. Low-glycemic foods include whole fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and proteins (from both meat and vegetable sources).

Foods That Lower Cancer Risk

The American Cancer Society predicted that almost a third of cancer deaths in 2008 were attributed to poor eating habits, obesity and physical inactivity. Diets high in alcohol, processed meat and saturated fat — with low intake of fiber, fruits and vegetables — are associated with a number of different cancers and diseases. The consumption of high beta-carotene foods (think dark-yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables as well as dark-green vegetables), vitamin C rich foods, cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli), and adequate fiber intake all work together to slow down and even prevent certain cancers and other diseases.

Basically, moms have been right all along. Fortify yourself with oatmeal before you venture out in the world. Munch on fruit instead of candy. Don’t pick at your fish. And for goodness sake, eat your vegetables!

— Tracy Shawn, MA, “The Walk & Talk Weight Loss Coach”, is a certified nutrition and wellness consultant for men and women. She helps clients achieve their weight loss goals through individualized guidance and education. Click here to contact her.

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