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Dubai, UAE: As a child, do you remember your mother telling you to eat up the spinach on your plate as it was good for your eyes?
Or that drinking milk would give you strong bones and teeth? These were not manipulative tactics by her to get you to eat what’s on the plate; they were nutritionally timeless truths.
It is a fact as old as nutrition itself that many foods possess qualities that benefit specific organs in our body. But we had tantrums as childhood ploys to reject foods we did not like and as adults, those tantrums have morphed into poor nutritional choices that crave highly processed foods and look down on healthy, nourishing staples.
So we end up eating things that have no affinity for our overall health, leave alone power a particular organ in our body to its full potential.
It is time we returned to our roots, so to speak, and reconfigured our relationship with food for our own sake.
Recognising the nature of specific foods and the good they offer is the first step in this process.
It is a privilege that nature devised its bounty in this way and we need to take full advantage of it for our own good.
The next time you go grocery-shopping, keep in mind that you can shop for your heart-health with all your heart, or that you can think sharp for your brain, and pick foods that nourish it.
Amera Marian Varghese, dietician at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, explains how your main organs — heart, brain, eyes and skin — can particularly benefit from good nutrition.
Foods good for the heart
1) Oily fish, salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
Nutrients & Benefits: Omega-3 fatty acids. Helps lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and lowers inflammation and protects against heart disease.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Grill salmon. Add tuna to salads.
Nutrients & Benefits: Fibre, Mono-and polyunsaturated fats; omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E. Lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, lowers blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Lowers blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Lowers risk of heart disease. Aids in weight management.
Helps bring down triglyceride levels. Protects against heart disease and helps lower inflammation.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Mix almonds with yoghurt. Add with fruit salads, breakfast cereals, smoothies. Top chopped almonds to chicken or meat dish. Layer fruits and nuts with low fat yoghurt.
Nutrients & Benefits: Fibre, mono-and polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Mix with salads, muffins, pancakes, cereals. Top pasta or noodles with walnuts. Use for dessert toppings.
4) Whole-grain foods: Oats, whole wheat bread, and brown rice.
Nutrients & Benefits: Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fibre.
Tips to incorporate in meals :Try oat meal crackers for a healthy snack. Top oatmeal with fresh berries. Add oats to fruit parfaits (frozen dessert made with layers of fruits and yoghurt). Add brown rice to lunch, add some vegetables to it. Try whole wheat bread sandwiches.
5) Dark chocolate
Nutrients& Benefits: Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids); Helps lower risk of heart disease. Antiviral, Anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Garnish a fruit plate with chocolate curls. Add chocolate to cereals. Mix with plain yoghurt, ice-cream, chocolate shakes. Add into your morning baked goods. Use In moderation occasionally–watch out for the calories. Choose one which has 70 percent or higher cocoa content.
6) Dark green, deep orange, or yellow fruits and vegetables such as like Carrots, Spinach, Broccoli, Sweet potato, Red bell peppers, Asparagus, Oranges, Tomatoes, Cantaloupe, Papaya, Grapefruit.
Nutrients & Benefits: Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fibre, B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium. Carotenoids act as antioxidants (fight the harmful free radicals that damage tissues in your body).
Tips to incorporate in meals: Grill vegetables. Use veggies and fruits in wraps, sandwiches and salads.
7) Soy foods, such as soy milk, soybeans, tofu, and soybean oil.
Nutrients & Benefits: B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens. Isoflavones. May fight cardiovascular disease.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Add soymilk with cereals. Make smoothies with soymilk. Grill tofu or stir-fry. Use soybeans as a main dish.
Nutrients & Benefits: Catechins and flavonols–flavonoids. May reduce the risk of stroke. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Have a warm cup of tea to satisfy an afternoon craving. Use iced tea instead of sodas.
9) Flaxseed (ground)
Nutrients & Benefits: Fibre, Omega-3 fatty acids. Has heart-healthy benefits. May also help your cholesterol levels. and has a protective effect against cancer.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Add ground flaxseed to oats, soups, smoothies or yogurt. Substitute ground flaxseed for part of the flour in baking breads, muffins, rolls, bread, bagels, pancakes, and waffles. Add flaxseeds in salads.
10) Black or Kidney Beans.
Nutrients & Benefits: Omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fibre, B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium. Helps lower cholesterol. Aids in weight management.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Substitute for meat or poultry, for vegetarians. Add in soups. Use in salads. Make stews and side dishes. Pair with vegetable dish.
Food good for brain health
1) Nuts and seeds walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseed.
Nutrients & Benefits: Good sources of vitamin E,Zinc. Studies suggest that higher levels of vitamin E correspond with less cognitive decline as you get older.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Choose unsalted nuts. Add them to your breakfast. When baking, throw in a handful of chopped nuts or sprinkle seeds on top of bread. Add them to salads, stir-fried vegetables.
2) Whole grains, oatmeal, whole-grain breads, and brown rice.
Nutrients & Benefits: B-vitamins. May help to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Tips to Incorporate in meals: Try oatmeal crackers for a healthy snack. Top oatmeal with fresh berries. Add oats to fruit parfaits made with layers of fruits and yoghurt. Add brown rice to lunch add some vegetables to it. Try wholewheat bread sandwiches.
3) Dark chocolate.
Nutrients & Benefits: Antioxidant properties. Enhances focus and concentration.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Garnish a fruit plate with chocolate curls. Add chocolate to cereals. Mix with plain yoghurt or ice-cream. Add into cakes, muffins, pancakes.
4) Oily Fish: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
Nutrients & Benefits: Omega 3 fatty acids. Lowers risk of dementia, improves memory and focus.
Tips to Incorporate in meals: Grill or bake.
5) Beans/pulses including lentils.
Nutrients & Benefits: Protein,fibre,iron. May help stabilise glucose (blood sugar) levels.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Make curry with lentils and beans. Make salads, soups. Add chickpeas to green salad. Blend chickpeas to make hummus. Add beans to meat dishes.
Nutrients & Benefits: Vitamin C; manganese, fibre and folate, rich in antioxidants. May reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Sprinkle blueberries over green salad. Serve warm over frozen yogurt, sorbet or rice pudding. Layer fresh, frozen or canned blueberries with yogurt and muesli. Add dried berries to whole-grain cereal and nuts. Blend berries to make a healthy juice.
Nutrients & Benefits: Rich in healthy fats (monounsaturated). Improves vascular health and blood flow.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Use chopped avocados as a garnish. Spread ripe avocados as filling for sandwich. Use in fruit smoothies or in salads.
Nutrients & Benefits: Antioxidant, lutein. Helpz protect against cognitive decline.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Make spinach soup. Add to vegetable salads. Add chopped spinach to pasta/noodles/rice. Mix it with cottage cheese. Pair it with meat. Add to dals. Add shredded spinach to omellettes and vegetables juices.
Nutrients & Benefits: Rich in antioxidants. Protects the brain from free radical damage.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Make juice. Eat it as a snack. Add to soups. Pair with green salads/fruit salads.
10) Greek Yogurt.
Nutrients & Benefits: Fat and Protein (more protein that other yoghurts. Helps keep brain cell membranes flexible, helping them to send and receive information.
Tips to Incorporate in meals: Add to cereals for breakfast. Mix with fruits. Layer with muesli and berries. For a change try adding dark chocolate chips. Polyphenols in cocoa are thought to keep the mind sharp by increasing blood flow in the brain.
10) Olive Oil.
Nutrients & Benefits: Monosaturated fatty acid (good fat). Helps slow down brain ageing.
Tips to Incorporate in meals: Add to salads. Mix it into salad dressing. Drizzle over cooked pasta or vegetables.Use instead of butter or margarine as a healthy dip for bread. Replace butter with olive oil in mashed potatoes or on baked potatoes. Use in marinades or sauces for meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables. Add olive oil to a dish at the end for a burst of flavour.
Top foods for eye health
1) Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and brussels sprouts.
Nutrients & Benefits: Antioxidants, leutin and zeaxanthin. Lowers the risk of developing macular degeneration, vision loss and cataracts.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Use in salads, add to soups or stir fries, pasta dishes, and casseroles.
2) Dark berries, like blueberries and blackberries,
Nutrients & Benefits: High in Vitamin C. Reduces the risk of developing macular degeneration.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Sprinkle blueberries over green salad. Serve warm over frozen yogurt, sorbet or rice pudding. Layer fresh, frozen or canned blueberries with yogurt and granola for breakfast or dessert. Add dries berries to whole-grain cereal and nuts. Blending berries to make healthy juice.
Nutrients & Benefits: High in Vitamin E. Slows macular degeneration.
Tips to incorporate in meals: sprinkle them on salad. Add with cereals. Sprinkle chopped almonds in desserts or pancakes.
4) Yellow orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, peppers sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin or yams. Apricots, cantaloupes, mangoes, nectarines, papaya and peaches.
Nutrients & Benefits: Beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A. Promotes eye health and protects vision.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Make vegetable or fruit salad, vegetable soups. Pair vegetables with rice or pasts dish. Make fruit smoothies, vegetable stir fries. Add fresh fruit to yogurt and use pureed fruits as a sauce for your main entrees.
5) Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
Nutrients & Benefits: Omega 3 fatty acids. Low levels of has been linked to dry eye syndrome. (Macular degeneration is a condition that causes progressive damage to the retina, resulting in a gradual loss of vision. Dry eye syndrome is caused by either decreased tear production or increased tear film evaporation.)
Tips to incorporate in meals: Grill or bake.
6) Sunflower seeds.
Nutrients & Benefits: Protect eyes from free-radical damage. Hinders the progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Sprinkle on salads. Add to yogurt. Add sunflower seeds to scrambled eggs. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on hot and cold cereals. Add to bread or muffins.
7) Kidney beans.
Nutrients & Benefits: Rich in zinc. Helps with night vision and prevents cataract.
Tips to incorporate in meals: Add to oat meal or cereals. It is a nice addition while baking cakes or muffins, Sprinkle on yoghurt, salads, and mix with smoothies.
Top foods for skin health
1) Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and plums.
Nutrients & Benefits: Antioxidants- Lycopene and anthocyanins. Helps protect against wrinkling and age-related dry skin.
Tips to incorporate in diet: Add plum slices to cold cereal. Blend stewed plums and combine with yoghurt. Poach plums as a dessert. Try berry salad. Add berries to smoothies. Layer fresh, frozen or canned berries with yogurt and oats or muesli. Add berries to breakfast cereals. Add dried berries to chicken dish or rice or steamed vegetable.
2) Green leafy vegetables spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard.
Nutrients & Benefits: Phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin,vitamins and minerals. Decreases the risk of wrinkles.
Tips to incorporate in diet: Include these leaves in your raw salads, or chop, steam and season them lightly to create a delicious side dish. Add them to soups or casseroles.
3) Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, yellow peppers, corn, pineapple, carrots, butternut squash, peaches, pumpkin, apricots, tangerines and oranges.
Nutrients & Benefits: Carotenoids, bioflavanoids. Protects against premature ageing, slows down aging of skin.
Tips to incorporate in diet: Make vegetable or fruit salad. Vegetable soups. Pair vegetables with rice or pasta dish. Make fruit smoothies. Vegetable stir fries. Add fresh fruit to your yogurt. Use pureed fruits as a sauce for your main entrees.
Foods: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
Nutrients & Benefits: Omega 3 fatty acids. Nourishes the skin by reducing the body’s production of inflammatory substances, decreases clogged pores, and prevents fine lines and wrinkles.
4) Walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, and pistachios.
Nutrients & Benefits: Full of fibre, riboflavin, magnesium, iron and calcium, omega-3 fatty acid, zinc. Helps skin maintain a healthy glow and skin stays clear and without blemish.
Tips to incorporate in diet: Sprinkle nut over yogurt. Top hot or cold cereal with nuts. Add peanuts to non-fat frozen yogurt. Add chopped nuts to pasta or noodles. Add nuts to bread, pancakes, waffles, or muffins. Mix nuts with steamed veggies. Use nuts to replace croutons in salads or soups. (Research suggests that a diet high in processed or refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats promotes skin aging).
5) Pumpkin seeds.
Nutrients & Benefits: Rich in Zinc. Zinc protects your cell membranes, helps maintain collagen, and promotes skin renewal.
Tips to incorporate in diet: Try Greek yoghurt (The protein content is often double that of regular yogurt). Layer yoghurt with cereals and fruits As a snack food. Top a baked potato or salad dressing. Try in smoothies. Use in dips and dressing.
Nutrients & Benefits: Proteins and minerals. Helps in reducing hyperpigmentation. Helps complexion stay clear.
Tips to incorporate in diet: Drink latte with soy milk. Add soy milk to cereals. Try having soy burgers. Use soy as a substitute for red meat and poultry products. Use soy in stews and soups. Mix sprouted soybeans into salads or use as toppings for sandwiches. Replace a portion of wheat flour with soy flour when baking cookies, muufins, cakes or chapattis.
© Gulf NewsOct 2013
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Thank you once again for doing your part to keep Medarabia the most trusted medical source.