Someone once said to me: "For ultimate good health, instead of focusing on what you should be eliminating from your daily diet, focus instead on consuming the foods that will increase your wellness." Darn it, who was it who said this to me? I am going to have to search out some "menopause-brain" restoration foods, so that I can remember.
This concept has always been of interest to me, but it seemed so very complicated to put into practice, until I met Mairlyn Smith, that is. Mairlyn is the most accessible best-selling cookbook author I have encountered (she is also a Second-City Comedy Troupe Alumnus). She speaks plain language in a first-hand manner and you instantly trust her knowledge and her advice. Recently, my husband and I got a "speed-dating" style opportunity to hear what she has to say about including 10 particular foods that will "rock your socks off."
1. Barley (and other insoluble fibres). These are considered gut-healthy fibers because they add bulk to the diet but do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speed up the passage of food and waste through your tummy. Other natural sources are whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, couscous, brown rice, Bulgar, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.
2. Oats suck up "bad" blood cholesterol and major toxins like mercury. I know from other reading that these foods include oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flax-seeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.
3. Mushrooms and other vitamin D rich foods (salmon, tuna, soy, fortified foods like oj, low fat milk, and cereal) protect your lungs and up your immune system. And because I am the age that I am, I need vitamin D to help my body absorb the calcium rich diet that will ensure my bone health, as I further "blossom" and mature.
4. Canola Oil is high in two "good" fats that are essential in your diet because your body can't make them. One protects against heart attacks and strokes by helping to lower bad cholesterol. The other is important for the brain and for the growth and development of infants. Compared to all other vegetable oils on the market, canola oil has the lowest levels of the fats that are "bad" for human health. One serving of canola oil each day will deliver about a quarter of all the vitamin E you need. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and is known to protect against cancer and memory loss.
5. Onions & Garlic (and Scallions) act as powerful antioxidants, stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. Mairlyn also added that they are anti-fungal, so maybe I can clear up the mossy stuff that is growing between my toes (JK, wanted to see if you were still awake). These are so easy to add to so many dishes. Tonight as an example, we enjoyed left over prime rib in sandwiches on dark pumpernickel rye bread. I sauteed up a mess of onions and garlic (in canola oil) to top the meat. Oh, yum.
6. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables have the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. (I didn't even know that there was a vitamin K). I particularly like arugula for its peppery taste but you can also include more kale, spinach and bok choy into your meals. Mairlyn suggests that you build your evening meal around a leafy green vegetable which will be a mind shift for me, as I typically create my meals around a protein and a carb.
7. Nuts! Well I wouldn't call Mairlyn nuts but she is pretty kookie. Mairlyn is very petite and she scooped up a small handful of almonds (she prefers walnuts) to illustrate that even though nuts are a very important inclusion in your diet, you should limit them to a small amount. I imagined the quantity would be just right to top a salad or my morning yogurt.
8. Berries are the easiest of the list for me to get really excited about. Mairlyn adds that she only eats locally harvest fruits which are now out of season so she substitutes frozen berries at this time of year. I too always have a wide selection of frozen berries to choose from. Some bags are the flash frozen strawberries from u-picks in our area and other are the wild blueberries that are now available in the freezer section. Not only do I always have something available to whip up a quick dessert like Platz but we love berry sauces with pork tenderloin, or mixed with garlic and balsamic vinegar as a salad dressing.
9. Orange fruits and veggies hold an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins and fibre and are good for your skin, eyes and heart, and they may also decrease your risk of cancer. The best-known nutrient in orange foods is beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant which gives sunny fruits and vegetables their brilliant colour.
Experts say beta carotene is not only good for eye health it can also delay cognitive aging and protect skin from sun damage. Orange foods are chock full of vitamin C, an antioxidant which boosts the immune system, protects against cardiovascular disease and helps rebuild collagen in the skin. Marilyn even referred to the benefits of using orange zest, which may explain why I am often compelled to eat the skin of my oranges. Perhaps I should listen to my body more often.
10. I can't for the life of me remember Mairlyn referring to salmon but I understand that it is on her list. So here is a good illustration that I need to eat more foods that a) will help with my hearing or b) increase my memory capacity. Perhaps it was because we were also sipping on a rich deep red wine at the time or that we were tucking into our barley risotto, so I was admittedly distracted.
So, there you have it. Focus on eating more of these and you will find that you are eating less of the empty calories. Oh yeah, it was my youngest sister who gave me that wise food advice! Perhaps I remembered because for breakfast I had a orange with my Greek yogurt and bran (and vitamin C is good for the brain)!
Kath's quote: "Among the liveliest of my memories are those of eating and drinking; and I would sooner give up some of my delightful remembered walks, green trees, cool skies, and all, than to lose my images of suppers eaten on Sabbath evenings at the end of those walks." -Mary Antin
Originally posted on my food and travel blog: www.foodmusings.ca. Check out my Boomer Lifestyle Blog at www.boomchicaboom.
THE GOOD NEWS: Edamame is full of protein and fibre. SNACK TIP: Buy frozen edamame beans and keep them in your office freezer, says registered dietician Diana Steele of Eating For Energy in Vancouver, B.C. Pop them in the microwave and add cherry tomatoes for a quick and wholesome snack.
THE GOOD NEWS: Cucumber is packed with vitamin K (needed for strong bones) and low-fat cheese is full of calcium. SNACK TIP: Steele recommends making mini cucumber sandwiches by taking low-fat cheese and turkey and wedging them in between two slices of cucumbers — the kids will also love this one.
THE GOOD NEWS: Low calories and tons of fresh fruit. SNACK TIP: Start a smoothie club at work. Steele recommends having one person make smoothies at the office for everyone in the club once a week. Keep this role rotating and try flavours like mixed berries and tropical fruit.
THE GOOD NEWS: Apples can boost your immune system and natural peanut butter is full of protein. SNACK TIP: Dip sliced apple pieces in plain Cheerios for a crunchy snack.
THE GOOD NEWS: Eaten in portions, homemade trail mix can be packed with fibre, according to MyFitnessTrainer.com. SNACK TIP: For kids, Steele recommends making a homemade trail mix with seeds and dried fruits (avoid nuts because of allergies) and for yourself, add in popcorn or even whole wheat pretzels.
THE GOOD NEWS: When made at home, muffins are low in fat and packed with healthy oats and dried fruits or vegetables. SNACK TIP: No, we're not talking about the store-bought kind or the sugary ones you pick up from a bakery. If you still want to snack on muffins, Steele suggests making a batch of zucchini pumpkin muffins. Check out a recipe here.
THE GOOD NEWS: If you are buying tortillas from the store, avoid ones with excessive salt, sugar and corn, according LiveStrong.com. For the most part, homemade tortillas are not as bad as the store-bought kind. SNACK TIP: Take a whole wheat tortilla and spread almond butter on top. For an extra nutritional boost, wrap it around an banana. This is the perfect afternoon snack, Steele says.
THE GOOD NEWS: Greek yogurt is a great source of calcium, protein and probiotics (which is good for your digestive system), according to SheKnows.com. SNACK TIP: Mix berries or granola with a cup of sugar-free Greek yogurt, Steele says.
THE GOOD NEWS: Apples in general have been known to prevent types of cancer and sugar-free apple sauce is a great fibre booster in the morning, according to FitDay.com. SNACK TIP: Sprinkle crushed graham crackers over sugar-free apple sauce.
THE GOOD NEWS: Forget butter and salt, making popcorn in an old-fashioned pot over the stove with seasoning and a touch of oil can actually be a healthy snack. SNACK TIP: For a good evening snack, mix over-the-stove popcorn with flax seed oil and a bit of your favourite seasoning.
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