Power Foods for Midlife Bodies

Superfoods that fight cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis — and help you lose weight.

By Cynthia Sass, RD

Whole Grains, Soy Yogurt & AlmondsOnce you’re 40, counting calories is key: Nearly every major chronic disease — including heart disease and many forms of cancer — is linked to weight gain," says nutritionist Christine Gerbstadt, MD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "But you also need to focus on optimal nutrition." One way to do that is to combine foods; experts believe that putting good-for-you foods together is even healthier than eating them solo. "We’re learning more about food synergy, the idea that the whole meal is greater than the sum of its parts," says Dave Grotto, RD, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. "The disease-fighting actions of one food may enhance nutrients in the other and vice versa." Add these 10 multitaskers to your shopping cart today.1. Whole GrainsThe high fiber and satiating properties of these foods (brown rice, kasha, dark bread, quinoa, whole-grain cereal) make them ideal for keeping your weight down. In fact, when Harvard researchers followed over 74,000 nurses ages 38 to 63 for 12 years, they found that those who ate more whole grains consistently weighed less than those who didn’t. And women with the highest fiber intake were 50 percent less likely to gain a major amount of weight in midlife. Studies have linked diets high in whole grains with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancer. Whole grains are digested slowly and steadily, and experts believe this helps control blood sugar, diabetes, and insulin levels. Because insulin may promote the growth of tumors, the thinking is that lower levels reduce the chance that colon cancer will develop. Whole grains also contain fiber, vitamin E, and plant sterols (substances that bind to cholesterol in the digestive tract, which prevents them from being absorbed), all of which work to lower LDL, the "bad" cholesterol that clogs arteries. Finally, whole grains are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, which essentially act like bodyguards, protecting cells from free-radical damage that can trigger disease and signs of aging.2. Blueberry Soy YogurtRecently, scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, examined samples of both dairy and soy yogurts for properties that keep diabetes and hypertension in check, including enzymes that help control blood sugar levels. Of all the yogurts tested, blueberry soy yogurt packed the most punch. While blueberry got top honors, plain soy yogurt was also a standout, containing the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants. (Plain soy yogurt is also lower in added sugar, so toss some fresh blueberries into that serving of plain yogurt and enjoy a calorie savings.) What’s more, one 6-ounce container can provide up to 30 percent of the recommended daily intake of bone-strengthening calcium. "The protein in yogurt also makes it satisfying, so you eat less overall," Gerbstadt says. Protein stays in your stomach longer and takes longer to digest, leaving you feeling fuller longer. Eating protein (versus the same amount of fat or carbohydrate) also produces a greater thermogenic effect, a transient jump in metabolism.3. AlmondsEating 1 ounce of these hunger-satisfying nuts provides you with about 12 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake. Scientists at the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University found that when people were asked to eat an additional 320 calories from almonds every day for six months, their average body weight increased by only three quarters of a pound. The researchers believe that the way that almonds were digested and absorbed by the body led to the study subjects eating less of other foods without realizing it. (If they had truly added 320 calories a day from foods other than almonds, they would have gained an average of 21 pounds.) Almonds are also extremely heart healthy: A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association of 41- to 54-year-olds found that when they consumed 20 percent of their total daily calories from plain, unsalted almonds for four weeks, their blood levels of the antioxidant vitamin E increased while their total cholesterol and triglycerides decreased. Not only that, but their LDL, or "bad," cholesterol levels dropped while their HDL, or "good," cholesterol levels rose.Beans, Greens & Garlic4. Black BeansEat three cups of black beans a week and you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease and colon cancer.

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