Once 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.
Whole Grains The 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.