Power Foods for Midlife Bodies

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

By Cynthia Sass, RD
A review of the diets of more than 4,500 people ages 40 to 59 found that those who consumed the most vegetable protein had the lowest blood pressure. And research from the National Cancer Institute found that people over 35 who eat the most beans have the lowest risk of developing precancerous colorectal polyps. Beans are also a useful weight-management tool: One cup provides 12 grams of fiber, with just 180 calories and 14 grams of satiating, metabolism-boosting protein. Black beans are probably the most ubiquitous type — available in many restaurants and delis — but you can easily substitute your own favorite bean and get the weight-loss and disease-proofing benefits.5. Mixed Green SaladSalad offers weight watchers a satisfying twofer: It’s high in fiber and big on volume, so you feel fuller longer. That explains why Pennsylvania State University researchers found that women consumed 12 percent fewer calories overall when they ate a large salad (three cups’ worth) prior to having a pasta meal. "Salads that contain lettuce and other raw vegetables are an easy way to boost your intake of low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetables," Gerbstadt says. "It’s one of the most important dietary changes you can make over 40." Fitting in at least five servings of produce daily helps to maintain heart health, memory function, vision, and bone density.6. GarlicWhat doesn’t it prevent? The March 2006 issue of the Journal of Nutrition devoted an entire section to 35 separate studies linking garlic to a reduction in cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, and heart disease. And garlic packs just five calories per teaspoon.Squash, Soybeans, Popcorn & Pepper7. Yellow SquashAt just 30 calories per cup, most yellow squash is full of key nutrients for midlife women. It’s high in vitamin A, which has been linked to improved immune function and a reduced risk of both skin and lung cancers. It’s also full of lutein, a phytochemical believed to prevent age-related vision loss.8. EdamameA cup of whole unprocessed soybeans delivers eight grams of fiber (over 30 percent of the recommended daily intake) for just 240 calories. Edamame is also high in protein — it has 20 grams per cup — which makes it satisfying and a metabolism booster. It can also help you fight osteoporosis. A study done in China involving 200 postmenopausal women found that those who ate 80 milligrams of soy isoflavones per day (a little less than what you get in one cup of edamame) showed a significant increase in hipbone density.9. Microwave PopcornWeighing in at 15 calories and one gram of fiber per cup, 94 percent fat-free (butterless) microwave popcorn is one of the best pound-paring foods around. Do the math: The typical 6-cup bag delivers nearly 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber for about 200 calories or less. Popcorn is a whole grain, and corn has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable.10. Cayenne PepperA shake or two provides intense flavor but adds zero calories. Cayenne also contains capsaicin, which has been shown to boost calorie burning. All that heat is good for your heart too. A study of animals found that capsaicin prevented the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidation is the process that leads to hardening of the arteries and, eventually, heart disease.4 Properties of Fat-Burning FoodsEach of our 10 disease-fighting foods also possesses at least one of four characteristics that affect body weight, says nutritionist Grotto. And just as combining foods may give you more nutrients, mixing ones with different slimming properties may give you more bang for your metabolic buck. Skinny foods have the following perks.High in Fiber Fiber is part of the total carbohydrate content of a food, but our bodies don’t make enzymes capable of breaking it down. That means fiber is never digested or absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream, so it can never be burned for fuel or stored as body fat. It simply travels through the digestive tract and is eliminated as waste. "Fiber provides fullness with no calories," Gerbstadt says.And it makes you feel fuller longer because it slows down the digestion and absorption of other types of carbohydrates. "This slower rise in blood sugar prevents your insulin level from spiking," Grotto says.

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