6 Best Foods To Support Healthy Aging

We may not be able to stop aging, but what we can control is how we age. Eating a variety of delicious foods with essential vitamins, powerful antioxidants and good fats can support better health whether you’re 25 or 65. What are the best foods for feeling great at any age?

1. Carrots, Sweet Potatoes & Tomatoes: Smooth Skin

Carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes may all look different, but they have something important in common: antioxidant vitamins called carotenoids. These nutrients are essential for youthful skin.

Cooked or fresh, these colorful veggies help protect your skin against harmful UV rays and premature signs of aging skin. That way you don’t have as many wrinkles or “crow’s feet” around the eyes.

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): Overall Health

When you think of Italy and other places in the Mediterranean, images of extra virgin olive oil drizzled over salads and pasta probably come to mind. It’s no surprise that the average life expectancy for many places in Europe is over 80 years.

Why is EVOO so good for aging in style? This delicious oil can lower your risk of countless health problems:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Some cancers

Even doctors encourage people to eat lots of EVOO. It's rich in healthy fats that protect your heart.

3. Fatty Fish: A Happy Mind and Body

The people of Iceland also live a long time. The island's entire population has an average life span of about 82 years. Their diet probably plays a big part. Icelandic dishes feature a lot of fresh fish, veggies and wild berries.

Salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, herring and mackerel are more than tasty. They’re full of omega-3 fatty acids — healthy fats that help your heart, nervous system and other organs.

Omega-3s are phenomenal for fighting inflammation and stiffness. Including more fatty fish on the menu can even help your mood, chasing away depression and giving you feelings of calm.

4. Blueberries: Wrinkle Defense

Raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and other red berries have a high level of antioxidants for protecting your cells. These tangy berries support aging in a big way by slowing down the amount of collagen you lose over time. You can enjoy healthier, more elastic skin and stronger joints.

5. Papaya: A Healthy Gut

When your gut is happy, you’re happy. You feel more comfortable and get more benefits from the foods you eat. Take good care of your digestive system with fresh papaya.

This tropical fruit helps with gut troubles such as bloating, heartburn and constipation naturally. Just half a papaya has a whopping 30% of the total fiber you need in a day.

One special enzyme in papaya, called papain, is so good at alleviating stomach upset that it’s included in many over-the-counter products. You won’t believe how fast tummy inflammation goes away.

6. Red and Yellow Peppers: Sharp Eyesight

You probably already know that vitamin C is a super-vitamin for aging, but what you may not know are the best places to get it. Juicy citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, but red and yellow bell peppers have even more — over 150% of your daily needs!

When you get lots of vitamin C, it lowers your risk of cataracts and other age-related eye problems. You can take great care of those lovely peepers and enjoy tastier meals at the same time!

The Best Ways To Wake Up (Besides Coffee)

Are you missing your morning coffee? It’s one of the hardest things to give up when the doctor says so. The good news is that you don’t need caffeine to enjoy a spring in your step. Try these tips instead.

1. Drink a Cool Glass of Water

I honestly didn’t believe this would work until I tried it myself. It’s amazing!

Before you get dressed for work or eat breakfast, drink a glass of cold water. It makes you feel alert and energized in no time.

Most people wake up dehydrated, which is why we feel sluggish and tired in the morning. Staying hydrated gets your brain in gear when you start to feel sleepy at work.

2. Get Moving

You know that your body requires a constant supply of oxygen, but do you know why? Oxygen helps your cells produce energy. The more oxygen floating around, the more energized you feel. It’s like connecting a charger to your phone’s battery.

To give oxygen levels a boost, do cardio exercises:

  • Turn on some swing music or salsa and dance around in your socks
  • Take your dog for a 10-minute walk
  • Walk up and down the stairs at work a few times.

Any exercise that increases your heart rate can wake you up and increase your energy levels. It doesn't need to take a ton of time.

3. Eat Something Crunchy or Chewy

The next time you feel like you’re going to doze off during an important meeting, head to your desk for just a second and munch on a quick snack. The crunchier or chewier the better.

Just chewing makes you feel more alert. Plus, it boosts the blood flow to your brain, giving you supercharged mental focus. Personally, baby carrots, apple wedges, celery sticks or almonds do the trick. Some people like chewing gum more.

4. Skip the Sugar and Grab Some Protein

Many people reach for a candy bar when they’re feeling drained. This is one of the worst things you can do. Sugary foods give you a sudden rush of energy, but it doesn’t last long. After that short spike of blood sugar comes a depressing, exhausting crash that makes you want to sleep all afternoon.

Protein has the opposite effect. Instead of making you crash, it keeps you going strong for hours. Here are my favorite sources of quick and easy protein:

  • Jerky
  • Peanut butter and celery
  • Almonds, cashews, pistachios and peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Greek yogurt
  • Portions of favorite cheese
  • Hummus with veggies

If sugar is a matchstick, then protein is a candle. A little protein snack keeps you satisfied all morning or all afternoon. You can concentrate better on your work and get project after project checked off your to-do list.

Fatigue Isn’t “Normal”

Some people feel tired so often that they start to think it’s normal. “Everybody is exhausted right now,” they say. I’m here to tell you that it’s a bunch of baloney.

If you’re tired all the time, it means your body is running low on nutrients, your muscles are begging for more physical activity or you’re having trouble sleeping.

Find out what’s tiring you out and do something about it! These tips can get your blood pumping again, and that feels amazing.

3 Holiday Favorites Reimagined

The holidays are an especially difficult time when following a diet. It is a challenge to see everyone around you indulging in sweets and feel like you are missing out. Fortunately, there are ways to indulge in sweets without blowing your diet, and the following three recipes are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of healthy options.

1. Paleo Gingerbread Cookies

Nothing says the holiday season like gingerbread cookies. Unfortunately, too many recipes call for loads of sugar. This recipe, however, is paleo-friendly and doesn't sacrifice flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°.
  2. Before cooking, wash the sweet potato and dry it. Spear with a knife a few times. Microwave until soft, typically five to six minutes.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, scoop out the insides of the potato. Add the molasses, ginger, cloves, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, coconut flour, and tahini. Start stirring to combine the ingredients; as the dough thickens, use your hands to continue mixing.
  4. Placing the dough on a baking sheet, shape individual cookies, approximately 1/4-inch thick and 2 1/2-inch diameter.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for a minimum of 10-minutes.

2. Apple Crisp

Apples are a healthy option, but they typically lose a lot of benefits when thrown into pies and desserts. This dessert maintains the nutrition and avoids a lot of the pitfalls of other sweets.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups apples peeled, sliced in 1/4 inch thick pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

Crisp Topping:

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°, and grease an 8x8 baking dish.
  2. Prepare the apples by peeling and cutting them into slices. Toss the apples in a bowl with cinnamon, melted coconut oil, and ginger and set aside.
  3. Mix all the ingredients for the crisp topping together in a separate dish.
  4. Layer the baking dish first with the apple mixture, followed by the crisp topping layer.
  5. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350°. Remove the cover and bake until apples are fork-tender with a golden brown topping, about another 10 to 20-minutes.

3. Pumpkin Spice Latte

Want to add a little oomph to your espresso? This recipe is healthy and flavorful, and it doesn't take too long to make.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup espresso
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Instructions:

  1. Warm the almond milk in a suitable saucepan and whisk in the maple syrup, pumpkin puree, and spice. Combine thoroughly. There is no need to bring the mix to a boil.
  2. Make the espresso while waiting for the milk mixture to heat.
  3. To froth the mixture, you can use a frother or whisk vigorously in the pan.
  4. Finally, pour the milk mixture into a mug, top with the espresso, and enjoy.

There is no reason you can't enjoy the holidays with a sweet treat. There are plenty of healthy recipes out there, but these three represent some of the best.

What are your favorite holiday treats? Comment below.

5 Winter Soups To Get you Through the Cold

Get rid of those winter chills with five hearty soups. Each recipe can feed an entire family.

1. Bacon Potato Corn Chowder

Are you looking for a hearty soup to warm you up? Look no further than Taste of Home's Bacon Potato Corn Chowder. 

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds potatoes, Yukon Gold, cubed and peeled
  • 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 can cream corn
  • 1 can milk, evaporated
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Bacon should be cooked over medium heat in a large skillet until crisp. Once crisp, remove the bacon and place it on a paper towel. Except for 1-1/2 teaspoon, the drippings can be discarded. Add onion to the remaining drippings and cook until tender.
  2. Boil potatoes in a large pot, allow water to cover them. Bring the ingredients to a boil using high heat, and then reduce to medium heat and cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until tender. Reserve one cup of potato water, draining the rest.
  3. Combine corn, potatoes, milk, salt, pepper, and reserved water to a saucepan, heating thoroughly. Add the onion and bacon.

2. Turkey Sausage, Butternut Squash, and Kale Soup

For those looking to make a meal out of a soup dish, the Taste of Home TBK soup delivers. Once again, you can have a fulfilling meal ready in under 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cartons chicken broth, reduce sodium, 32 oz each
  • 1 butternut squash, about 3 lbs, cubed and peeled.
  • 1 pack turkey sausage links, Italian, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shaved
  • 1 bunch of kale, coarsely chopped and trimmed

Directions:

  1. Over medium heat, cook the sausage, about eight to 10 minutes or until no longer pink. Once cooked, break into pieces.
  2. Add broth and squash to the pot and bring it to a boil. Stir in the kale. Reduce the heat, allowing the soup to simmer until veggies are tender, approximately 20 minutes. Top with cheese.

3. Tomato Hamburger Soup

This recipe makes about 12 servings. The best part is it uses a slow cooker, meaning it is a set it and forget it type of meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of mixed vegetables, frozen, about 16 oz each
  • 1 pound ground beef, drained and cooked
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, condensed, undiluted
  • 1 can V8 juice (46 oz)
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion, dried
  • Pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the first five ingredients in a five-quart slow cooker. Cook covered on high for a minimum of four hours. Season with pepper and salt.

4. Simple Chicken Soup

Chicken soup and winter seem to go hand-in-hand. This recipe only takes a total of 20 minutes, and make six servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package mixed vegetables, frozen
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup, reduced-sodium, reduced-fat, undiluted
  • 2 cups chicken breast, cooked, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion, dried

Directions:

  1. Combine broth and onion in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the vegetables, covering and cooking for an additional 8 minutes. Stir in soup and chicken, heating through.

5. Easy Chili

While there are plenty of chili recipes out there, this is by far the easiest. In 30 minutes, you will have enough chili for four.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef, lean
  • 10 ounces Rotel tomatoes with diced chiles
  • 15 ounces chili beans, undrained
  • Optional toppings of your choosing

Directions:

  1. Cook ground beef until no longer pink in a three-quart pot and drain the grease.
  2. Combine with other ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for four to six hours.

What are your favorite winter soups? Comment below.

Functional Foods: What Are They, and Why Should You Be Eating Them?

The concept of “functional foods” is growing in popularity and as society becomes increasingly focused on health, wellness and self-care. Though all foods are functional to an extent in that they satiate appetite, provide taste and offer some nutritional value, there are certain foods that are so high in vitamins and nutrients that they have powerful health benefits. Evidence suggest that these foods — known as functional foods — may safeguard against disease, promote healthy growth and development, and prevent nutrient deficits. So, which foods are considered functional and what kind of value do they really provide? Find out below.

Defining “Functional”

Though a buzzword in recent years, functional foods are not a new concept. The term originated in Japan in the 1980s when, in response to rising health care costs, the country’s government began approving certain foods for their health benefits. Once the concept caught on in the United States, where the FDA regulates what manufacturers can and cannot say regarding the health benefits of certain foods, health organizations began attempting to come up with a definition. Below are two definitions of functional foods, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Functional foods are those that provide benefits that go beyond its basic nutritional value because of what it contains. For instance, soy is considered functional because it is a protein that is proven to reduce cholesterol levels — a benefit that goes beyond its nutritional value.
  • Functional foods are also foods that have been fortified to add health benefits. A common example of a fortified “food” is orange juice, which is often calcium-fortified to improve bone health.

Though the latter types of foods are healthy, most people can agree that foods that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals are better for the body.

Examples of Functional Foods

There are two types of functional foods: conventional and modified. Conventional foods are simply those that naturally contain vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy fats and antioxidants. Modified foods are those that are fortified with additional ingredients to boost their health benefits. Examples of conventional foods are as follows:

  • Fruits and vegetables, particularly cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale, apples, oranges, bananas and berries
  • Nuts, such as cashews, macadamia nuts, almonds and pistachios
  • Whole grains, such as oats, brown rice and couscous
  • Seeds, such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds
  • Seafood, such as salmon, mackerel, cod and sardines
  • Legumes, such as black beans, navy beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Herbs and spices, particularly cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, ginger and pepper
  • Certain beverages, such as green tea, black tea and coffee
  • Fermented foods, such as kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir

Examples of modified foods include several dairy products, fortified grains, fortified juices, fortified eggs and fortified cereals.

The Benefits of Functional Foods

There is ample evidence proving that those foods deemed as “functional” do, in fact, have several health benefits beyond their nutritional value. Though some foods have more and more powerful benefits than others, many conventional and fortified functional foods help to correct nutrient deficiencies, promote healthy growth and development and prevent disease. A few examples of functional foods at work include those that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation, promote heart health and boost brain function; iron-fortified foods, which reduced rates of childhood anemia in Jordan by nearly 50%; and foods that are rich in folic acid, which can help to reduce the prevalence of neural tube defects by as much as 70%.

Incorporating Functional Foods Into Your Diet

Incorporating functional foods doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — difficult. So long as you maintain a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods, your body should get the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. To fill nutrient gaps, add fortified foods to your diet where necessary.

This Is Why Is I Don’t Buy My Salad Dressing at the Store

The idea that most store-bought salad dressings aren’t healthy may sound strange. “What about low-fat, fat-free or organic?” you’re probably asking. The shocking truth is that they’re almost as bad as regular versions!

1. The Fat-Free Trap

Fat equals flavor. I’m not saying you should eat full-fat dressings, just that they tend to be more flavorful. Food manufacturers know this.

Do you know what they do to compete with other brands? Instead of adding high-quality herbs or healthy ingredients, they put extra sugar and sodium in dressings marketed as low-fat or fat-free. All of that sodium is bad for your blood pressure and your heart.

Some dressings slap the word “organic” on the label to make it seem healthier than it really is. Calling something organic only means it hasn’t been grown without pesticides, but it doesn’t mean the ingredients are good for you. Many contain tons of saturated fats, salt and sugar.

2. “Healthy” Vinaigrettes That Aren’t

What about vinaigrettes and Italian dressing? Aren’t they supposed to be healthy? Well, when you make them at home, they’re absolutely amazing for your health. Most of the time, store-bought varieties aren’t.

All you need to do is take a quick look at the ingredients list for some of these dressings to understand what I mean. You’ll find preservatives, food colorings and other weird ingredients that can mess with your body. Like, what in the world are “calcium disodium EDTA,” “potassium sorbate” and “xanthan gum”?

These processed ingredients can make inflammation worse and trigger digestive troubles. If you have gout, arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) or other types of chronic pain, tossing out prepared salad dressings should be at the top of your to-do list.

3. Organic Salad Dressings With Cheap, Processed Oils

Another trick I’ve seen manufacturers use is mixing a really healthy oil with a really cheap one. Extra-virgin olive oil is a nutritious, high-quality oil with healthy fats that protect your heart. It’s also expensive.

To make more money, companies put a little EVOO in the dressing and a bunch of cheap soybean oil or vegetable oil. The label has “EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL” in huge letters, but the dressing actually contains mostly vegetable oil.

Soybean oil and other highly refined vegetable oils are completely lacking in nutrients. They’re bad for your heart instead of good, and they increase inflammation.

What Should You Do?

Don’t get me wrong. My tastebuds jump for joy with a tasty salad dressing. These four practical tips let you have your salad dressing and eat it too:

  • Make your own salad dressing: Tossing together a vinaigrette with EVOO, herbs, and balsamic vinegar only takes a few minutes. You can find good recipes online for a huge variety of healthy dressings.
  • Choose dressings with simple ingredients: If you only have time for store-bought dressing, the fewer ingredients, the better. Cold-pressed dressings made with EVOO, fresh-squeezed juices, veggies and natural ingredients can be healthy.
  • Know what a serving size looks like: Put your dressing in a measuring spoon to see what that low-cal serving size really is.
  • Serve dressing on the side: You can get some dressing on each bite without overdoing it by dipping your fork into dressing instead of pouring on top.

A crispy, veggie-packed salad is the perfect complement for everything from turkey sandwiches to spaghetti. It's too bad that most bottled dressings undo the benefits you get from eating salad in the first place.

Reduce These Six Foods To Fight Your Battle With the Bloat

Do you notice you feel gassy, bloated, or overly full, especially after a meal? That feeling stems from gas or air accumulation in the stomach and digestive system. While bloating can occur with the menstrual cycle or with certain medications, often the foods we eat create this uncomfortable sensation. Check out this list of foods to avoid when you need to keep the bloat at bay.

Beans

While beans are a staple of a healthy diet because of their rich fiber content, they can also cause unwanted abdominal gas. Sugars that naturally occur in beans ferment when they come in contact with digestive bacteria, resulting in that familiar gassy feeling.

Some people find that soaking dry beans rather than eating canned beans helps with this issue. You can also swap out your favorite beans for rice or quinoa as a side dish. If you can't live without beans, black and pinto varieties are the easiest to digest for most people.

Gum and Hard Candy

While not technically a food, chewing gum can cause bloating because we tend to swallow air. The same phenomenon occurs when sucking on hard candy. If you use mints or gum to keep your breath fresh, you might not realize this hygiene habit results in a gas increase that can cause flatulence, swelling and even pain.

Processed Foods

Most snacks and meals that come in packages are packed with sodium, one of the leading causes of belly bloat. Some of the saltiest options include canned soup, baked goods, deli meats, fast food, sauces and salad dressings.

Processed foods also tend to be high in fat, which causes bloating because it moves slowly through the digestive system. Pizza, fast food, meats, cheeses and baked goods are the biggest culprits in this category. Saturated fat should represent no more than about 10% of your daily caloric intake. In other words, if you eat about 2,200 calories a day, limit fatty foods to less than 220 calories. 

If you tend to grab convenience foods on the go, look for healthy options such as dried fruits, nuts and rice crackers. I like to package them in small sandwich bags and throw them in my purse so I can snack during the workday or on an outing. Not only will you notice less bloating, but your overall health also will likely improve if you cut out processed foods. 

Onions and Garlic

While these savory veggies add flavor to all types of dishes, they can also make you feel bloated. Garlic and onions contain fibers called fructans that contribute to the development of gas in the GI tract. For a similar taste without the risk of bloating, try trading your garlic and onions for chives, basil, fennel, leaks, collard greens or celery.

Carbonated Beverages

You already know that sugary sodas are bad for your health, but even diet versions of carbonated beverages can lead to bloating. Reduce your consumption of beverages with bubbles if you tend to experience gas. Better choices include fruit juice, tea, coffee and, of course, good old-fashioned water.

Whole Grains

If you boost your intake of whole grains because of their health benefits, you may notice increased bloating. While brown rice, barley, oats and other whole grains are full of fiber, as well as nutritious ingredients, the fiber content also causes gas during the digestive process. Dietary experts recommend slowly increasing the number of whole grains you eat rather than switching from white bread and rice overnight. 

If eliminating these items from your diet doesn't solve your bloating issue, see your health care provider. He or she can determine whether underlying health problems may be causing excessive gas.