Foods That Can Save Your Life

By AM Northwest Staff

Nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of "Age-Proof Your Body" joined us today to talk about superfoods that can improve your health and extend your life. Here are some of the superfoods she suggested and why they can help:

Foods That Can Change Your Life

Granted, eating right is not about a handful of foods, but rather is the healthiness of the entire diet. That said, a few foods are truly super, packing in more than their share of nutrients and phytochemicals that lower people’s risk for diseases such as breast cancer and heart disease, helping prolong our lives, keep out minds sharp, and at the same time - tasting divine.


1. Wheat Germ

Why it’s good for you:

Stress, bones, thyroid, and diabetes.

The heart of the wheat kernel is a gold mine of nutrition. A half cup serving of toasted wheat germ supplies more than half of a woman’s daily magnesium needs, a mineral that three out of four women don’t get enough of, yet is essential for reducing stress, building bones, and regulating thyroid function (which affects 20% of postmenopausal women) and heart rate. Magnesium also aids in the production, release, and activity of insulin. Several studies, including one from Harvard School of Public Health, found that women cut their risk of developing diabetes by 48% when they consumed magnesium-rich diets. In contrast, low intake of magnesium increases risk more than three-fold. Wheat germ also supplies husky amounts of vitamins, including 100% of your daily need for folic acid, 50% of your vitamin E requirement, and decent amounts of trace minerals, such as iron and zinc.

2. Tomato Paste

Why it’s good for you:

Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a potent antioxidant found in the red pigment in plants that might be a heart saver. Maintaining high blood levels of lycopene could lower heart disease risk in women by up to 50%. Another study suggests that lycopene also might reduce the risk for fibroid tumors, which affect up to 45% of women.

How to include more in your diet:

People average less than 3 ounces of canned tomatoes daily, which is no where near enough. You’ll need seven servings or more a week, each containing at least 10 milligrams or the amount of lycopene in about 1.5 Tablespoons of tomato paste or two fresh tomatoes. The redder the fruit, the higher the lycopene, so add vine-ripened tomatoes to salads and sandwiches, since they have more lycopene than tomatoes picked green and allowed to ripen later. Add tomato paste and sauce or canned tomatoes to soups and sauces. For a quick snack, spread tomato-based pizza sauce on a toasted English muffin, top with low-fat cheese, and broil until cheese bubbles.

3. Oranges

Why it’s good for you:

Oranges are the number one source of vitamin C in our diets, which is the most important water-soluble antioxidant in the body, associated with lowering risks for a number of diseases, from heart disease and cancer to cataracts and premature aging of the skin. Oranges also are an excellent source of folate, the B vitamin that helps lower risk for birth defects, heart disease, cancer, and even memory loss. They are an excellent source of potassium, especially for those women battling high blood pressure or who are on diuretic medications that cause potassium depletion (sometimes just increasing potassium-rich foods, such as citrus, in the diet is all it takes to lower medication dosages!). In addition, oranges supply both soluble and insoluble fibers. The soluble fibers, such as pectin, are especially important in lowering risks for disease like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. For example, one study found breast cancer risk decreased 84% when vitamin C intake was high.

But that’s just the tip of the nutritional iceberg. The humble orange also houses more than 170 phytochemicals known to lower risk for breast cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory conditions in women.

4. Old Fashioned Oatmeal

Why it’s good for you:

Diabetes, weight control, heart disease.

This simple, old-fashioned favorite helps maintain a healthy weight thanks to the magic combo of fiber and water, which fills you up on fewer calories and digests slowly so you are satisfied between breakfast and lunch and less likely to be grazing at the fridge or vending machine. In addition, the type of fiber in old fashioned oats, called beta glucan - a soluble fiber, when mixed with liquid forms a viscous gel that helps decrease cholesterol absorption and lowers blood sugar levels, lowering the risk for both diabetes and heart disease. Old fashioned oats have much more fiber and staying power than instant or quick-cooking oats.

5. Greens

Why It’s good for you:

Cataracts, memory, birth defects, fatigue, heart disease

While our intake of dark green leafies has increased by 50% since the 1970s, we still average less than 0.2 servings daily or about one bite. You should get at least one serving of spinach or other dark green leafies, such as kale or chard, every day. Packed with vitamins and minerals, that serving supplies an entire day’s requirement for vitamin A, more than 3 milligrams of iron, almost a third of your daily need for folic acid, and hefty amounts of calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins, all for about 20 calories. Spinach and other greens also are excellent sources of lutein, a phytochemical that lowers risk for macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. Lutein acts as a blue-light filter in the eye, blocking this sensitive tissue from the sun’s UV rays.

6. Berries

Why it’s good for you:

Memory, skin, cancer, heart disease, aging

We are popping more berries in our mouths than we did even five years ago. Unfortunately, that equates to a paltry 17 ounces a year, or less than one blueberry per person a day. This sweet and juicy fruit is one of the best sources of the phytochemicals, such as the flavonoids, resveratrol, and more than 40 different anthocyanins, potent antioxidants that lower cancer risk and possibly dementia. These phytochemicals strengthen tissue defenses against oxidation and inflammation, which are underlying factors in most age-related diseases, from heart disease and cancer to Alzheimers. Berries also are high in fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin C.

7. Beans

Why it’s good for you


Heart disease, diabetes, weight management, cancer, aging

Legumes make it to the plate 148 percent more often today than in the early 90s, yet people still average only about a cup a year, a pittance compared to the 50 pounds of pork we gobble at the same time. Legumes are cholesterol-free, almost fat-free, and rich in fiber and nutrients, supplying more than half a day’s requirement for folic acid and hefty amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc in every serving. They also are loaded with phytochemicals, such as saponins and phytosterols, that lower cancer and heart disease risk, and they are low in the glycemic index, so help regulate blood sugar, as well as appetite. A study from Tulane University School of Public Health in New Orleans found that people who included beans in their diets at least four times a week lowered their heart-disease risk by 22% compared to people whose diets included a serving or less each week.

8. Wild Salmon

Why it’s good for you:

Heart disease, depression, dementia, alzheimers, skin, asthma, allergies, osteoporosis

We’re eating more fish than we did in the 1980s, but the 15 pounds a year is a far cry from the 114 pounds of red meat we each eat annually. Unlike beef, which is high in artery-clogging saturated fat, salmon is rich in the omega-3 fats that lower risk for heart disease and possibly osteoporosis, depression, memory loss, and more. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish a week, or an average of 1 gram of the omega-3s daily. Choose wild salmon, since it is lower in mercury and pesticides than farm-raised salmon.

9. Plain Yogurt

Why it’s good for you:

osteoporosis, weight management, GI tract health

Low-fat yogurt is a healthy food, supplying protein, B vitamins, and calcium. It’s a useful alternative to milk for people who are lactose intolerant, and if it contains the probiotic bacteria, such as lactobacillus acidophilus or bifidobacterium, it helps prevent GI tract problems like constipation and diarrhea, as well as helping to treat food allergies. These healthful bacteria wade past the stomach and flourish in the intestinal tract. They crowd out disease-causing bacteria, produce natural antibiotics, and possibly switch off an enzyme that triggers colon cancer. Stick with plain, nonfat yogurt and sweetened it with all-fruit jam, since commercial fruited yogurts contain up to 9 teaspoons of added sugar. Look for yogurt that contains LAC (live yogurt cultures) and that lists acidophilus and bifido as ingredients.

Of course, there are many more superfoods. Others include: green tea, nuts, tofu and soymilk, sweet potatoes, broccoli, etc.

At least four times a week, use rinsed, canned black beans in salads, burritos, and soups, or sprinkle with cilantro and serve hot on top or rice.: Aim for a cup of berries a day. Switch from ice cream to frozen blueberries for an after-dinner snack, add to tossed salads, or briefly cook berries with a little Splenda, lemon juice, and corn starch and use as a topping for pancakes, French toast, waffles, and ice cream. Replace lettuce in salads and sandwiches with spinach, or, layer it into lasagna and use large leaves instead of a tortilla to wrap around cheese, beans, and salsa, etc. Before you go to bed, do the prep work for Nutty Apricot Oatmeal by placing 1 /2 cup old fashioned oatmeal, 1/6 cup chopped dried apricots, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar and dash of cinnamon and almond extract in a preheated, wide-mouth thermos. Add 1 cup of steamed fat-free or low-fat milk and close tightly. In the morning just open the thermos, sprinkle with 2 tsp. slivered almonds, and you have a warm, delicious breakfast waiting for you! Switch from chips to orange sections for a mid-day nibble. Mix orange sections into orange-flavored yogurt, dunk orange sections in fat-free, dark-chocolate syrup; pair oranges with sweet potatoes in a salad; use fresh orange juice and maple syrup for marinades; mix orange sections into guacamole, rice dishes, and tossed salads.: Heart disease, cancer, cataracts, skin, and aging. The first place to start is to consume more lycopene-rich foods, such as tomatoes and tomato products like paste, juice, and sauce. Cooked tomato products have more lycopene than fresh tomatoes. One study showed that lycopene is absorbed 2.5 times better from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes. Heart disease, healthy skin, and fibroids. : Sprinkle on oatmeal or yogurt, add to cookie and pancake batters, mix into muffin or meatloaf recipes, or blend with honey and peanut butter for a sandwich spread.


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