Certain foods, deeply colored and richly nutritious, are commonly consumed in the Mediterranean, Asian, and Blue Zone diets. The people living in those locations, eating selected foods, tend to avoid developing the diseases of affluence: heart disease, lifestyle-driven cancers, obesity, and Type II diabetes. They live longer with a better quality of life than many Americans, and we can learn much from them.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently identified a list of foods we can regularly incorporate into our diets to decrease our risk for early, unnecessary, debilitating illnesses. The list is a gift to us all, based on population studies.
SWEET POTATOES—Loaded with flavor, antioxidants, potassium, and fiber, bake them, or roast wedges sprayed with canola oil and season with curry powder, or cinnamon, or chili powder.
BROCCOLI—Rich in vitamins from the B’s, to C, to K, just roast, steam, or nuke till tender and jade green, and sprinkle with grated Romano [or Parmesan] cheese, and lemon juice, or use Asian seasonings.
LEGUMES [Beans]—All beans are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Excellent as a meat substitute, add to salads, curries, chili, soups, and stews. Do try hummus and falafel for a change.
LEAFY GREENS—Kale, collards, spinach [organic preferred], mustard greens, and Swiss chard are powerhouses filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber and flavor. Saute,steam, throw into soups, rice or pasta, for added texture, color and flavor with the bonus of huge nutritional value.
FATTY FISH—Salmon, sardines, and anchovies are among the best choices, for their omega 3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation, and the risks of heart attacks and strokes. While fresh or frozen fish are prized, canned fatty fish can be low cost, flavorful, and nutritious additions to sandwiches, pasta, chowders, pizza, and salads…adding high quality protein and nutrients to any dish.
OATMEAL—A wonderful source of soluble fiber [like the legumes], any form of oatmeal [instant or old fashioned] may help control glucose and cholesterol levels, and keep you feeling satisfied long after a meal, preventing over-eating. Serve it savory [as you would prepare risotto] or sweet [with dried fruit, nuts and cinnamon], with no added fat…using vegetable broth instead of water, skim milk, or non-dairy [non-coconut] milk substitutes.
Adding these wonderful foods to our diets will help us eat with a more international flare, while improving our health. I often suggest “eating the rainbow” as a reminder that eating the most deeply colored vegetables and fruits can yield many health benefits. Here’s to your very good health!
Dateline: Latham, Albany County, New York State