Eating nutritious foods can help you look and feel better, and it can also be good for your bank account.
Foods high in vitamins and minerals helps to fuel the body’s overall function, and help to better manage the risk of developing disease. Unplanned medical costs can quickly eat away at your wealth before and during retirement. A healthy diet can help to reduce your waistline and chance of chronic illness — trimming your overall medical costs and saving you money in the long run.
In the annual “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey from Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian, over 500 registered dietitians were asked recently to rate the biggest nutrition trends this year.
In support of National Nutrition Month, here are a few of the superfoods that will dominate in 2015:
All Hail Kale
Kale didn’t always reign as the “queen of greens.” In fact, the largest consumer of kale before the beginning of the 2013 kale craze was Pizza Hut. The pizza chain used it as decoration for their salad bars. Kale is an ancient, nutrient-powerhouse member of the Brassica family.
The leafy green has been cultivated for over 2,000 years in Europe, where it was the most widely eaten green vegetable until the Middle Ages, when cabbage became the more popular vegetable. Kale is rich in carotenoids, powerful antioxidants thought to decrease the risk of certain cancers and eye diseases. The fiber in kale can also aid in digestion, helping your body’s natural detoxification process.
WHFoods.org recommends eating kale and other cruciferous vegetables 4-5 times per week, medium serving size of 2 cups.
Heart Healthy Nuts
These bite-size powerhouses are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and heart-healthy fats. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating nuts can lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels, and may reduce the development of blood clots.
The Harvard School of Public Health advises to eat nuts in place of chips or other, less healthy snacks. All nuts are high in calories, so aim for a handful (1.5 ounces) per day or sprinkle them on main dishes or salads. Also, make sure to limit your intake of salty and sugary mixes.
Long vilified for its saturated fat content, the coconut has taken its rightful place as a true superfood, according to Natural Grocers. The coconuts health benefits come from its medium chain triglycerides “MCTs” or fatty acids. Few foods have MCTs and these fats have a variety of health benefits:
- Stimulates brain cell production
- Increases HDL “good” cholesterol
- Aids in digestion
- Produces antifungal/antimicrobial properties
- Improve energy production
- Inhibit tumor formation
Coconut’s purported beneficial properties go beyond nutrition. Coconut oil products are used externally for hair, skin and oral health care.
Good vs. Bad Fat
New research, published by the Journal of the American Heart Association, claims an avocado a day keeps the doctor away. The study looked at the effect avocados had on cardiovascular risk factors by replacing saturated fatty acids from an average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados. The researchers concluded the good fats found in avocados can help lower bad cholesterol levels, particularly for people who are overweight and obese. Avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit and are sodium and cholesterol free. While guacamole is the most popular avocado recipe in the United States, Brazilians add avocados to ice cream.
While most consumers view animal-based protein, such as meat, fish and poultry, as high-quality, nutrition pros rank quality proteins differently. Nutrition experts recommend fish and seafood, eggs, legumes and nuts, poultry and dairy as healthy, high-quality proteins, followed by soy. Red meat is considered less healthy among the nutrition pros, most likely due to the saturated fat, cholesterol and high environmental demands required to produce beef, according to the nutrition survey.
Other popular superfoods to consider incorporating more frequently into your diet include ancient grains, Greek yogurt, and green tea.
Investing in Health
Unhealthy habits are expensive. Chronic diseases drive healthcare costs at an alarming annual rate.
- Heart Disease and Stroke: $432 billion
- Diabetes: $174 billion
- Cancer: $124.5 billion
- Alzheimer’s Disease: $148 billion
Health is as much of an “investment” as your retirement. The average couple retiring today is estimated to spend $220,000 on health care costs, according to Fidelity Investments.
When you embrace a healthy lifestyle, you have a much greater chance of reducing costly health care and accomplishing your wealth accumulating goals.
What’s your favorite superfood and how do you incorporate it into your daily diet?