You are what you eat, but you’re also the air you breathe, the way you shape your body in the gym and, perhaps most importantly, the genes you were born with. Remember all of that, then breathe fresh air, sweat often and tell your hypertensive father who’s boss. If you want to beat your genes, hopefully you’re choosing among these foods.
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Blueberries are often one of the first foods that come up when you mention the word “superfood.” Blueberries are high in vitamin C, potassium, flavonoids and antioxidants, and they can lower your risk of heart disease, inflammation and cancer. That’s just the beginning. The second most popular berry in the United States (strawberries are first) can also help you stave off dementia. In a recent study, researchers found that people who eat 2 or more servings of blueberries every week develop mental decline 2 years later in life than those who do not eat berries. The best part? You can freeze blueberries without them losing any of their nutritional value.
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Nobody on earth lives longer than the people of Okinawa, Japan. The likely key to their longevity? Tofu. Experts say Okinawans’ regular consumption of soy products helps them maintain healthy levels of the hormone DHEA well into old age. It doesn’t hurt that Okinawans also eat lots of fruit, vegetables and fish, as well as very little red meat. That’s the thing about tofu: it provides protein without filling you up with the artery-clogging triglycerides found in all animal fats. Few other foods do what tofu does.
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Yogurt is alive. No, really, it’s bubbling on a microscopic level with good “probiotic” bacteria that colonize your body and protect you from microscopic baddies. At least that’s what many nutritionists have said over the years, including “father of gerontology,” Ilya Metchnikoff, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1908. He came to the conclusion after studying a population of mountain peasants in Bulgaria who drank a form of fermented milk (basically yogurt) and lived longer than anyone else in Europe. Unfortunately, the discovery may have come too late for the discoverer. Metchnikoff died of heart failure at age 71.
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First, know how to pronounce it: As-Sigh-Eee. Next, know how to drink it: pulpy and unsweetened (unsweetened is how you should consume all natural foods that don’t taste terrible). This berry, grown in the Amazon, features a staggering number of beneficial compounds that serve your body’s cells in the ways they were evolved to be treated. From antioxidants to monosaturated fats (the good fats), acai can help prevent heart disease and cancer, and there is even evidence this little blue berry can help with weight loss and slow down the processes of aging. There are really too many good things said about acai to avoid it completely. Better acai than sorry.
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Hot peppers might burn your tongue, but every day more evidence comes to light that hot peppers will help keep you alive. First, let’s get the record straight: hot peppers do not cause ulcers. That’s an old wives tale that overshadows this benevolent nightshade. Capsaicin, the chemical that causes “the burn,” has been found to kill prostate cancer and lung cancer cells. Also, hot peppers lower bad cholesterol without reducing levels of the good cholesterol. A recent study suggests cayennes, jalapenos and habaneros might even reduce plaque in arteries. Hot peppers are looking more and more like a heart superfood, one that gives a much better kick than salt.
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Heard of it? You’re made of it. Your body is composed of about 60-percent H2O, 40-percent other junk. If you want to stay healthy, you should try to maintain that ratio. Water facilitates almost every biological process occurring under your skin: from waste removal to temperature regulation to digestion to brain chemistry. Water can keep you from over-eating (drink a glass or two before your next meal) and it can keep your blood thin, warding off hypertension and heart attacks. The problem is, you’re probably not drinking enough water. Although dietitians disagree just how much water you should be drinking, recommended daily water intake varies from 1 liter (4.23 cups) to 3 liters (about 13 cups). Stay closer to the high end to stay healthy.