What do broccoli, egg whites, and salmon have in common? Besides being good for your health overall (and delicious), they're just a few of the diet essentials that help prevent against heart disease, cancer, and more.
Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease — these conditions pose a serious threat to the health of women. And although there's no miracle diet or magic food to prevent cancer or keep your mind sharp, choosing the right foods has a big impact on your health and well-being overall, and may help keep these diseases at bay — especially heart disease.
These 10 healthy tips can help you incorporate the right foods into your diet:
1. Eat Mother Nature’s finest. Fruits and vegetables are an absolute staple of any diet. Whether you're aiming for heart disease prevention or creating a cancer prevention diet, start with fruits and vegetables. These high-fiber goodies do wonders for maintaining a healthy body weight — an essential for women's health. They're known to help prevent various cancers, including lung and colon cancer. All fruits and veggies are good, but cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower) are particularly effective against colorectal cancer. Eat a wide variety of colors, flavors, and textures, and at least five daily servings of them.
2. Stick to low-fat and lean choices. Obesity is linked to a number of health conditions, particularly heart disease and many cancers. Lean protein and low- or non-fat dairy foods are healthy foods — opting for leaner choices gives you the benefits without all the fat and cholesterol. Nuts (in small amounts), egg whites, and beans are healthy protein choices, too.
3. Cut cholesterol by limiting fat. Build your protein choices around cold-water fish (their fatty acids are good for you) and skinless turkey and chicken. Avoid meats that tend to be higher in fat and cholesterol, such as lamb, beef, and pork, and when you do eat when, look for the leanest cuts and limit your portion sizes. For cancer and heart disease prevention, skip the processed meats — sausage, lunch meats, and so on.
4. Opt for whole grains. White breads, pastas, and rice lack nutrients and fiber, which can help protect against heart disease and cancer. Whole grains, on the other hand, are a great choice for carbohydrates and fiber. As a side to your lean protein, choose from delicious whole grains like brown rice, barley, bulgur, quinoa, whole oats, and oatmeal.
5. Limit alcohol intake. The recommendation for women is a maximum of one daily alcoholic beverage — if you drink at all. One drink means a 5-ounce serving of wine, a 12-ounce beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. Cutting back on alcohol is important in a cancer prevention diet, as alcohol can be a contributing factor in breast, liver, esophageal, and mouth cancers, as well as colorectal cancer. Alcohol in excess also contributes to high blood pressure and can have a negative effect on the heart itself. If you do drink, opt for red wine, which is rich in heart-healthy flavonoids.
6. Boost your antioxidant intake. Antioxidants are vitamins and other substances that help the body stay healthy by protecting cells from damage — the underlying problem when cancer occurs. Antioxidants help protect against Alzheimer's, cancer, and heart disease. Get enough in your diet through healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
7. Focus on vitamins C and E. These two antioxidants in particular may help decrease your Alzheimer's disease risk. Vitamin E is found in many oils made from vegetables and nuts, including soybean, safflower, corn, and vegetable oil, as well as spinach, wheat germ, and sunflower seeds. Fruits and even some vegetables are rich in vitamin C, including citrus, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, kiwi, avocado, asparagus, peppers, and broccoli.
8. Be picky about fats. Saturated and trans fats — fast foods, packaged desserts and snack foods, fattening meats, butter, and mayonnaise are typically loaded with these — clog arteries and pack on the pounds. Stay away from these unhealthy fats (many also have a lot of cholesterol) and instead choose unsaturated fats. Cook with vegetable oils instead of butter, and snack on nuts — good sources of healthy fats — to help prevent heart disease and a trim your waistline.
9. Opt for fish. Fish, notably cold-water varieties, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which offer great heart-health protection and may aid in prevention of Alzheimer's disease. Fish high in omega-3s include salmon, herring, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines, lake trout, and herring. Try to eat a serving of fish at least once a week — research has shown that not only is it great for your heart, but it can also reduce Alzheimer's risk up to 60 percent. Walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, and soybean and canola oils are also good sources of omega-3s. Though research hasn't yet found that omega-3 fatty acids prevent cancer, these nutrients boast many other women's health benefits.
10. Up your potassium intake. Avoiding too much sodium is important for heart disease prevention, and adding potassium to your diet can counteract some of the harmful effects of the sodium that you do eat. Fruits and vegetables rich in potassium include potatoes, tomatoes and tomato-based foods, papayas, prunes, grapefruit juice, orange juice, dates, lettuce, and raisins.
Incorporating these healthy foods into your diet can help you prevent cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease. Start making your health a priority now by making healthy habits a way of life.
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