5 Must-Have Foods to Remain Active & Healthy

You can find the fountain of youth in your kitchen if your pantry is stocked with the right foods.

“Everyone’s looking for that magic bullet, that food or drink that’s going to change everything,” explains Jan Tilley, MS, RDN, LD, and president/CEO of JTA Wellness, a nutrition consulting firm promoting healthy living through nutrition and fitness. “But at the end of the day, it’s about balance — and fitting in exercise,” she notes.

Thanks to years of hearing that eggs, especially egg yolks, were cholesterol demons, many people shun what is considered to be the most bioavailable source of protein in the American diet. “Our bodies know what to do with the protein in eggs and can efficiently utilize it to create healthy, lean muscle,” explains Tilley. The dietary cholesterol in eggs actually has little to no impact on blood level cholesterol. Egg yolks are a good source of lutein, which has long been known to be important in eye health. More importantly, lutein is now being recognized for its ability to help stave off Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.

Yes, guacamole really is good for you. “Avocados are a healthy, delicious, creamy monounsaturated fat that helps lower cholesterol and creates lasting satiety,” says Tilley. “They help fill you up and contain wonderful vitamins and minerals.” The fat in avocados has also been shown to help protect and regenerate synapses in the brain to prevent cognitive decline, notes Tilley, the author of Eat Well to Be Well… Living Your Best Life Through the Power of Anti-Inflammatory Food.

Green Leafy Vegetables
It turns out that mom was right: Eat your vegetables. A recent study found that eating one to two servings a day of green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard and arugula) had a powerful impact on preventing cognitive decline and dementia. “The findings suggest this benefit is likely from important nutrients found in these vegetables, such as folate, lutein and nitrate, which are known to be associated with slowing cognitive decline,” explains Tilley. Broccoli is also on the list, further proof that mom knows best.

Wild Caught Salmon
A wonder food and nutrition powerhouse is as close as the fish counter. “Wild-caught salmon has more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which have been credited with several health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cancer,” reports Tilley. Salmon is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, vitamin D and selenium, which are considered important nutrients to help promote healthy aging.

Almond Butter/ Peanut Butter
Bring out the kid in you with a lunchbox staple. A terrific source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and protein, almond and peanut butters are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E and can help lower cholesterol. A small serving (one to two tablespoons) also contains a generous amount of magnesium, which boosts heart health by promoting the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients, and potassium, important for good blood pressure and heart health. Tilley also likes nut butters for their versatility and accessibility, making them easy to add to any diet. “Enjoy nut butter on apples, celery, bananas or a piece of whole grain toast for an easy, filling breakfast or snack,” she says.

By Dawn Robinette

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