When I see articles on being healthy during menopause, it makes me slightly crazy. Everyone touts their advice, trying to “sell” their products and services. But some of it just doesn’t make sense.
If you visit the World Health Organization’s website, for example, they list red meat as a group 2A carcinogenic, showing positive correlation between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer. Processed meat moves to a group 1 carcinogenic, with convincing evidence available showing it causes cancer. They specifically state people should limit their intake of processed meat and red meat, which are linked to death from heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
Now visit the American Heart Association’s website. They have a list of over twenty recipes using beef as the main ingredient. Do a quick search on the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Food Hub site, and you’ll see red meat used over and over again in the recipes they feature.
Clearly, something is awry.
For me, the further I got into researching food and leading a healthy life, the more troubling the facts became. I knew very quickly that if I wanted to take charge of my health, I was the only one who could do it. Skeptical? Yes. But for good reason.
That’s why when the concept of superfoods first came to light, I approached it warily.
The superfoods category started booming a decade ago and has never let up. The concept itself makes you take notice, especially if you’re struggling with health issues. Certain foods promise high vitamin and mineral content, and help your body ward off diseases and keep you healthier. Who doesn’t want that?
So businesses started creating products, making lists, and doing anything they could to use “superfoods” as a part of their marketing campaign. Here’s a hint: buyer beware.
I searched “superfoods” as I wrote this. In one page of results, I could find articles promising:
- 10 superfoods to boost a healthy diet
- 7 superfoods to eat after 50
- The 10 best superfoods
- 15 of the most powerful superfoods
- 16 superfoods that are worthy of the title
And my personal favorite:
- 53 superfoods you should add to your meals
How many foods do you eat every day? To try and stuff these 53 in is enough to give me a headache, and I love to cook.
As a woman right here in midlife trying to make healthy choices, what are you supposed to do? When they list whole wheat English muffins as a superfood, I have one response: Really?
My list of superfoods and why
If I were to describe superfoods, I would say they are good-for-you foods that give you vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, help your body fight off disease and inflammation, and make you healthier to live a better life.
That description instantly moves the majority of what you’ll find in a modern grocery store off the list. If it’s processed, it will never be a superfood. (Goodbye, English muffins.)
Here’s the thing. It’s impossible to fix an unhealthy lifestyle by incorporating superfoods into your diet. If you live on McDonald’s hamburgers and fries, and throw a handful of blueberries in occasionally, eating just this one superfood won’t do you a lot of good.
But if you’re conscious of what you eat, and try to incorporate the most powerful superfoods into your diet regularly, that’s when you start to see a difference. When you combine superfoods into a healthy lifestyle, that’s when you’ll start to see the benefits.
I’ve searched out superfoods for years. My go-to superfoods include:
Avocados are classified as a fruit. They’re actually a berry with a large seed inside.
I feel avocados are one of the most versatile superfoods on a plant-based diet because they can be used in so many ways. Mix them into a smoothie. Eat them on a salad. Use them in a dessert. Heck, eat them plain – I LOVE avocado toast! They are delicious any way you eat them.
Avocados are high in omega-3s and play a vital role in stabilizing blood sugar and reducing neuroinflammation. They are good for you because they contain the good fat – monounsaturated fat which acts as a protector. They’ve also been found to raise your dopamine levels, which are your feel-good hormones in the brain.
You can’t go anywhere these days without someone talking about gut health. Beets can help with gut health as they are a major source of betalains, which are phytonutrients that fight inflammation, protect the liver, all while providing antioxidants into your system. Chronic inflammation impacts the gut until eventually it causes chronic disease. Your end result can be heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more.
Betalains are in the red pigment you’ll find inside a beet. They offer detoxification in the body which aids in production of enzymes inside the body. Plus, they raise dopamine levels in your brain in a similar way as avocados. Because they are heavy on heart health properties, I try and eat them regularly.
Green tea is my go-to drink first thing in the morning. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, and I limit my intake of black tea, as too much caffeine in the morning leaves me feeling jumpy. Portland is the place for several tea companies in which I’ve found teas I adore. While you might find Stash Teas at your favorite store, I visit my little local shop regularly. I also enjoy the tasting room at Smith Tea, a place where you can sample a tea flight chosen from any of the many different varieties they stock.
Green tea contains antioxidants known as catechins, which help clear your body of free radicals. This helps your immune system and can weaken things like the cold virus. Drink it regularly, maintain healthy living, and you’ll be less likely to get sick.
Spices, in general, can add a variety of nutrients to your body. But one that tops the list is turmeric, which is identified by its orange-yellow color. You’ll find it used extensively in Asian foods like curry.
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a great addition to your diet. It may prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. And like other foods on my superfoods list, it may raise dopamine too.
I’m particular about where I source my food from. Since Truvani first started in business, I’ve used their organic Turmeric Curcumin supplement in my daily diet. When I need turmeric in my cooking, I grind up the tablets and use them as a spice.
Blueberries were the second food to be labeled as a superfood. That’s because they’re rich in a variety of things: high in fiber, vitamin C, and anti-inflammatory antioxidant flavonoids. That means they can help you maintain good health by providing fiber to keep you regular, help maintain a healthy weight, and protect against diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Plus, they taste good! A handful of blueberries can be added to just about anything. I mix them in smoothies, add them to coconut yogurt and homemade granola for a parfait, or throw them on top of a salad. I buy them fresh when I can (only organic), and keep a bag or two of frozen blueberries in the freezer at all times.
Nuts and seeds
While not all nuts are created equal, you’ll find a handful of any type brings a lot of benefits into your diet. Almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews – they can be used in all sorts of dishes you eat throughout the day. Flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds – they contain omega-3 fats which can help protect your brain.
Critical thinking in midlife and beyond
Metabolic syndrome is a group of five conditions that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health problems.
- High blood glucose (sugar)
- Low levels of HDL cholesterol
- High levels of triglycerides
- Large waist circumference
- High blood pressure
While each of these alone can lead to health problems, if you have three or more, it’s diagnosed as metabolic syndrome, which increases the chances of cardiovascular disease.
One in four Americans currently suffers from metabolic syndrome. It’s the number one health problem today.
When my dad died at the age of fifty-four from a massive heart attack, I dove into learning all I could about heart health. I made my own health top priority so I wouldn’t repeat his mistakes.
For over twenty-five years, I’ve managed my health by asking two questions:
Does this make sense?
We seem to have forgotten our critical thinking skills. We do everything based on what someone tells us to do. We live by “red pill” and “blue pill” thinking, with many choosing to accept what others around think rather than having to learn potentially unsettling or life-changing truths on our own.
I always ask, “Does this make sense” before I bring anything that could significantly impact my health into my life. I research, create my own opinion, and only then move forward. I choose my own course before moving forward.
How long will I have to do this?
If anyone tells me I’ll need to take the “cure” for years – a lifetime – I’m wary of its impact. I do my research thoroughly to see if there’s a better way.
My body knows best. My gut always leads me in the right direction. It’s when I fight that inner guidance and follow the crowd that I wind up doing things I later regret.
Intimidation and feeling guilty tactics won’t work. I’m proud of my intuition now that I’ve reached midlife and have had a chance to figure it out.