These 10 Foods Have Surprising Health Benefits

Remember that old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Ever wondered if that’s really true? Can eating an apple a day literally keep you healthy enough to ward off most potential doctor visits? Ok, probably not, BUT apples do have tons of health benefits, including being packed with soluble fiber, which can help prevent cholesterol from building up on artery walls, as well as potassium, which can be beneficial for those who are watching their blood pressure. So if you’re chowing down on this autumnal fruit, your doctor will probably end up pretty pleased even if you do have to see them!

But what we can take away from that old saying, though, is not that eating that one specific fruit is a cure-all (or a prevent-all), but rather the simple fact that healthy foods can help keep you healthier. And it turns out that certain foods have some pretty surprising health benefits that you might not even know about. Eating the following foods might not mean you can delete your doctor’s number, but they might just keep you feeling your best!

1. Prunesprunes

We can hear the collective groans already. No, we’re not talking about that benefit of prunes, although you have to admit that’s a pretty good one. Recent studies show that prunes are great for digestion AND can also help prevent bone loss. Researchers found that when postmenopausal women ate about 10 prunes every day for a year, they showed decreased signs of bone loss, and that, after six months of regular prune consumption, they showed lower loss of total bone mineral density compared to those who didn’t eat the dried fruit.

This surprising benefit might actually be related to the way they help with digestion. Prunes cause beneficial changes in the gut microbiome, which leads to lower inflammation levels throughout the body, which can reduce the kind of oxidative damage to cells that affects bone density. And, on a bonus sidenote, they might also help you lose weight! Sounds like it’s time to pop a few prunes as a healthy snack!

2. Fatty Fish

Fish with omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, has been proven to have numerous benefits for your heart, brain, eyes, etc. But now there’s some research that might make you sit up and take notice. A study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that couples who ate more omega-3-loaded fish had more frequent sex and higher fertility rates. So if you’re looking for some sexy times, make sure to include this type of seafood in your diet – just make sure to brush your teeth.

3. Mushrooms

These fungi were once just a pizza topping afterthought, but turns out you can make some seriously delicious dishes from them (portobello pot roast, anyone?), as well as get some serious health benefits from them. In addition to being rich in B vitamins, mushrooms are one of the only natural food sources of vitamin D! Just as our skin can manufacture vitamin D from ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, mushrooms can manufacture vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. In fact, some varieties of mushrooms, such as maitakes, contain more than 100% of the daily recommended value of vitamin D per one-cup serving. So when rainy days are getting you down, use mushrooms in stir fries, or as a meat alternative, and get your dose of D!

4. Cherriesbunch of cherries

There’s no mistaking the summery taste of cherries, or that beautiful red juice. And that gorgeous red color comes from an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which has been shown to help reduce the aches and pains associated with arthritis; research has even found that tart cherry juice can help speed up recovery time between workouts and decrease muscle pain after exercise. Not only that, but they’re also rich in melatonin – yep, the same stuff that helps you sleep better. Anyone for some cherry pie and a nice, restorative nap to get ready for the next workout?

5. Coffee

Do you like to joke that coffee keeps you alive? You might be a little bit more right than you know! A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who drank one to eight (yikes!) cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of all causes of death than people who didn’t drink coffee at all. And the good news is, the same went for decaf drinkers, so if you’re pounding eight cups a day, it’s ok to switch to decaf for a little bit, and maybe get a few minutes of sleep.

6. Orange Fruits and Veggies

We know that fruits and veggies all have their own long lists of benefits for your insides, but did you know that some of them are also great for your outsides? Meaning, orange produce like mangoes, carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes, contain the antioxidant beta carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A, an important vitamin for repairing and growing cells – and that’s great news for your hair and skin. Want lustrous locks? Vitamin A helps regulate your hair growth cycle, and can help to slow hair loss. Worried about wrinkles? This vitamin aids in collagen production, which can help keep your skin firmer and less prone to the effects of aging. Dang, you look gooood holding that mango smoothie.

7. Walnuts

Nuts are crazy good for you in lots of ways (and no, they’re not off-limits when you’re watching your weight!), but walnuts specifically have one very surprising benefit: they can make you happier! Walnuts are one of the richest dietary sources of serotonin, a chemical in your brain that helps create calm and happiness, as well as improve your mood.

8. Strawberries

We hear a lot about exotic superfoods that can help to prevent cancer, but we sometimes forget about the (not so) ordinary strawberry. These luscious little fruits are nutritional powerhouses, and are bringing receipts for their cancer-fighting potential. In a small study of people with precancerous esophageal lesions who ate 2 ounces of freeze-dried strawberries daily for six months, 80% saw a decrease in the severity of the lesions. The researchers aren’t sure which of the vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients in the berries is responsible, but they plan to investigate the possibility that strawberries have something in them that could supplement cancer-treating drugs. In addition, strawberries might also help protect you against skin cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center. We should note that a lot of the research around strawberries’ cancer-figthting properties has been primarily conducted on animals, but it is promising. For example, a study published in Scientific Reports found that strawberry extract can stop the spread of breast cancer cells in mice.

9. Cranberriescranberries on a white spoon

You might know that cranberries are good for your urinary tract system, but, along with some other benefits to these tart little guys, did you know that they can also make your checkups at the dentist go a little more smoothly? Research shows that antioxidants called proanthocyanidins in cranberries can help halt the activity of bacteria that cause dental cavities, supporting regular dental hygiene habits. Be careful how you choose to enjoy this fruit, though: jellies and juices have tons of sugar, which can cancel out your efforts to keep those pearly whites healthy!

10. Bananas

Having a banana a day will pump you full of potassium, and give you an antioxidant and B vitamin boost, but there’s more! They might be a better weight loss aid than previously thought. Apparently, bananas that aren’t very ripe contain a lot of what’s known as “resistant starch,” which helps reduce appetite and might help stabilize blood sugar levels after meals by slowing the rate of stomach emptying. So, since they help curb appetite, they can actually help in your efforts to shed a few pounds (as long as you don’t go crazy with the banana bread)!

We are whole-hearted advocates of eating what you love, and enjoying it! But you know what? There are tons of delicious, whole foods out there that can be ingredients in some seriously delicious snacks and meals (or are great on their own), AND that can nourish your body in some seriously surprising ways. So get out there and get eating!

The Ultimate Health Showdown: Coffee Vs. Red Wine

You know what they say, right? Coffee is good to the last drop, and red wine gets better with age. But, if you’re an older adult, is drinking that last drop good for your health? And does red wine get better for you as you age? More than half of all adults in the U.S. say that they drink coffee every day, despite any concerns that they might have about caffeine consumption. Half of all middle-aged adult Americans also drink red wine, but when you look at older adults, that percentage drops to a quarter or less of the senior population – maybe because of the conflicting things that we’ve been told about the benefits and risks of alcohol consumption over the years. 

So what’s the real scoop on these sometimes controversial beverages? Are either beneficial to your health as an older adult? Should you skip one and guzzle down the other? Or should both be part of your healthy lifestyle?

Coffee: Good (for You) to the Last Drop?

white cup of black coffee with coffee beans around the cup

While you might love the rich taste and aroma of coffee, it’s no secret that the thing that really keeps you coming back for more is the caffeine. And, while there are drawbacks to this substance, there are benefits to it, as well – and those benefits might actually be even more marked for seniors. Let’s start with the possible negative things about caffeine:

  • Caffeine sensitivity – Why do some people even bother with decaf? Well, they might like the taste of coffee, but they might be more sensitive than others to the effects of caffeine. This sensitivity can get worse as you get older, meaning that caffeine could end up affecting your sleep or make you jittery or anxious. In addition, consistently drinking more than the recommended limit of 400mg of caffeine per day (or about 4 cups of coffee) can cause insomnia, increased heart rate, or headaches. 
  • Increased stress – Caffeine actually causes the release of cortisol, or the stress hormone, into the body, so if you’re chugging cup after cup of coffee you’re at risk of increased heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, respiration and muscle tension.
  • That frequent urge to “go” – Constantly in the bathroom? Caffeine is a diuretic, so drinking coffee will most likely make you need to urinate more often. You’ll need to stay hydrated if you’re hitting the morning joe hard. 
  • Gastrointestinal issues – Coffee can speed up digestion, which could also land you in the bathroom more than you’d like. In addition, its high acid content can lead to acid reflux. 

With those possible disadvantages of drinking coffee, though, come a surprising list of possible advantages to sticking to your daily coffee routine, especially as you age. Researchers have found that:coffee facts inforgraphic

  • Caffeinated coffee cuts the risk of oral cancers by up to 50%.
  • Coffee can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 22%. Be careful, though, there is some research that says drinking more than the recommended 4 cups a day could increase stroke risk.
  • Coffee drinkers have fewer instances of hospitalization due to heart rhythm disturbance.
  • Drinking coffee every day decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, with some studies suggesting that you’re 25-50% less likely to develop the disease if you’re a coffee drinker. Just remember not to load it up with sugar and fatty creamers!
  • People who drink at least 4 coffees or teas have lower blood pressure according to a new study out of Paris. Tea drinkers had the most blood pressure benefit, while coffee drinkers had just slightly less.
  • Research out of Greece shows that Greek boiled coffee may increase longevity and heart health.
  • Moderate coffee consumption can have a positive impact on neurological functioning.
  •  According to recent research, seniors who drink up to two cups of coffee per day can cut their risk of developing Parkinson’s by as much as 60%, and could also be up to 65% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
  • Drinking 200mg of caffeine increases your metabolic rate by 7% within three hours of consumption, so you burn more fat.
  • And, of course: a cup of caffeinated coffee can offer a boost of energy and mood!

The result of the first round: the benefits of java seem to far outweigh the risks. So if you enjoy a nice cup of coffee, go ahead and drink up! Just remember not to load your cup with unhealthy additions, to keep your intake moderate, and to try and get your fill in the morning, so as not to disrupt your precious sleep. 

Does Red Wine Get Better (for You) with Age?

Ah, red, red wine. If coffee gives you that morning boost you might be looking for, red wine can be the relaxing antidote at the end of a long day. But does drinking it help or harm you? This is where things get a little more complicated. Despite what we know about the possible dangers of alcohol consumption, there is also a widespread belief that drinking red wine in particular is good for your heart. So what does the current science say?

Turns out, researchers just aren’t totally sure what to say. But new studies are pointing more towards the possible benefits of very moderate alcohol consumption – but only for older adults. Lucky you! For younger adults, drinking still carries more of the risk of certain cancers, liver disease and high blood pressure, to name a few possible negative effects. 

Surprisingly, when researchers looked at what drinking did to life expectancy, the results varied wildly depending on on how old the people doing the drinking were. They found that 60% of years of potential life lost due to drinking were in the 20 to 49 age group, while about 15% of years lost were in those above age 65. Additionally, 80% of deaths prevented by alcohol were among seniors. 

All of that could be because older adults are more prone to things like cardiovascular disease and dementia than younger people are, and there is some research that says that alcohol has an effect on these diseases. For example, there are some theories floating around out there that a substance in red wine known as resveratrol has heart-protecting and anti-aging properties, but many researchers are still skeptical. Some even say that, while research into resveratrol with mice is promising, you might have to drink 100 to 1,000 glasses of red wine to get the same results!

red wine being poured into a glass from the bottle

  For now, some researchers believe that, for older adults who drink moderately (up to a glass a day), there are possible benefits, like:

  • Those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol seem to have lower risk of heart disease, but there are still a lot of questions surrounding this research.
  • Regular intake of flavonoid-rich foods and/or beverages (like red wine) has been associated with a 50% reduction in the risk of dementia, a delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and a reduction in the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
  • Some researchers also think that quality of life is better and total mortality is lower among moderate drinkers than among those who don’t drink. One study even showed that regular, moderate alcohol consumption increases lifespan and quality of life for men up to 80 years of age and for women indefinitely.

The result of round two? We’re going to have to say: inconclusive. Red wine is definitely a tasty and relaxing way to round out a healthy meal, but no one is quite sure just how good it is for you. That being said, it seems so far that it doesn’t hurt older adults to drink very moderate amounts, and most research now seems to point to the fact that the benefits of drinking are mainly for seniors. So, if you like your red wine, go on and indulge now and again, but stick to the guidelines (no more than 5 ounces a day). 

There’s so much research swirling around out there about what is healthy for older adults and what isn’t, and sometimes it can be hard to break it all down. Advice is constantly changing, so keep up with it as best you can, and stick to the healthiest habits you can, like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising to stay fighting fit. A glass of red wine can absolutely fit into that lifestyle – and, don’t forget to add in your daily dose of coffee, if that’s your thing. It looks like it’s a real winner when it comes to your health!

A Coffee A Day Keeps Alzheimer’s at Bay

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world and has been for a while. It gives you a boost when you first wake up, the smell is satisfying, and it tastes delicious. In the past, negative aspects of coffee have circulated. However, recent research shows it can actually improve your brain, and overall health as you age.

Different cups of coffee with cream in it or black.
Coffe boosts brain health and function. Studies show that it can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Delay The Onset Of Alzheimer’s

Just by consuming coffee, people with mild dementia and cognitive impairment can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. A study conducted of 124 older adults with mild cognitive impairment ages 65 to 88 revealed that caffeine blocks brain inflammation and fights off the receptors that cause cognitive decline. The participants with early dementia and cognitive impairment were tested once and then again 2-4 years later. These studies revealed that the test subjects with high blood caffeine were less likely to develop full-blown Alzheimer’s. 

Neuroscientist Chuanhai Cao, who partook in the study, stated that “These intriguing results suggest that older adults with mild memory impairment who drink moderate levels of coffee, about three cups a day, will not convert to Alzheimer’s disease or at least will experience a substantial delay before converting to Alzheimer’s.”

Live Longer

Coffee can be an answer to living longer. One large-scale study that had over 400,000 mature adult participants gave some surprising results. Men who drank 2 cups of coffee a day lived 10% longer than those who did not. Women who drank the same lived 13% longer than women who did not imbibe caffeine. 10-13% might not seem like a large number, but wouldn’t you like a 10% increase in longevity? 

Boosts Brain Function & Memory

A study conducted at the University of California showed that people who consumed 200 mg of caffeine before taking a memory test received greater scores than those who did not. The participants looked at images and then were asked to come back a day later and correctly identify them. The coffee drinkers scored higher, proving that caffeine enhances long term memory. On the other hand, the study proved that people who consumed 300 mg of caffeine (more than 3 cups of coffee at once) did not do much better on the test, and complained of feeling jittery with headaches.

Caffeine will boost your brain function and memory, but it is important to note that only a certain amount will help.

All black picture of a brain with strong arms on both sides of it.
Drinking 2 cups of coffee will boost your memory and brain function throughout the day.

More than 200 mg can have negative side effects. So, stick with two cups.

Protective Effects Against Stomach Cancer

About 27,000 cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed this year, but coffee might help reduce your risk. A 2016 study compared regular coffee drinkers to non-coffee drinkers, and the results were minor but hopeful. Regular coffee drinkers had a 7% reduced risk of stomach cancer, and those who drank more coffee saw higher reductions. People who drank three to four cups per day were 12% less likely to develop stomach cancer. 

Prevents Diabetes 

Drinking coffee, whether caffeinated or not has benefits towards your glucose levels. Studies have shown you can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes just by drinking decaffeinated coffee. The author of the study stated that  “compared with no coffee consumption… six cups a day of coffee was associated with a 33% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”

This can greatly help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s as well because about 70% of people with type 2 diabetes go on to develop Alzheimer’s.

Drinking at least 2 cups of coffee a day has been found to greatly reduce the risk of most diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and cancer. If you are an avid coffee drinker, then great, keep doing what you’re doing. If you are not, then consider drinking at least a cup a day, or opt for a non-caffeinated coffee. You can increase your overall health by adding something as simple as a cup of joe to your daily routine.