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Super foods for a super you

Simply choosing the right fruits and veggies might help your overall health

May 29, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT

Wish you could fight cancer, build stronger bones and improve your memory?

Jeanne Rhodes said there's a solution to all of those potential health problems - and it doesn't come in the form of a pill.

It's called good nutrition.

"The body is extremely powerful," Rhodes said. "It does things we don't understand at all. If you treat it with respect, it is amazing how it will respond."

And it responds best, she said, when fed the right foods.

As a nutritionist, author and owner of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown, developing a wellness lifestyle strategy for clients is Rhodes' specialty.

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"The earlier you become aware of the benefits of a healthy diet, the better," Rhodes said.

But every season of life brings changes and adjustments to the body. Making the right food choices, she said, can be key to staying physically and emotionally balanced.

Rhodes said the benefits of good nutrition are far-reaching. They keep your muscles, bones and organs strong for the long haul. They can boost immunity and fight illness-causing toxins. And they can reduce the risk of chronic health problems like diabetes, which she calls "an incredible epidemic in this country."

As a bonus, they can put you in a good mood.

"Healthy foods not only feed the body," she said. "They feed the mind and spirit."

It's about choices

Among the foods that can make a difference in a person's health, she said, are the super foods - those unprocessed foods that are packed with antioxidants.

At the top of Rhodes' super foods list is anything with omega-3, she said, most prevalent in fatty, cold-water fish.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), foods packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and memory and are great for the hair and skin.

The AMA recommends consuming wild (not farmed) salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel two to three times a week.

Other forms of omega 3 are flax seed and walnuts.

Another source is eggs, which Rhodes said are now available with less cholesterol and fat.

A second super food is anything with fiber, Rhodes said.

"It's really critical across the board," she said. "It's one of the most important things you can add - at any age - to your diet."

A diet high in fiber will help you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, lowers the risk of chronic diseases and, also, makes you feel full longer - a great weight loss aid, she said.

Whole grains, beans, fruit and vegetables are all good sources of fiber.

Rhodes said she recommends eating more raw foods, including salads, especially at the evening meal.

"It will satisfy your appetite and also help you sleep better," she said.

While protein is important to the diet, Rhodes said something brand new is protein from grass-fed animals. These meats, which include buffalo, are packed with omega 3, she said.

The AMA says aging bone health depends on adequate calcium intake to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Seniors need 1,200 mg of calcium a day through servings of milk, yogurt or cheese. Nondairy sources include broccoli, kale, almonds and tofu.

Fluids also are important to prevent dehydration, especially as a person ages, Rhodes said.

"Our body is 70 percent water, so what does that tell you," she said. "The body craves H20."

If you're not getting enough water, Rhodes said she usually recommends increasing your intake gradually - adding one 8 ounce glass a week.

Super bad foods

While there are foods that should be incorporated into a person's daily meals, there also are foods that should be avoided.

"The foods that do more damage than anything are refined carbs," Rhodes said.

Rhodes said refined carbohydrates are foods that have been processed by machinery that strips the bran and germ from the whole grain.

"The process gives foods a finer texture and prolongs shelf life," she said, "but it also removes important nutrients. Before there was such a thing as refined carbs, we ate more healthfully."

Rhodes said she often uses a visual example to explain the refining process.

"I'll hold an apple or an orange in my hand and everyone knows what it is and where it came from," she said. "But if I hold a pretzel, we don't have pretzel trees."

Refined carbohydrates also are addictive, she said.

"That's why some people can't do without that candy bar every afternoon. They are the worse foods, bar none," she said.

Eat for health

While there is an epidemic of overeating in this country, Rhodes said there are individuals who, as they age, suffer from a loss of appetite.

The loss could be due to medication or difficulty chewing certain foods.

"But it's important to eat - to have the fuel your body needs," she said. "You don't have to eat three big meals. Instead, try eating something small every two and a half to three hours."

Rhodes said she is seeing a growing interest in eating more healthfully among people of all ages "after coming through a take-a-pill mentality."

"Eating the right foods can make a difference in living longer and stronger," she said.

"The official scientific life expectancy of humans is 125 years," Rhodes noted. "We're the only animal that does not live out our life expectancy. But I'm glad to say the future looks good."




If you go ...



What: Lose the Belly Fat and De-Stress Brown Bag seminar presented by Jeanne Rhodes, author, nutritionist and wellness lifestyle strategist.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 24

Where: American Red Cross of Washington County, Conrad Court, Hagerstown.

Cost: $10 at the door. All proceeds benefit the local Red Cross.

To register: Call 301-739-0717, ext. 212, or e-mail mjohn@hagerstownmdredcross.org .

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