The key to living a long and healthy life is the immune system, according to Dr. Mark Liponis, author of UltraLongevity and the medical director of Canyon Ranch Health Resorts.
Research is showing that it just might be an over-functioning immune system that leads to many of the diseases associated with aging: arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
How can that be? Isn't our immune system supposed to protect us from evil invaders? It is. However, in the effort to fight off a particular infection, the immune system may produce antibodies that not only attack the intended invaders, but also may hit unintended targets.
According to Liponis, you can improve your immune system function by including specific foods in your diet on a regular basis. And when your immune system is functioning at its peak, you will be too–no matter what your age.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH FOODS
Berries such as raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries contain flavonols and anthocyanins, naturally occurring substances with strong anti-cancer properties. Frozen berries have the same nutrition benefits as fresh, so you can improve your health, even when fresh berries aren't in season with Blueberry Bread Puddings with Lemon Curd.
Citrus Fruits–oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and grapefruit–all have vitamin C, a vitamin long-associated with preventing the common cold. Although research does not support taking large doses of this vitamin to prevent colds, it does appear to have a mild antihistamine effect. Vitamin C may also help reduce the risk of cancer and cataracts. In addition, citrus fruits contain limonese–a compound that may help the liver detoxify carcinogenic chemicals. Citrus and Kiwifruit Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachios provides a double dose of citrus with both fresh oranges and grapefruit.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts feature a substance called sulforaphane, a naturally-occurring compound in foods that neutralizes highly reactive, dangerous forms of cancer-causing chemicals before they can damage cells and promote cancer. Eating healthy doesn't have to be time-consuming– make Roasted Cauliflower with Capers and Bread Crumbs in about 20 minutes.
Garlic and other members of the allium family such as onions, scallions, shallots, chives and leeks are loaded with allicin and S-allylcysteine–compounds associated with reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Garlic and Bell Pepper Farfalle features roasted garlic, plus red, yellow, and orange bell peppers.
Grapes, grape juice, and wine are sources of resveratrol, which protects against heart disease and fights the production and progression of cancerous tumors. For as simple and elegant dessert, try the Rustic Grape Tart . It features both red and black seedless grapes.
Nuts and seeds are no longer the "high-fat bad boys" of the nutrition world. While it's true that they are high in fat, the fat is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Nuts are also good sources of vitamin E, which can prevent the oxidation of "bad" cholesterol and the resulting buildup cholesterol in the arteries. Nuts and seeds are also filled with selenium, a powerful immune system suppressant. When you need a crunchy snack that's both easy and portable, mix up a batch of Party Mix with Almonds and Apricots.
Olives and olive oil are monounsaturated fats, and this type of fat can help lower total blood cholesterol and increase the ratio of good cholesterol to bad. Improving blood cholesterol levels reduces the risk of heart disease. Enjoy a healthy dose of olives in Mediterranean-inspired Chicken and Green Olives.
Orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin all contain beta-carotene–the substance that gives these vegetables their intense colors. Beta-carotene may reduce the risk of cancer and protect against cataracts. Sweet Potato Tart with Pecan Crust is a stunning dessert that will delight your guests.
Salmon is a particularly good source of omega-3 fat, a type of fat that has been shown to help thin blood and keep blood platelets from clotting and sticking to artery walls. The result is a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Other good fish sources of omega-3 fat are albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines, and swordfish. In Almond-Chive Salmon, you get bonus nutrition points because of the salmon and the almonds.
Tomatoes, especially in the form of tomato sauce, and other members of the nightshade family–eggplant, tomatillos, cayenne and chili peppers–contain a substance called lycopene, which research has shown may help to reduce the risk of prostate, colon, and bladder cancers. Chili peppers are a source of capsaicin–it's the compound that makes the peppers spicy hot. Capasicin has been shown to help prevent the growth of certain types of cancer and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Four-Alarm Red Salsa is a great way to use three nutrition superstars: tomato sauce, tomatillos, and a chile pepper.