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Food is the fuel that keeps us going every day, but it also offers us many other benefits that we may not recognise. Certain types of Food, such as oily fish, vegetables and fruits, stand out in the shopping basket because they contain special properties that make them unique in terms of how they benefit our health.

These health-enhancing qualities come from the vitamins, minerals and complex phyto-nutrients contained in the food. Essential to our health, these assist with many of the body's natural functions, such as digestion, boosting the immune system, strengthening bones and even helping to protect against cancer.

As we age, looking after our health becomes more of a priority. Simple management of what we put in our shopping baskets can go a long way to ensuring we do not suffer from debilitating health problems.

An example - Healthy hair

Your hair ultimately reflects the overall condition of your body. If your body is healthy and well-nourished, your hair will show that to the world. If you are suffering from any health issues or nutritional deficiencies, your hair may stop growing, show damage and become brittle.

Even when healthy; As you age the ability of your capillaries (tiny blood vessels) to pass blood, reduces. This reduction in blood supply means less nutrients, vitamins and minerals reaching all parts of your body, including your hair follicles. To compensate for this and keep your hair follicles in a “younger” state, you need to supply more nutrients, doing this helps ensure the rest of your body is properly supported. Look for foods that contain the following:

Vitamin B complex:

  • B1, also called thiamin, is essential for the breakdown of carbohydrates into the simple sugar glucose. B1 is also important for the proper functioning of the nervous system. B1 is found in whole-grain cereals, bread, red meat, egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, legumes, sweet corn, brown rice, berries, and yeast
  • B2, also called riboflavin, is important in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It is also important in the maintenance of the skin and mucous membranes, the cornea of the eye and for nerve sheaths. B2 is found in whole-grain products, milk, meat, eggs, cheese and peas.
  • B3, also called niacin, is needed for the metabolism of food, the maintenance of healthy skin, nerves and the gastrointestinal tract. B3 is found in protein-rich foods. The most common protein rich foods are: meats, fish, brewer's yeast, milk, eggs, legumes, potatoes and peanuts.
  • B6, also called pyridoxine, is essential in the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. B6 is also used in the production of red blood cells. B6 can be found in many foods. Some of the foods that contain it are: liver, meat, brown rice, fish, butter, wheat germ, whole grain cereals, and soybeans.
  • B9, also called folic acid, interacts with vitamin B12 for the synthesis of DNA. B9 is also necessary for the breakdown of proteins and the formation of hemoglobin. B9 is produced by bacteria in the stomach and intestines. B9 is found in many foods, including yeast, liver, green vegetables, and whole grain cereals.
  • B12 is necessary for processing carbohydrates, proteins and fats and to help make all of the blood cells in our bodies. Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver. B12 can be found in liver, meat, egg yolk, poultry and milk.

Please note: if you are unable to adjust your diet enough for your daily needs and find you need to take a supplement, look for; 50 mg. of the major B-vitamins (including folate, biotin and inositol). It is very important to not consume more than you need. For example: More than 100mg of vitamin B3 can cause flushing, tingling, itching, headaches, nausea, diarrhea and ulcers.

Vitamin C with bioflavonoids. If you are taking a supplement look for; one to two grams daily. Maintain your Vitamin C intake, your body eliminates vitamin C in about 12 hours so distribute your intake throughout the day.

Vitamin E. If you are taking a supplement look for; 400 to 800 IU daily.

Beta-Carotene. Beta-carotene is important to hair growth. This is because beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A as the body needs it, helps maintain normal growth and bone development, protective sheathing around nerve fibers, as well as promoting healthy skin, hair and nails. If you are taking a supplement look for; 10,000 to 15,000 IU of beta-carotene daily.

One recommended daily dose of magnesium, sulfur, silica and zinc.

Health supporting foods

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable notable for its sulphoraphane content; a phytochemical shown to activate enzymes which may destroy cancer causing chemicals. It's also good for folic acid, vitamin C and other antioxidants. Enjoy raw as crudités or briefly steam or stir-fry. You can eat the tender terms too.  
  The rosy red colour of tomatoes is due to the mighty antioxidant lycopene. Research has linked eating plenty of tomatoes ( 2 to 6 times a week ), especially cooked, canned, pastes and sauces, with a near 50% reduction in feelings of depression and a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, in particular, prostate cancer. Tomatoes are also a source of antioxidant vitamins C and E, flavonoids and potassium, which may help regulate blood pressure.
Once a natural health remedy, watercress is brimming with beneficial B vitamins and minerals such as iron and calcium. It's a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C, flavonoids, beta-carotene and glucosinolates. It also contains some vitamin E.  
 
A good source of bowel-regulating fibre, phytochernicals, energy-releasing B vitamins and vital minerals. Unrefined `wholefoods' such as brown rice and wholegrain bread and cereals are believed to help reduce our risk of bowel cancer too. Opt for wholemeal bread over white where possible.
Think oranges, and you think vitamin C, but that’s not all this brightly coloured fruit contains. Oranges are also a good source of fibre and folic acid. Of course, another plus is that many of the health benefits can also be enjoyed in the form of a drink: a glass of pure orange juice can even count as one of your five portions a day.  
 
One of the oldest cultivated plants, and a long-standing natural medicine, studies suggest that garlic might also help to reduce our cancer risk. Its pungent, active ingredients are phytochemicals called allylic sulphides. These act as antioxidants which might help to ward oft cell damage, thereby helping to prevent cancer. 
All seeds are nutritional powerhouses, but sunflower seeds are richest in the powerful antioxidant vitamin E. Mix them with pumpkin seeds for a healthy blend of beneficial omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Sprinkle on cereal, salads, rice dishes, or enjoy just as a snack.
 
 
  Cabbage belongs to the some brassica family as sprouts, broccoli, and watercress, so it is bursting with the same type of goodness. It also provides good levels of vitamin C and folic acid. Some studies link eating lots of brassicas with a reduced risk of cancer, especially cancer of the digestive tract. Enjoy cabbage in salads, or if cooking, steam or braise lightly to conserve nutrients.
Part of the health-giving Mediterranean diet, virgin olive oil, particularly extra virgin, contains phenolic antioxidants, which give them their greeny-gold tinge. Antioxidant vitamin E and monounsaturated fats - that do not raise blood cholesterol - are other benefits. Like all oils, it's high in calories, so use sparingly when watching your weight.  
  Sweet potatoes make a delicious and nutrient-packed change to ordinary potatoes. They contain more of the carotenoid antioxidants alpha and beta-carotene - which make their flesh orange - as well as vitamin E. The cooking process helps the body absorb more carotenoids. Enjoy them boiled, mashed, in casseroles or pureed in soups.
Succulent and sweet, strawberries are definitely special foods. They pack a powerful antioxidant punch thanks to their vitamin C and flavonoid content. But their secret weapon could be a phytochemcal called ellagic acid, which some studies have shown can help inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.  
  Carrots are one of the best sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene. The body can also convert beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is needed for healthy skin, to strengthen the immune system and for night vision, so carrots do actually help you to see in the dark after all!
Onions contain allium compounds that have been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers. They are rich in a phytochemical called quercetin (especially red onions) which is a strong antioxidant. They may also help to improve circulation and to regulate blood pressure.  
  Like all oily fish, salmon can be a good source of omega-3 fats. Best known for their beneficial effects on the heart, these fats might also help prevent cancer by enhancing the immune system Salmon is a good source of selenium too. Aim to enjoy a portion or two of oily fish each week. Herring, mackerel, trout, sardines and pilchards are also good choices.
Love them or hate them, they're definitely good for you. The distinctive taste and smell of brussel sprouts is, in fact, caused by a phytochemical called sinigrin. A serving of about nine sprouts provides plenty of the antioxidant vitamin C and also good levels of folic acid.  
  Popeye's favourite vegetable packs a wallop with its folic acid (good for healthy blood, nerves, circulation and pregnancy) and vitamin C content. Leafy greens - such as spinach, cabbage and spring greens - are also a good source of carotenoids and, when eaten regularly, might help to reduce the risk of heart disease and various cancers.
 
Exotic mangoes are bursting with antioxidants thanks to their high vitamin C content. They also contain some vitamin E and carotenoids, it's that orange colour again. Enjoy them in fruit salads, smoothies,  sorbets, juices, or add them to salsa.  
  Kiwi fruit are one of the few fruits that are green when ripe, the tangy yet sweet kiwi fruit are a great source of vitamin C - even better than an orange when compared in weight. Kiwi fruit also contain vitamin K, potassium and magnesium. Their green colour is due to the phytochemical chlorophyll.
Brazil nuts are rich in the mineral selenium, which has antioxidant effects that may help protect against cancer. Just a few of these little gems should be enough to meet your daily selenium needs, which is important because most of us in the UK have low intakes. Some studies link low intake with a higher risk of cancer and heart disease. Selenium can also help to keep the immune system strong.

Beware of taking selenium supplements as high doses can be toxic.
 
  Red and Orange peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C - just half a red pepper provides you with all the vitamin C you need in one day. They're also useful sources of flavonoids and beta-carotene, both of which might help to oppose the free radical damage that can eventually lead to cancer.

Often overlooked, beetroot is loaded with antioxidants, fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Because of its folate-rich properties, just one half cup of cooked beets meets 17 percent of the daily recommended folate intake. Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their red color, is responsible for reducing the development of cancerous cells and inflammation linked to heart disease.The rich nitrate levels found in beet juice work to open up blood vessels, helping lower blood pressure and prevent blood clotting and inflammation.Two important carotenoids found in beets, lutein and zeaxanthin, help reduce the development of common age-related eye problems surrounding the macula and retina areas and Beets are a rich source of folic acid, an important nutrient for anyone undergoing physical healing.

 
     

 

Also; If you are regularly suffering with colds and other minor infections, consider foods that support your immune system, such as Beef, sardines, probiotic yoghurt, olive oil, pine nuts, mangoes and pomegranates.