Nearly every morning, Terry Gormley of New Castle whips up a turmeric latte with a dash of black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon. She often pairs it with Dave’s Killer Organic whole-grain toast with cashew butter. “It’s the breakfast of champions,” she says.
While Gormley drinks the latte to help combat gastrointestinal issues, she could also be counteracting the effects of aging. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is responsible for the root’s characteristic yellow-orange hue. In India, where turmeric is a staple, there’s a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Genetics? Perhaps. Or it might be their diet.
A study published last summer in the New England Journal of Medicine monitored the eating habits of nearly 74,000 men and women over a 12-year period. During a follow-up, researchers compared the information on the participants’ dietary changes to the number of deaths and their causes. Those whose diets contained healthier elements—and fewer unhealthy ones—were up to 17 percent less likely to die during that period.
Eating certain foods can do more than prolong your life. It can also help reduce the signs of aging better than any over-the-counter cream or ointment. Here are some foods to incorporate into your diet—and how Delaware residents like Gormley like to use them.
Why: When it comes to vitamin E, almonds pack a powerful punch. The hard-to-get vitamin helps protect brain tissue. A vitamin E deficiency can lead to impaired balance and coordination. High in monounsaturated fats—the same fats found in olive oil—almonds also contain biotin, manganese and potassium.
Studies on Seventh-Day Adventists, a conservative denomination of Christianity that advocates a healthy lifestyle, found that those who consumed nuts at least five times a week had about half the risk of heart disease of those who didn’t.
How to use: Eat them alone or chop and add them to salads or yogurt. “I’m all about using nuts, almonds and cashews for salad dressing,” says Dru Trevis of Rehoboth Beach, who grinds them up with olive oil then adds vinegar, garlic, herbs and spices.
Sliced almonds enhance sautéed vegetables, particularly green beans. You can also up your intake by using almond butter or almond milk, either alone or in a smoothie. Psychologist Robyn Odegaard, who with her husband, Russ, owns the Newark-based consulting company RnR Journey to Health, keeps a bowl of raw, salt-free almonds on the counter for a quick snack.
Why: These tiny berries have one of the highest antioxidant contents of all fruits. In a 1999 study, rats that received blueberry extract outperformed those fed regular chow. They had better balance and were more coordinated as they aged.
How to use: Top your yogurt, ice cream, oatmeal or cereal with blueberries. Add them to pancakes and salads. Incorporate them into smoothies.
Why: Sardines, salmon and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help your body retain moisture. Plump skin cells give you a dewy complexion. Omega-3 fats also help prevent cholesterol buildup in the arteries and guard against abnormal heart rhythms.
How to use: Salmon is probably the most well-known of the omega-3-rich foods. Just limit yourself to avoid mercury contamination. Eat no more than six ounces a week and be sure to vary your seafood selection.
Why: Egg yolks contain nutrients that lower the risk of cataracts and age-related eye degeneration. Eggs are also rich in amino acids, which can help repair and rebuild collagen damage.
How to use: “There is not a single leftover, salad or even soup that is not made better by the addition of an egg on top,” Karen Stauffer of Wilmington maintains. “It adds protein and creates its own sauce. Perfect!”
Trevis follows the same approach. “Any leftover meal I have for dinner gets an egg on top for breakfast the next day: salad, steak, chicken, pasta, fish, stir fry, veggie sides—doesn’t matter what it is,” he says. “Leftovers plus an egg equals breakfast. Add spinach, tomato and garlic to that, and you’ve got five [great foods] in one dish.”
Why: While garlic breath may be a nuisance, it is great for your heart. It can help prevent heart disease and strokes by slowing the hardening of the arteries. It may also help fight inflammation and cartilage damage associated with arthritis.
How to use: Sauces, soups, stir-fry dishes, stews—just about anything. It has just 48 calories per ounce. “Garlic goes in just about everything I make: hummus, ratatouille, sweet potato lasagna, split-pea soup,” Odegaard says.
Why: A half a cup of pomegranate seeds delivers 15 percent of your daily need for vitamin C, which can deter skin damage and premature aging. They may also help prevent the breakdown of collagen, which promotes joint health. Collagen also keeps your skin looking smooth.
How to use: Sprinkle some seeds over yogurt, oatmeal or cereal. Give your desserts a colorful finish. Juice the seeds and use them as a marinade. Muddle them in a glass before adding seltzer or a refreshing glass of coconut water.
Why: Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant and phytochemical that creates the red color. Controlled trials have shown that lycopene helped reduce the harmful effects of sun exposure, which accelerates wrinkling and skin discolorations. A study in the European Respiratory Journal found that tomatoes and apples slowed lung decline. Other studies have shown that lycopene is associated with a decreased risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
How to use: Thanks to the American love affair with Italian cuisine and tomato sauce, it’s not hard to get a healthy dose of lycopene. Although the vitamin C content decreases when you cook them, the process ups the levels of beneficial phytochemicals. Studies show that our bodies absorb lycopene more easily from tomato paste than fresh tomatoes.
Odegaard often makes ratatouille with tomatoes, herbs and chopped vegetables in a Dutch oven and bakes it for 45 minutes. “It’s yummy hot or cold,” says Odegaard, who eats it alone or over quinoa.
Why: A root related to ginger, turmeric is found in curry powder and alone as a root or powder.
In South Asia, turmeric has been used to soothe breathing issues, rheumatism, pain and fatigue. A modified form of curcumin, found in turmeric, is currently used in an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease.
How to use: Curry powder is a staple in Indian recipes. You can also use curry powder or turmeric to season steamed vegetables. Mix it with mayo to create a flavorful dip or sandwich spread. Add it to grains while they cook. Michele Rossi Gildea of Claymont sprinkles curry powder on popcorn, nachos and eggs.
When Sara Teixido of Wilmington suffered from chronic migraines, she made a tea with a heaping tablespoon of organic turmeric powder, the juice from half of a lemon, honey to taste and a dash of black pepper or cayenne to aid in absorption. “Turmeric is amazing,” she says.
Odegaard slices turmeric and ginger root and pours hot water over them to make a tea. She adds a squeeze of lime to her cup. She drops any leftover slices into smoothies and oatmeal. “Delicious,” says Odegaard, who offers one-on-one coaching and pantry revamps for those interested in a healthier lifestyle.