Apples are rich in two plant compounds called catechins, and in quercetin. All help to prevent strokes, heart disease and cancer. Quercetin has also been shown to improve the firmness of collagen, which helps the skin to keep its elasticity. Apples are also rich in the soluble fibre pectin, which helps to lower blood cholesterol. Lastly, the flesh of apples contains the mineral boron, which helps to prevent calcium loss and provides some protection against osteoporosis.
Discovered in recent tests to be the most powerful antioxidants of all, blueberries have the strongest potential to prevent the diseases of old age. It has been found that 100g a day can stimulate the growth of new brain cells and may help prevent memory loss. Blueberries are also rich in a plant chemical group called anthocyanins, which help oxygenate the skin and keep it looking young. Many other red, purple and blue berries have similar properties.
Broccoli is high in antioxidant carotenoids, vitamin C and indoles, which help fight lung, breast and colon cancers. It is rich in lipoic acid, a fatty acid linked with increased brain power and energy. As well as high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which help keep vision healthy, it’s the best vegetable source of vitamin E which is linked with protection against Alzheimer’s disease. It is rich in fibre, and a natural source of chromium, which helps to regulate blood sugars.
Celery is renowned for reducing blood pressure, possibly because it contains the plant chemical 3-n-butyl phthalid, as well as apigenin, one of the flavonoid plant chemicals. It is also an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that balances body fluids and can lower blood pressure in some. Celery also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce pain from arthritis, as well as helping to beat fluid retention. One study found that celery is one of the vegetables most strongly linked with protection from bowel cancer.
Fresh garlic contains several compounds, the most important of which is allicin. This has been shown to protect against high blood pressure, infections, candida, indigestion, stomach ulcers and bowel disorders. Several studies have shown that it can reduce harmful cholesterol by about 12 per cent, and inhibits new growth of plaque in the arteries that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Garlic may also inhibit the growth of cancer cells and strengthen the immune system.
Leafy dark green vegetables, such as Savoy cabbage, kale, and spring greens, are good sources of two carotenoids which have been shown to help prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Greens are also a good source of easily absorbed calcium to help maintain strong bones, and are rich in potassium, which helps protect against calcium loss. In addition, they’re a good source of vitamins C and E.
Although olive oil is almost 100 per cent fat, it is rich in nutrients and compounds that can help protect against age-related disease. It is high in monounsaturated fats, which lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol while protecting the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, and thus helps fight heart disease and stroke. Olive oil also contains squalene and oleuropein, which are powerful antioxidants, protecting blood cholesterol from oxidation. This antioxidant effect may also reduce the risk of some cancers, particularly of the breast and colon. Top-quality, cold-pressed oils contain more of the protective compounds.
Nuts are a good source of magnesium, which is vital for energy levels. Magnesium can help keep muscles supple and prevent aches and pains, and may also lower the risk of osteoporosis. Almonds, Brazils and peanuts are good for helping to build or maintain muscle mass and help protect against glaucoma, diabetes and high blood pressure. Research in the USA has shown that just two 25g portions of fresh [nuts a week reduced death from heart disease in men by up to 47 per cent.
Soya beans contain high levels of plant oestrogens and magnesium, both of which may help to minimise menopausal symptoms. Soya beans are high in soluble fibre, and have also been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Soya protein helps build and maintain collagen and elastin, both important for keeping skin in youthful condition.
Tomatoes are rich in the carotenoid lycopene, which provides some protection against cancer and heart disease. Recent trials have found that women who eat a lot of lycopene have lower risks of ovarian or breast cancer, while in men it helps prevent prostate cancer. Tomatoes are also a good source of lipoic acid, which helps increase energy levels and improve brain power in some people. Small, ripe tomatoes tend to contain the highest levels of lycopene and cooking them helps absorption.