Quick and easy convenience foods, comfort food, cravings and commercial brand fast foods – if these are words that may have crept into your diet vocabulary in 2020 then it might be time to reset your eating style in 2021. Optimal eating is associated with increased life expectancy and a dramatic reduction in lifetime risk of all chronic disease. (1) Whether it is for glowing skin, a spring in your step or a newfound sense of vitality, check out our classic suggestions, foods which are surprisingly easy to incorporate into your daily diet.
Foods that Spice it up
Turmeric can increase detoxifying enzymes, prevent DNA damage and improve DNA repair. (2) If that’s not enough to keep you feeling young, it also aids fitness via reducing exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, enhancing recovery and performance. (3) While for some, there is a real need to take Turmeric medicinally at therapeutic doses, in the form of its active constituent Curcumin, there is still a lot of the benefit to be had by incorporating this earthy spice as a food source into your daily diet. Combining turmeric with additional ingredients such as black pepper, ginger and fat (such as ghee or coconut oil) improves the uptake of nutrient goodness. Piperine, the major active component of black pepper, when combined with curcumin, increases bioavailability by 2000%.(3)
For breakfast, try adding freshly grated turmeric root into scrambled tofu or try it in a tropical smoothie with coconut water or milk, pineapple and mango with a hint of ginger, a dash of pepper and a little fat – avocado oil works well. Or sip on a turmeric latte in place of the afternoon cuppa and enjoy curry for dinner.
Foods from Under the Sea
Spirulina has been called “the food of the future” perhaps since the blue-green algae became famous after it was used by NASA as a dietary supplement for astronauts on space missions. (4) Similarly to turmeric, spirulina inhibits DNA damage and prevents skeletal muscle damage under conditions of exercise-induced oxidative stress. (5) With a high content of protein and micronutrients, especially iron and beta-carotene(4) the antioxidant, immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory activities of these microalgae play an important role in good health. (5)
If using the powder to boost food content rather than taken in tablet form as a supplement, the acquired taste is well disguised in fruit smoothies or fruit and vegetable juices. Mixed with bliss balls and cacao or sprinkled into soups covers your snack and dinner options. A little goes a long way and building up slowly helps to adjust your taste buds. Many greens powders containing spirulina in combination have also taken out the hard work by adding natural flavours to help incorporate this superfood into your daily diet.
In Sri Lanka, coconut is called “Tree of life.”(6) The variety of products including water, oil, milk, butter, flour, desiccated and shredded – not to mention yoghurt and ice cream – make for a range of culinary possibilities. There are still some misconceptions about the high saturated fat content of coconut being an issue. Be assured that most of the saturated fats in coconut are medium-chain fatty acids, different to those saturated fats of animal origin and are directly used in the body to produce energy. (6)
Like the above food sources to keep us feeling young, coconut water is also found to be beneficial for exercise recovery and can be used for whole-body rehydration after exercise,(7) while Coconut oil also helps the body to increase absorption of calcium and magnesium ions, essential for muscle function. There are countless ways to incorporate coconut into your daily diet – classic coconut milk curries, baked goods using coconut flour or a healthier homemade version of a Bounty bar using shredded or desiccated coconut are some of our favourites.
Also bestowed a name to give recognition to its health-giving properties, Cacao is known as the “Food of the Gods”. Biological effects of this sacred plant include cardiovascular and metabolic effects,(8) including regulation of blood pressure, insulin levels and lipid metabolism. (9) While Dark chocolate is not the most popular chocolate, since the higher concentration in antioxidants comes with increased bitterness, the health benefits are better unlocked using anything above 75% cocoa.
Good gut health can be attained via consumption of cacao since the polyphenols have prebiotic effects(9) and seem to modulate the microbial population of the human gut and may significantly increase the growth of our good bacteria Lactobacillus spp. and Bifidobacterium spp. (8)
Good skin helps us to feel young and cacao lends a hand with the flavanol content shown to contribute to photoprotection, improve dermal blood circulation, and to affect skin hydration. There is also evidence that flavonoid-rich products contribute to the protection of the skin against UV-induced damage. (10) Aside from the obvious baking, smoothies and bliss balls, why not try your hand at incorporating cacao into a savoury dish in a stew or marinade. Portion control is the big factor when it comes to chocolate consumption but choosing darker varieties means less sugar content and improved satiety from a smaller amount.
From the bright vibrant colour of yellow turmeric, the blue-green hue of spirulina to snow-white coconut and deep brown cacao, these food sources all have amazing qualities that can better our health and vitality. Be bold with turmeric, adventurous with spirulina and guilt-free using coconut and cacao more liberally in your diet – 2021 is the year to let your diet keep you feeling young!