Kick off the new year right by adopting a healthy diet

Big Island Weekly
By Diane Koerner

As we enter the New Year, one resolution might involve taking stock of our diet and resolving to include more potent health foods, not only to leverage our well being for today and tomorrow but to maximize it in the decades ahead.

1. The goji berry
This year's health‐food breakout was the Himalayan goji berry. These small red berries have been used for thousands of years by herbalists in the Far East to protect the liver, help eyesight, boost immune function and to promote longevity, writes Tandis Bishop at Big Island health food stores now carry the wondrous berry, dried or juiced. Proponents point out its impressive nutritional boost .... more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach, 500 times more vitamin ‐ by weight than oranges, and a wagon load of B and E vitamins and antioxidants.

2. All berries
Brightly colored berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, and purple grapes always make the healthy foods list. In addition to being packed with flavonoids, the rich pigment of the berries has repeatedly shown to protect against several cancers. In fact, some researchers believe that berries may also hold "the secret of youth" because of their ability to improve balance, coordination and short‐term memory (Journal of Neuroscience).

3. Healthy fat
If you're not taking Omega 3 supplements, you may be missing the boat, fish that is. These essential fatty acids, whose anti‐inflammatory effects can help reduce the risks of hypertension, heart attack and strokes, cannot be made by the body but can be supplied to the diet from cold‐water fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies, in addition to vegetarian options like flaxseeds and walnuts,and DHA‐fortified eggs.

4. Tea ‐ white, green ‐ or oolong
Tea, whether white, green or oolong, contains strong antioxidants that help prevent cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and heart disease. As an added bonus for weight watchers, a 2005 study by Japanese researchers found that participants who consumed green tea each day had significantly lower cholesterol levels, body mass indexes and smaller waist measurements than those in a control group.

5. Whole grains
White flour and sugar are blamed for much of the obesity in America. Whole grains, including brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, millet and whole wheat, have been the staple foods of most cultures for millennia, and for good reason. They contain all the nutrients stripped away from processed foods, including fiber, several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid), and minerals like iron, magnesium and selenium. It's also been reported in a recent study at the University of Iowa that the more whole grain there is in a woman's diet, the lower her risk of breast cancer and heart disease.

6. Leafy green vegetables
A diet containing kale, spinach, collards and other greens will contribute to eye and bone health by supplying beta‐carotene (which converts to Vitamin A), calcium and vitamin K, vitamin ‐ and folic acid. In addition, kale and other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and brussel sprouts are loaded with sulforaphane, an antioxidan that triggers the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer‐causing chemicals.

7. Go nuts
Replacing unhealthy snacks such as chips with a handful of walnuts, almonds, pistachios or macadamias can give you an energy boost as well as protect your heart by decreasing the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Also, a handful of pistachios per day may keep the doctor away as they were shown to protect against lung and prostate cancer, according to a 2009 study presented at the Cancer Prevention Research Conference.

8. Go coconuts
Polynesians used coconuts to appease the gods, launch ships, aid in digestion, make music and, of course, to quench their thirst. For good reason ‐‐ fresh coconut water has been called "natural Gatorade" because it offers the same level of electrolytic balance as we have in our blood, without artificial sugar. "Coconut water is the very stuff of nature, biologically pure, full of natural sugars, salts and vitamins to ward off fatigue .... and is the next wave of energy drinks," said Mortin Satin, Chief of the United Nation's Food & Agriculture Organization.

9. Noni
Hawaii's own super fruit, noni has long been used to treat almost any health problem, from high blood pressure to infections. It is now found in health food stores around the country in the form of juice, fruit leather and supplements. Research has shown that noni contains xeronine, which helps with cellular functions, and damnacanthal, which helps to restore cancer cells to normal.

10. Beans
Replacing meat with beans for several meals a week not only reduces the amount of saturated fat in your diet, but increases good nutrient intake. Soy beans (in the form of tofu, tempeh or edamame) are especially rich in isoflavones, which may reduce the risk of breast cancer by blocking the tumor-growing influence of estrogen. In addition, beans are loaded with protease inhibitors that make it hard for cancer cells to invade adjacent tissue. Legumes including beans, peas and lentils are eaten in many cultures on New Year's Day to increase abundance, as their shape is symbolic of money or coins. So why not kick‐start 2010 with a bowl of lentil soup? Here's to an abundance of health and wealth!

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