Foods that Pack a Nutritional Punch

Yes, it's possible to eat certain foods and boost your longevity. Often labeled "superfoods," these foods have the ability to not only strengthen the immune system, but to also fight disease and lower body fat and cholesterol.

All of these health benefits can help you live a longer, healthier and happier life.

Some superfoods contain substances called antioxidants and phytochemicals, which work together to fight disease and promote a long life. A majority of these foods work best when they're combined with a well-balanced diet.

Common Super Foods For Boosting Longevity

Certain types of fish, particularly fatty cuts of fish, contain healthy fats that help lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks. These foods may also reduce depression. Salmon, trout and mackerel are among the top choices. These fish contain valuable omega-3 fatty acids.

Tomatoes are valuable because they contain lycopene, which helps fight free radicals. Free radicals can damage the skin and vital organs. Lycopene also helps stimulate the immune system; some studies show it might prevent the progression of certain degenerative diseases and protect against prostate cancer.

When it comes to broccoli, your mother had it right. Broccoli could be considered the number one superfood; many experts agree that if you can eat just one vegetable, these green guys are your best bet. Broccoli contains large amounts of vitamin C, calcium and fiber, and can help prevent bone loss, fight disease, reduce your risk of heart disease and even boost your immune system.

Garlic is a wonderful supplement that acts as a powerful anti-viral which can reduce your chances for catching colds and common infections. Garlic also has many natural antioxidant properties. Fresh garlic contains the most nutrients, although it's also available in capsule form. Spice up your favorite dish with some dried garlic for an extra boost.

Oats, like many other types of grain, are high in soluble and insoluble fiber, which help protect the body from colon cancer. This high-fiber cereal keeps you fuller longer, aiding in your weight loss efforts. Oats also help build strong bones.

Green tea helps stimulate your metabolism (a bonus for anyone trying to lose weight), but also helps prevent the oxidation of cells in the body. Green tea is also thought to be an immune system booster. It's rich in antioxidants and certain vitamins, including A, C and E. Replace your after-dinner coffee with this brew, and your body will thank you.

Yogurt contains "friendly" bacteria, which help maintain the intestines and keep the bowels regulated. It can also suppress yeast overgrowth in both men and women. High in calcium, yogurt is also believed to act as a natural appetite suppressant. Soy yogurts contain these same live cultures, so don’t let a dairy-free diet stop you from getting these essential nutrients.

Nuts scare most people away because of their high-fat content, but they're actually very good for you. They contain healthy fats, part of a well-balanced diet. Some nuts, particularly brazil nuts, contain selenium, which helps prevent certain types of cancer.

Beans (kidney beans, black beans, navy beans and more) are rich in folate, an important nutrient — particularly for women. Eating an adequate amount of folate helps prevent birth defects in newborns. Beans are also a cholesterol-free protein source, and high in fiber.

Popeye has it right when it comes to spinach. This superfood is rich in vitamins A and C, folic acid and magnesium. All of these work together to help reduce the likelihood of cancer and even help decrease the risk for heart disease.

Most mushrooms contain a substance that stimulates the immune system. Mushrooms are often used in natural therapy to help fight off illness. Some mushrooms (shitake, enoki and reishi varieties) also have anti-cancer effects.

Bananas are a great superfood for athletes. They're rich in two essential nutrients (potassium and magnesium) that aid in proper hydration, and they help reduce the likelihood of muscle cramps. They also provide a good source of soluble fiber.

Superfoods fight infection, enhance your immune system and protect against diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and respiratory infections.

Include them often when planning your meals and snacks. Here are some other good foods to add to your diet:
Red, yellow and orange peppers
Romaine Lettuce
Carrots, baby and regular
Kale and other greens
Sweet potatoes
Green onions
Winter squash

Red grapefruit
Melons, any kind
Dried apricots
Red grapes
Berries, any kind

Skim or 1% milk
Low fat cottage cheese
Meats and Seafood
Fresh fish, unbreaded
Salmon, canned or fresh
Tuna, canned or fresh
Lean, fresh beef, poultry or pork
Soup beans, canned or dried
Veggie burgers

100% whole-wheat bread, bagels, pitas
Whole-wheat pasta
Brown rice
Whole-wheat pancake mix
Shredded Wheat
Dry cereal with >3 grams fiber
Low fat Triscuit crackers
Wasa fiber rye crackers

Extra virgin olive oil
Black olives
Dark (not milk) chocolate
Calcium-fortified juice