Recent studies show that eating a veggie-intense diet makes you happier. We say: Clearing the junk out of your meals — saturated and trans fats in meats and prepared foods; refined carbs (that’s any grain that’s not 100 percent whole); added sugars and sugar syrups (they’re everywhere) — gets body and mind feeling great.
Here’s how to raise your spirits and your smarts:
• Step 1: Get more omega-3 DHA from algal-oil supplements and foods like walnuts, ground flaxseed, trout and salmon. It protects your eyes from macular degeneration, your heart from abnormal beats and your brain from dementia, and it improves memory and quells anxiety.
• Step 2: Amp up your veggie intake, and your brain will say “thanks.” Eating two or more servings of veggies daily decreases decline in thinking by 35 percent over six years. (Seventy percent of Americans don’t eat even two servings a day.) Another tip: French fries don’t count as a veggie.
• Step 3: Eat whole grains to stabilize blood sugar levels. They prevent mood swings and keep you focused and clear. Six walnut halves or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before a meal, or 3/8 teaspoon of cinnamon daily also are great for healthy glucose levels.
The power of spinach
The nitrates in spinach help build muscles and make them work better. And that’s in addition to the other health-building benefits of spinach: better stamina, less stroke risk and reduced inflammation (which is implicated in everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s). What else can spinach and other leafy greens do for you?
1. You’ll get smarter. Three plus servings of spinach (or kale) a day can slash your risk of age-related mental decline by up to 40 percent and make your brain younger. Foods like spinach are rich in mixed tocopherols — the multiple forms of brain-protecting vitamin E (not in supplements, which usually have only one form of vitamin E). Aim for 100 IU a day of vitamin E from food.
2. Protect yourself from colon cancer. The magnesium in spinach will help. Not a fan of spinach? Try halibut, almonds, cashews, soy and potatoes.
3. Block the liver-damaging toxin aflatoxin that can show up in corn, peanuts and wheat. It’s the chlorophyll and chlorophyllin in spinach (as well as broccoli) that does the trick.
4. Toss heart problems away with a salad (spinach, chard and/or wild greens) and a dash of olive oil. The greens pack blood-pressure-lowering nutrients such as folate and potassium.
5. Beat back diabetes: 1 cup cooked spinach or 2 cups — as a salad — daily can cut your diabetes risk by 14 percent.
An apple a day that lasts a week
The newly devised Arctic Apple defies oxygenation, almost never browning. Seems this genetically engineered fruit has had its genes for an apple enzyme that creates browning (polyphenol oxidase, or PPO) replaced with genes for a different enzyme (low-PPO) that doesn’t cause browning.
This development has some apple farmers and consumers shaking their heads in dismay: Will it be a way to sell subpar, older apples while making non-genetically engineered apples seem less desirable when there is nothing wrong with them, brown spots and all? Now, when you buy apple slices, they’re usually coated in vitamin C or calcium to prevent browning and preserve crispness on the market shelf.
There’s a chance for you to let the government know what you think about the Arctic Apple until mid-September. (Google “Federal eRulemaking Portal”; then search “apples browning.”) Our opinion: Cross-breeding plants has been going on for years. The Gala apple is a conventional cross between a Golden Delicious and Kid’s Orange-Red breed of apple. But genetic cross-breeding is different. And while genetically modified foods are tested for safety, we just don’t know the long-term repercussions to plants or to the people who eat them.
If you’re concerned: At the grocery store, look for the tag on produce. If it has a five-digit code starting with an 8, this indicates it’s genetically modified. And you can find the only third-party verified listing of non-GMO products and foods at nongmoproject.org.