Hippocrates is famously quoted as saying “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Centuries later, researchers continue to uncover the healing powers of food, and the good news is that many foods you can find at conventional grocery stores have powerful health benefits that can help you run strong and stay healthy. No exotic edibles necessary.
Below are some recent findings about the medicinal powers of food.
We’ve been trying to convince kids for decades that milk does the body good. After all, it’s rich in Calcium, Vitamin D, and B vitamins, which strengthen the bones and help regulate a variety of other basic body functions. But new research is confirming just how important cultured milk, or yogurt, is in keeping bones healthy throughout life. A study published in the May 2017 issue of Osteoporosis International showed that yogurt increased bone mineral density, biomarkers of bone health, and physical function in adults over age 60.
While dark chocolate has long been linked with heart health, a study published in the May 2017 issue of Heart showed that eating a little chocolate on a regular basis is associated with a lower risk for atrial fibrillation. The risk was lowest among people who ate a one-ounce serving of chocolate daily, equivalent to 3 to 4 squares of chocolate.
In recent years, beets have been lauded for their health benefits. The nitrates in beets help increase blood flow in the body, and multiple studies have shown it can improve exercise performance and efficiency, so that you can run faster with more ease. New research is showing that beets can benefit athletes at all abilities and levels of fitness. A 2012 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that consuming whole beets improved running performance for fit adults. A study in the May issue of Nutrients concluded that high-performance elite athletes can benefit when they consume beets in higher doses, and it’s helpful for those who don’t exercise, but want to start. A study published in the April 2017 of issue of Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences showed that adults age 55 and older with high blood pressure who took a beetroot juice supplement before exercise displayed “younger,” more efficient brain function than those who did exercise but did not take the supplement.
We’ve all used caffeine to help boost athletic performance on our runs. And research shows that it can aid in alertness and the body’s fat-burning capacity as well. Until recently, scientists said that in order to get the benefits, you had to abstain from caffeine right before a race to essentially lower your tolerance and maximize its effect. But a study published in the May 2017 issues of the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that’s not necessary. So drink up! Be careful not to overdose, of course (caffeine can make you feel jittery and give you GI distress.) During training, start by drinking one cup an hour before exercise to determine what gives you a boost without upsetting your stomach.
Different than other cultivated varieties, wild blueberries which grow in coastal Maine and Canada with minimal cultivation, are packed with health benefits. Compared to their plumper, cultivated counterparts, wild blueberries are higher in iron, zinc, fiber, manganese and antioxidants. Studies show that wild blueberries lower bad, or LDL, cholesterol levels and help maintain healthy circulation, which can help stave off heart disease, but more research has shown that the intensely-colored fruit also gives the brain a boost. A study published in the February 2017 issue of Nutrients suggested that consuming wild blueberries may significantly boost mood in both young adults and children. What’s more, they’re ideal for anyone wanting to keep weight in check: wild blueberries have 30% less sugar than cultivated varieties, and they’re a low-glycemic food, so they won’t cause unnecessary blood sugar spikes.