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7 Warm-Weather Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

The days are getting warmer and longer, inspiring people to engage in  backyard barbecues, and midday picnics.

Even if your elderly loved one isn’t able to take part in traditions like  cookouts, or holiday parties, you can introduce seasonal celebrations into their  lives through food. Many popular warm-weather foods even offer the added bonus  of helping a senior get the nutrients they need to remain healthy.

Here are some popular spring and summer treats that may offer some unexpected  health benefits for you and your elderly loved one. Ruth Frechman, M.A., a  registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Nutrition and  Dietetics, offers her perspective on how these foods can be both tasty and  nutritious for seniors.

Watermelon: Synonymous with summer, this juicy fruit is not  only low-fat, it also contains a staggering amount of nutrients seniors need.  Pound for pound, watermelon  has more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or veggie. Also found in tomatoes,  lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to combat certain forms of cancer  and heart disease. Watermelon is also packed with potassium, which can be a boon  for seniors suffering from potassium deficiency, or hypokalemia. According to  the National Institutes for Health, hypokalemia in seniors can sometimes be  brought on by certain heart failure and blood pressure meds, and can cause  problems with heart and muscle function. Watermelon also contains significant  amounts of vitamins A, C, and B6.

Iceberg lettuce: Don’t forgo a spring salad just because it  has romaine lettuce in it. Oft-maligned as the less-healthy relative of spinach  and romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce actually has more of the antioxidant  alpha-carotene than either of them. Alpha-carotene (and its companion,  beta-carotene) can be transformed by the body into vitamin A, which can help  maintain good eye health. Research has shown that alpha-carotene, on its own,  may also play a role in lowering a person’s risk of dying from ailments such as  cancer and cardiovascular disease. Iceberg lettuce also has a good deal of  vitamin K, which can help combat osteoporosis and regulate blood clotting.  Frechman says that, because the amount of alpha-carotene in iceberg lettuce is  relatively low compared to other veggies, so you may want to add some carrots,  tomatoes, and spinach to a salad to boost its overall carotene content.

Spices: Seasoned sauces and rubs are the cornerstones of a  delicious warm weather cook-out. Spices can serve the dual purpose of making  food more flavorful to seniors whose ability to taste has been diminished, as  well as helping them fight off disease. From tumeric, whose primary compound,  curcumin has been shown to be beneficial in fighting off diseases such as  Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer; to cinnamon, which can help people with  type 2 diabetes by lowering their blood sugar, total cholesterol, and  triglycerides, spices have numerous potential health benefits.

Popcorn: Going the movies to see a popular summer flick can  be a simple, fun way for caregivers and their elderly loved ones to get out of  the house. Popcorn has been a cinema staple for years, and often gets a bad rap  for being unhealthy. But, if you forgo the extra salt and butter, recent  research indicates that popcorn may actually have health benefits. Researchers  found polyphenols—a group of beneficial antioxidants—to be more plentiful in  popcorn than certain fruits and veggies. Popcorn is also a pure source of whole  grain, an important dietary element for seniors. (Leesa recommends the bag of Organic Popcorn in Olive Oil found at Trader Joes!)

Party dip: Perennial components of popular party dips, tomatoes and avocados  can offer seniors an array of healthy nutrients. Salsa comprised of tomatoes and  other vegetables can provide an elderly person with part of their daily  recommended vegetable intake, as well as antioxidants such as lycopene. Though  they are high in (“good”) fat, avocados, the main component of guacamole, are  full of vitamins and minerals that can deliver a host of health benefits to  seniors. (Leesa says to make sure the veggies are organic!)

Eggs: Sometimes shunned as a member of the protein portion  of MyPlate, eggs are actually a good source of protein and contain many essential  vitamins and minerals, including vitamins: A, D, E, B6 and B12. And, it’s  not just egg whites that contain health benefits. According to Frechman, egg  yolks contain choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin—several nutrients that are  essential for good eye health. (Leesa recommends using free-range organic eggs.) 

Chocolate: In moderation, certain types of chocolate  are actually good for you. Dark chocolate is chock-full of antioxidants and has  been shown to have numerous health benefits, including: reducing blood pressure,  and increasing insulin sensitivity. (Leesa recommends Vivani Organic Dark Chocolate – order yours today from Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/vivanichocolate. )

While this article is directed at the elderly, Leesa says everyone can enjoy the benefits of these foods! Enjoy!

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com  Editor

AgingCare.com provides online  caregiver support by connecting people caring for elderly parents to other  caregivers, elder care experts, personalized information, and local resources.  AgingCare.com has become the trusted resource for exchanging ideas, sharing  conversations and finding credible information for those seeking elder care  solutions.

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